OKC took ahuge blow this off season losing the face of the franchise in Kevin Durant. However it could’ve been much worse, with much speculation that Russell Westbrook would be right behind. Westbrook proved these rumors to be false by signing a 3 year deal to stay with OKC. So unless he is traded he seems be in OKC to stay at least for the near future. Westbrook is a star in this league and definitely a top 10 player, but there are questions on if his talent can translate to wins without KD. The year Durant was out due to injury Westbrook lit up the stat sheet, but this did not make the team perform well. During that season The Thunder went 43-37 and missed the playoffs.
Although the last time Durant was out they didn’t make the playoffs the team was not as talented as they are now. Westbrook will have Steven Adams who is still only 23, and proved that he has a bright future in the NBA. OKC should look to continue to develop Adams and make him a key part of their team. Adams will give them size in a league where size right now is lacking, and a lot of teams will have trouble matching up against him. With so many teams trying to go to small ball Adams brings a change and can make other teams uncomfortable. Along side Adams is Enes Kanter who showed last year that he can be a very capable offensive player, He is only 24 so he can still develop and improve as a player. I expect OKC to use Adams in Kanter’s together to take advantage of their size against small ball teams.
Another major piece of OKC’s roster that will no longer be there next year is Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has been with the Thunder since 2009, and if you ask me it was time to part ways with him. They weren’t using him right or he just didn’t fit in with their offense. I think he’ll be better suited on another team that has a need for his talents. Part of the trade that got rid of Ibaka was to acquire Victor Oladipo. I am interested in seeing where he fits into their Roster. Westbrook will be the starting point guard. They will likely put Oladipo as a 2 guard to play off of Westbrook. This could work as long as Oladipo is okay with playing off the ball more. Westbrook’s known for holding the ball for a long time, so that’s something Oladipo will have to get used to. This could be a problem because Oladipo is most comfortable with the ball in his hands.
I know everyone’s been saying it for his entire career, but I would like to see Westbrook move the ball more. He’s been getting his assist, but so many plays from OKC have one or maybe 2 passes. They have talent, If he can get everyone involved they will play with more energy and should translate to wins. With this Roster It’s on Westbrook and Billy Donovan to fulfill it’s potential. I think they could be a factor in the West; not enough to beat Golden State, but I see them being a 3 or 4 seed and making a run in the playoffs.
One thing is for sure; this is Westbrook’s team now. There will be some tough times this season, and the overcritical media will jump all over Westbrook. Get ready to hear a bunch middle aged men who never played basketball at a high level tell one of the best players in the world how he should play. Ultimately I think he’ll grow a lot next season and prove he can lead a team as the face of the franchise. It is very important that OKC stay competitive next year. If they are able to then that will put them in good position to acquire high level free agents in the 2017 off season. Everyone will be looking for a place that gives them the best chance to beat Golden State and if the Thunder stay competitive and show promise they should be high on any free agents list.