In this edition of WTLC Q&A, Thunder Nation tackles questions regarding the next chapter of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball.
Sporting recent upgrades, even among deeper conference resistance, the refreshed Thunder intrigues fans and pundits alike. Naturally, expectations mount as Paul George, Patrick Patterson, and Raymond Felton offer veteran presence and ease Westbrook’s burden.
But how high can OKC rise on its upward path? And in a question not posed in this article: for how long?
While considering the former, as the latter becomes a source of lingering static, we begin our unofficial (yet educated) offseason Thunder poll results.
Oklahoma City Thunder 17-18 wins. How many?
Thunder Nation: In response to ESPN's forecast of 50 projected 17-18' wins for OKC, where do place Oklahoma City's win total this season?— Welcome To Loud City (@WTLC) August 19, 2017
When polled, many of our respondents decided 50-60 wins for Westbrook/George and co. is a solid range. Though, more specifically, most agreed 50-55 wins is where OKC will finish.
Last year’s Thunder won 47 contests; granted, a handful of those triumphs are attributable to Westbrook’s outlier-performance. Though at 28, and with greater leverage, couldn’t similar win-shares be expected from the six-time All-Star this season, even if his counting numbers drop?
Further, it’s reasonable to state that Oklahoma City is now better equipped than four of the five western teams which finished 16-17 with a better record.
Playoff Seeding: What tier?
Thunder Nation: Continuing with the season prediction theme, what playoff tier, if any, do you place OKC in at the 17-18 seasons conclusion?— Welcome To Loud City (@WTLC) August 20, 2017
Discounting Golden State, consider that of the afforementioned teams which finished 16-17 ahead of OKC, only Houston, which gutted its depth to attain 32-year-old Chris Paul, can perhaps be labeled as improved —and as an underrated aside, that is debatable.
Further, our respondents believe OKC stands to rise as San Antonio (age, injury, free-agency loss, signing of Rudy Gay —who has only made one playoff appearance in 11 seasons and is returning from a severe Achilles injury), Utah (loss of Hayward), and LAC (loss of Paul) have regressed.
Can Westbrook repeat as MVP?
With increased wins and higher playoff-seeding chosen as a near-consensus for OKC among our poll-takers, how do Thunder observers feel about Russ’ odds of earning consecutive NBA MVP awards?
Thunder Nation: With Westbrook being named Bovada.LV's odds-on favorite to repeat as NBA MVP, who do you think will win the award in 18'?— Welcome To Loud City (@WTLC) August 19, 2017
Online sports gambling giant Bovada.lv recently unveiled its 17-18’ MVP odds.
Westbrook tops the list as a +400 favorite.
Chasing Westbrook on this year’s early most valuable player prop board is a select group consisting of Finals MVP Kevin Durant (+450), Kawhi Leonard (+550), LeBron James (+750), and James Harden (+800).
However in the race to supplant Golden State, both Westbrook and Harden are joined in the betting pool’s top-ten by teammates Paul George (#10 +2500) and Chris Paul (#10 +2500).
Historically, playing alongside another, or in Durant’s case, multiple —Steph Curry (#7), Draymond Green (#21)— MVP contenders has offset a player’s chances of winning the award. Though, as is the case with many long-held NBA traditions, standard norms for most valuable player voting could become part of a greater paradigm-shift.
To wit, WTLC poll respondents (we could be a tad biased) chose Westbrook as the run-away favorite to repeat as NBA MVP, with SAS’ Kawhi Leonard gaining a respectable 21% of clicks.