Pretty Much Screwed: The 2013-2014 Oklahoma City Thunder
Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NBA season. This team-by-team preview details why it’s probably not your favorite team’s year. Now: Let's discuss the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Relatively speaking, the Oklahoma City Thunder are Pretty Much Screwed this year. This isn't even trolling, I swear. Russell Westbrook's injury Pretty Much Screwed them last year, but they didn't look like they'd have a great chance against the Miami Heat anyway. And they're screwed this year, because Miami may have gotten better (GAH!), a few other teams became contenders, and the Thunder got worse.
Kevin Durant will keep them in the "contender" group, obviously. But, yes, the 2013-2014 Thunder are worse than the 2012-2013 Thunder.
Why, you as?
Kevin Martin is gone.
Kevin Martin played no defense, but he was a major contributor to the Thunder offense. He scored 14 ppg. He's gone.
Is he replaceable? Yes. But the word is replace-able, not automatically-replaced. The Thunder did not attempt to replace him.
They're trying to fill the void in-house, which basically means they're banking on Jeremy Lamb. I like Lamb very much (though it's easy to overcook), but counting on a second-year player who hasn't yet done anything is obviously risky. As risky as putting lamb in your Fruit Loops. Could pay off, but don't count on it.
Not to mention that Russell Westbrook is still hurt. So:
Reggie Jackson will have to start for 4-6 weeks, with... Derek Fisher as his backup.
The Thunder need third-year, yet-to-blossom point guard Reggie Jackson to be Mr. November and Most of December (nailed it!!).
Seriously, Russell Westbrook, for as much shit as he gets, is one of the best players in the NBA, and even an improved Reggie Jackson is a HUGE drop-off. Win shares are far from a perfect statistic, but to give you an idea, Russell Westbrook earned 11.6 win shares last season. It's fair to say a month of Jackson instead of Westbrook will cost the Thunder at least a couple of games, especially the tough ones. And in a more-competitive West, that could mean playoff positioning, which could mean home-court advantage, which could mean an early exit.
And how Derek Fisher is still in the league, I can't explain. I'm sure he'll totally improve from awful 38-year-old to exceptional 39-year-old, though.
It's not just Thunder vs. Spurs anymore.
If the Thunder only had to worry about the Spurs, I'd feel decent about their chances.
But, the Rockets got Dwight Howard. The Warriors got Andre Iguodala. Memphis beat the Thunder last year. The Clippers replaced an awful coach with Doc Rivers. They've all got a legit shot at taking out the Thunder.
Basically, it'll all come down to Westbrook and Durant, per usual. And with question-marks surrounding ??Russ??ell??, I'm a bit pessimistic. Ibaka improvement would be nice, too.
They're relying on already-really-good players in their prime to get better.
For the Thunder to have a chance to win an NBA Championship, one of these things must happen:
1) Kevin Durant must perform near LeBron-level.
2) Russell Westbrook improve vastly in a year where he's recovering from injury and played incredibly well the year before.
3) Serge Ibaka must improve vastly on offense and fill his potential, finally.
4) Perry Jones, Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb all reach their ceilings, which, to be fair, are all pretty high. But it's pretty early to expect this to happen.
All of these things are possible. All of these things are unlikely. And they'd only give the Thunder a solid chance. No guarantees they can beat the Heat, who are the Heat.
The more-favorable scenarios for the Thunder are:
1) LeBron James gets seriously injured.
2) LeBron James gets murdered by an angry Clevelander.
3) LeBron James gets sees Greg Oden's penis, loses his self-esteem, and becomes a league-average player.
Five Fun Facts About Thunder
1) Contrary to what fools believe, it comes after lightning.
2) Contrary to what fools believe, it's invisible.
3) Aristotle thought thunder was clouds colliding. He wasn't a fool; he just didn't have Wikipedia.
4) Thunder is technically a "sonic shock wave."
5) The Thunder used to be the Sonics.
Actual Season Prediction: 57-25, Fourth in the West, beat the Warriors in the first round, lose to the Rockets in the second. I've got the Clippers, Spurs and Rockets ahead of them. Call me out; I can take it.
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