THE SEASON IS HERE! Instead of dragging out three unnecessary intro paragraphs let’s just jump right into the fun world of predictions.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On The Doppler Radar section is undergoing a change. For this season, it will be an allusion to the player on the opposing team to watch out for.
10/26 AT Philadelphia 76ers
FORECAST: WHO CARES ABOUT WEATHER PUNS, BASKETBALL IS BACK!
The NBA is back and not one person is more excited than your pseudo weatherman/oddsmaker.
All the talk about the RUSSELL WESTBROOK SCORCHED EARTH TOUR this offseason will no longer be just talk come Wednesday night. What better place for the liberation of Westbrook to begin than in the Liberty State?
The Sixers, for their part, are actually trying to be a competent team this year. Yet, the Basketball Gods obviously still hold a grudge for all their tanking. Both Nerlens Noel and 2016 first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will miss this game and extended time to start the season.
Opening on the road puts a bit of a damper on the opening of the Oklahoma City Thunder season, but once Russ gets his first of many triple-doubles off all will be forgiven on my end. There are still a good number of questions facing this year’s team. A road game against an inferior opponent is as good of a time as any to start answering some of them.
PREDICTION: Thunder 112, Sixers 104
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Joel Embiid
“The Process,” as he has taken to calling himself, is finally playing basketball again and it has been amazing to watch. Embiid was once regarded as a can’t-miss prospect and was even the clear front runner for the number one pick in 2014 before persistent injuries sidelined him for three seasons. Embiid is a combination of skill, size, and satire that the NBA hasn’t seen since skinny Shaquille O’Neal was set loose in Orlando. The good news for OKC is that Philly is being cautious with him as he works his way back onto the court. Currently, Embiid is on a minutes restriction between 15-20 minutes a game. Most likely, that means the Thunder will only have to deal with him for 10 minutes each half. Steven Adams is developing into a superstar before our very own eyes, but he could have his hands full with Embiid. Even if it is only for small stretches at a time.
10/28 vs Phoenix Suns
FORECAST: LOUD NOISES!
The Thunder will play their first home game of the post-Kevin Durant era this Friday night and I don’t think it’s possible to fathom just how loud it’s going at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The lovely people of Oklahoma City have been waiting with baited breath to shower the 2016-17 Thunder in admiration ever since Westbrook signed his extension. Every team says that they have “the best fans in the world,” but it rings truest in OKC.
The sheer energy from the stands will propel this team forward and I feel sorry that a team like the Suns are going to be on the opposing ends of this game, but someone must feel the wrath!
PREDICTION: Thunder 107, Suns 96
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Devin Booker
Devin Booker is already a really good basketball player. Devin Booker is also only 19 years old. After injuries to Eric Bledose and Brandon Knight cleared an opportunity for Booker to get more playing time as a rookie, he’s not only shown he can hang with the big dogs but that he’s also well on his way to becoming an alpha male. Booker’s sweet shooting has been his calling card as a player, yet he showed that he could also function as a secondary ball handler last year. His ability as a playmaker and his nuanced play in the pick-and-roll are qualities that not many 19-year-old players possess. Booker is high on the list of Most Improved Player candidates this season, and if he gets in the groove, he’s capable of keeping the Suns in any game.
10/30 vs Los Angeles Lakers
FORECAST: Bright Skies and Ball Movement
In the six degrees of KD game, the Los Angeles Lakers are probably the team closest to Durant. That’s because the Lakers hired away Luke Walton from the Golden State Warriors. Now the kumbaya and hand holding that lured KD to the Bay Area are trying to grow in Hollywood too.
Walton’s version of the Lakers is the most competent this team has looked since Phil Jackson’s second go around with the team came to an end. They have a mix of young talent and proven veterans and if they buy into Walton’s offense and philosophy this team could be right back amongst the Western Conference’s elite.
By now, opposing teams will have more of a feel for what Thunder 2.0 looks like and we’ll see teams try to find ways to exploit Westbrook’s shortcomings and maximize their weaknesses. As great as it would be to stick it to Golden State and go 82-0, 81-1 is more likely.
PREDICTION: Thunder 102, Lakers 105
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell’s selection as the number two pick overall, ahead of Kristaps Porzingis and Jahlil Okafor, was a signal that the league was valuing guards over bigs. Russell didn’t exact help back that up with his play early in his rookie season. He was relegated to the bench after poor performances and then had numerous back-and-forths with then head coach Byron Scott that were gobbled up by the media. D-Loading has turned a corner heading into the 2016-17 NBA season. His play in the preseason was nothing short of spectacular, and he seems to be the perfect lead guard to run Walton’s style. The battle between him and Westbrook will be one to keep an eye on as they will certainly go at it whenever the chance presents itself. Russell’s ability to make big plays at big moments is part of the reasoning behind my prediction above. Call me a traitor, but the “ice in my veins” celebration is one of the all-time greats and I think D’Angelo breaks it out against the Thunder on Friday night.