Today marks the start of the regular season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and this year is sure to be full of ups and downs. Six of the fifteen players on the roster are new to the Thunder, and all of them will likely see some play time and have the opportunity to make an immediate impact. To kick off opening day against the Philadelphia 76ers, we have ten bold predictions (five each) on how the season is going to the for the Thunder.
1. Thunder will finish second in the West.
A lot of people are down on the Thunder this season with the loss of star power on offense. However, I think a lot of young guys will step up this season, and Westbrook will lead the way. When you consider that, along the new additions to the team like Victor Oladipo, the Thunder should have plenty of offense.
2. Victor Oladipo will be an All-Star.
Last season, Oladipo averaged 16 points per game with 4 assists and 5 rebounds, and he’s still improving. With a point guard like Westbrook who can distribute the ball as well as he does, you can only expect his numbers to increase. The Thunder may have lost an All-Star during the summer, but they’ve gained another one in Oladipo.
3. Andre Roberson will be the league’s Most Improved Player.
Andre Roberson heated up last season during the playoffs. After finally gaining some confidence on the offensive side of the ball, I’m very excited to watch him play this season. His defense is already solid, but gaining confidence on offense will also increase his defensive performance. Roberson will be a huge part of the Thunder’s success this season.
4. Steven Adams will average a double-double.
The Big Kiwi had an impressive season last year averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds per game. Adams is emerging as one of the league’s top centers. With more experience this season, and a slight increase in minutes, I expect Adams’s numbers to be way up from last season.
5. The Thunder will shoot 80% as a team from the free throw line.
Last season the Thunder shot just below 80% from the free throw line, finishing 10th in the NBA. While finishing in the top ten is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, it’s still something I think the team is determined to improve on. A lot of games are won or lost at the free throw line. With a team of excellent shooters and an ever-improving Steven Adams, 80% from the line is something the team will achieve this season.
1. Russell Westbrook will have 30 triple-doubles this season.
In a season in which Russ had to share the ball with Kevin Durant, Westbrook finished with 18 triple-doubles. Now that Westbrook is the sole leader of the Thunder, he is bound to fill up stat sheets like playing the latest NBA 2k game on Starter difficulty. Going from 18 to 30 is a big jump, but as Russ says, “Why not?”
2. Steven Adams will be the Thunder’s third-leading scorer.
The obvious scoring leader for the Thunder will be Russell Westbrook, and it is assumed that Victor Oladipo will be behind him, but after that, the opportunity to put up points is up for grabs. Enes Kanter is probably the easy choice, but Steven Adams looked impressive in the pre-season once he returned from his sprained ankle injury, and the connection that he and Russ have is absolutely euphoric to watch at times.
3. The Thunder will win at least two of the NBA’s major awards.
Russell Westbrook is the clear-cut favorite for Most Valuable Player, but he’s not the only member of the Thunder that will contend for an award. Some experts picked either Victor Oladipo or Steven Adams to win Most Improved Player, Andre Roberson will likely grab some votes for Defensive Player of the Year, and Enes Kanter is a favorite to win 6th Man of the year.
4. The Thunder will lose no more than seven games at home.
Last year, the Thunder went 32-9 at home, and I think they will do even better this year. Despite a major roster shakeup and a lot of new guys on the team, the ‘Peake is still one of the hardest places to win in the NBA. Fans will be hungry for success and as excited as ever to cheer on Russ & Co.
5. Kyle Singler will shoot 40% for the year from behind the arc.
In his first season and a half with the Thunder, Kyle Singler was getting paid to do close to nothing. When he did play, his stats were simply not good, and his three-point shooting, the primary reason he was brought in, was just awful. However, if this year’s pre-season is any indicator for the how year will go for Singler, he’s going to have a hot-hand when he sees the court.
Article written by Craig Hofeld and Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter.