2016-17 review: 47-35, finished 6th in the Western Conference.
Key Offseason Acquisitions: F Carmelo Anthony, F Paul George, F Patrick Patterson, G Raymond Felton
Key Offseason Losses: C Enes Kanter, G Doug McDermott, G Victor Oladipo, F Domantas Sabonis, F Taj Gibson
Projected Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams
Projected 2017/18 Season Outlook: Don’t look now, but Russell Westbrook and Sam Presti are coming.
It didn’t take a degree in rocket science to see that the Oklahoma City Thunder had to make serious roster improvements if they wanted to not only compete in the Western Conference, but also, and most importantly, convince the reigning Most Valuable Player that Oklahoma City had more to offer than other contenders around the league. But if anybody tries to tell you they saw what was coming this offseason, that person would more than likely be lying.
In leveraging young role players and trading for Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, Presti made his statement; if the Thunder were going down, they were going down swinging. Throw in free agent signings of Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton, and the Thunder now possess something foreign to them through the first nine years of their existence: proven veteran experience, and in spades.
And, of course, Russell Westbrook just signed the biggest contract extension in NBA history to remain with the team for at least the next six seasons.
But one question looms large over the newly-dubbed ‘OK3’, how will the pieces fit together? The chemistry that develops between the three of them, as well as the development of young role players such as Alex Abrines and Jerami Grant, will likely define the season.
OKC will boast one of the strongest perimeter defensive units in basketball by adding George, a three-time All-Defensive teamer, to the pesky Andre Roberson on the wing. Their length will force turnovers, and the already frightening fastbreak of Westbrook will suddenly have shooters surrounding him.
Speaking of shooters, Steven Adams has to be thrilled with the recent acquisitions as well. The extra space with which he will have to roam in the paint is a direct bi-product of adding proven scorers that defenders will be forced to respect. The Thunder led the league in offensive and total rebounds last season, and will in all likelihood be one of the best rebounding teams in the league again this season.
The landscape of the NBA can change quickly; no one knows this better than the Thunder. George and Anthony could be here for a year and skip town in free agency next summer. But right now, in the present, the Thunder have a chance to battle the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed in the West, and have the defensive pieces and scoring to potentially make noise in April and May.
Sam Presti has done it again, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are coming.
Projected Strengths: Russell Westbrook, fastbreak, perimeter defense, rebounding.
Projected Weaknesses: Team chemistry, crowded Western Conference.
Projected Win Total: 56