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Prediction: Thunder will race to the top of the West by December

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With the season about to start, here is an early look at what the Thunder record might look like in the first month of action.

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(Hey everybody, I'm a new writer for Welcome To Loud City. I currently attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I've been writing for The Daily Nebraskan for a little while. I am also going to be writing a little for the CornNation blog about Nebraska Men's basketball when that season starts. Hopefully I'll be able to add some quality content to WTLC throughout the season.)

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We are mere days away from the Thunder's first game of the 2015-16 season.

Much is going to be made about what the Thunder's record will be by the start of December. With no shortage of potential distractions - a rookie NBA coach in Billy Donovan and the Kevin Durant-2-DC melodrama percolating - the 24/7 sports news cycle will have plenty to sink its teeth into based off of how the Thunder start off. A fast start for OKC could be the difference between Stephen A. Smith proclaiming Donovan this year's Steve Kerr and Durant getting asked daily about whether or not he has started looking at the housing market in our nation's capital.

The regular season is almost here, so it's time to look ahead and try to get a feel for how the Thunder are going to start off based on their schedule. Predicting specific win/loss records can be trite and silly, but at the same time, it's a fun way to get back into the swing of things and it can say quite a lot about one's opinion of a team because it forces one to make definitive choices. Here is my bold prediction: I'm going to go ahead and say that by the end of November, the Thunder are going to be 15-3.

It feels a little overly optimistic to pick that kind of opening record for a team with a brand new coach and a superstar coming off of multiple foot surgeries, but this is what great teams in the Western Conference do. Last year, the Warriors started off 16-2, the Grizzlies started off 15-3, and the Rockets started off 14-4. There is no reason to think that the Thunder aren't as good as those teams when Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka are healthy and on the court together.

Here is the schedule for the first 18 games and my accompanying picks

Oct. 28 vs. San Antonio Spurs: Win
Oct. 30 vs. Orlando Magic: Win
Nov. 1 vs. Denver Nuggets: Win
Nov. 2 vs. Houston Rockets: Loss
Nov. 4 vs. Toronto Raptors: Win
Nov. 5 vs. Chicago Bulls: Win
Nov. 8 vs. Phoenix Suns: Win
Nov. 10 vs. Washington Wizards: Win
Nov. 13 vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Win
Nov. 15 vs. Boston Celtics: Win
Nov. 16 vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Loss
Nov. 18 vs. New Orleans Pelicans: Win
Nov. 20 vs. New York Knicks: Win
Nov. 22 vs. Dallas Mavericks: Win
Nov. 23 vs. Utah Jazz: Loss
Nov. 25 vs. Brooklyn Nets: Win
Nov. 27 vs. Detroit Pistons: Win
Nov. 30 vs. Atlanta Hawks: Win

There are some things to note when evaluating this projection. The three losses that I predict are all second games on a back to back. I have the Thunder losing at Houston, at Memphis, and at Utah. The Thunder always do well against Houston, but I made this prediction under the assumption that Ty Lawson will be playing against the Thunder. Whether that is the case or not remains to be seen as we are still waiting to hear about his inevitable suspension.

There are a few games in October and November that are worth talking about: the season opener against the Spurs and the game against the Pelicans on November 18th will have everyone watching. The Spurs game is almost impossible to predict and feels like a toss up, but I am going with the Thunder here because of two reasons. First, the Thunder's length and athleticism has given the Spurs trouble for quite a while now and I don't expect that to change. Secondly, although the Spurs aren't going through quite the overhaul that the Cavaliers did last season, I still expect them to have some growing pains at the start of the season when working LaMarcus Aldridge into the system.

The Wizards definitely have the ability to make what will be an extremely hyped game a close one, but I just don't think they can do it. The Thunder match up extremely well with them and I don't think Durant will want to give the local and national media any more fuel for their incessant questioning about his former hometown.

The ceiling of a team starting Andre Roberson at the shooting guard position will continue to be discussed by fans and analysts alike, but this team is still going to have one of the best offenses in the league and has a chance to reach new heights with a new coach.

How do you think the Thunder's season will start? Let us know in the comments below!