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Sunday, 08 October 2017 21:25

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

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2016-17 Roundup: The Oklahoma City Thunder lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs to the Houston Rockets four games to one, losing the finale in a route, 118-87.Coming off a summer when they happened to lose one of the few transcendent players in the league and an all time talent in Kevin Durant, the Thunder had no choice but turn the reigns over to their other All Star Russell Westbrook and hope for the best. 

The season played out much like most experts would have expected with Westbrook piling up an Oscar Robertson like season while leading the team to moderate success in the form of a 47 win season and the sixth seed in the Western conference.

Offseason Grade: A+++ A virtual mirror image from the summer before, the Thunder had as a good of an offseason as they could have possibly wished for. Paul George to Oklahoma City? Wow, Stunner as David Aldridge tweeted. Where did that come from? Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when that news came down?

GM Sam Presti was universally praised  for trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for one year of Paul George.  The all star forward was obtained with no guarantees of sticking around or forgoing his desire to go west to LA. Not many GMs would be willing to risk assets for a player so hell bent on the Lakers and bring him to one of the smallest markets in the league.

Presti however is brilliant and has the job security necessary to pull the move and go all in. Then again, he probably needed to do so. All summer, the Thunder had a Kevin Durant inspired supermax contract on the table waiting for Westbrook’s signature, and he had yet to sign.

Was Presti satisfied? Not at all. Stories dragged on throughout the summer linking Carmelo Anthony to Houston and Portland. Finally when fans had grown weary of the story and just hoped for some kind of resolution, there was Sam Presti again to steal the show. Once again trading minimal assets in Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round to New York.

Finally on September 29, OKC ownership, management and fans sighed in relief when Russell Westbrook finally signed that 5 year, 205 million dollar contract. Also of note, Andre Roberson signed a multi-year contract, as did Patrick Patterson. The Thunder drafted and signed Terrance Ferguson, a shooting guard with the 21st pick in the 1st round.

Questions for the upcoming season: Does this team fit like the 08 Celtics? A mature big 3 that’s ready to win? A team that’s ready to swallow their egos? What will it take for Paul George to stay? Is this the biggest year in OKC’s young history? Will the Big 3 be able to share the ball and be happy with how many shots each gets? Is Billy Donovan’s job secure? Can they beat Golden State?

How they beat the Celtics: With offensive firepower, just like they will beat most other teams. Russell Westbrook has always been a load against Boston and Kyrie Irving is not a big upgrade over Isaiah on that side of the ball. OKC has two elite wings that can each create their own shots and spread the floor. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will be tested.

Trending: It sure looked like Russell Westbrook would either leave in free agency next summer, get traded at the deadline, or toil in mediocrity without the star power to compete with his ole buddy Kevin Durant. Instead, Sam Presti dared to dream, pulled of a couple of heists and suddenly there is hope in OKC.

Players understand that to win in this environment, they need a lot of help and at least for now the possibility that Paul George will resign is reasonable one. Anthony is 34 and at an age where, if he is ever going to sacrifice to win, it will be now. The Thunder as a franchise are trending up. At least for one year.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: Most predictions have the Thunder winning around 52 games in the stacked Western Conference. I think they’ll do better than that. I believe all 3 players are ecstatic to have star help and their combined fire power will overwhelm.

My prediction is 57 wins and the 2nd seed in the conference. They lose in 6 to the Golden State Warriors in a viscious battle with Durant and Westbrook jawing and the NBA league office and fans elated. That rivalry with Golden State we thought we lost when Durant left? Well it’s back!

 

Samuel Lias

Samuel Lias is a contributor to Boston Celtics coverage on CLNS Radio