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Vegas Win Total Projection: 59.5
2014: 45-37 (9th in West)
The Thunder will be one of the favorites for the NBA Championship this season. With Kevin Durant coming back, along with key free agent's resigning like Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler, they have a really good shot at being incredibly good this season. Last season, Russell Westbrook missed 15 games, Durant almost the whole season, and Enes Kanter came from a trade mid-way through the season. This season should be drastically better than last. It should be noted they also hired a new head coach in former Florida Gator, Billy Donovan. Donovan might not be the "flashy pick" as a coaching candidate, but I think he is extremely underrated as a basketball coach, spending time with the likes of Rick Pitino, Shaka Smart, and other notable coaches. As a former player, I think Donovan will have an edge in the locker room and players will buy-in to his system of play.
Top Fantasy Options
There is no question Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are your top picks. We all know what Russell Westbrook can give, I expect his numbers to take a dip from last season, because he didn't have Kevin Durant. Meanwhile on the flip side, Kevin Durant will certainly be back and I think he'll play a big role in this team right off the bat. For someone like Kevin, he has history of bouncing back. After his 2012 NBA finals loss, Kevin went from shooting 49 to 51% from the field, 35 to 38.7% from 3-point land, and 86 to 90% from the free throw line. His assists went up an average of 1 per game and his turnovers went down by .5 per. Durant is one of those guys who likes to prove people wrong and the bottom line is you don't want to doubt that. I think he is one of the top fantasy players this season if healthy.
I think Russell Westbrook is the “Hyped Up" player for the Thunder. I think people can see he's got talent and tons of it, but when he has Durant next to him? His field goals attempted went from 22 to 17, without Durant compared to with him. His points per game and just about every other stat will go down with Durant on the floor. I think the only positive of Westbrook being on the court with Durant is his turnovers tend to go down. Last season Westbrook averaged 4.4 turnovers with 15+ games over 6 turnovers. In previous seasons his highest average of turnovers was 3.8 per. I love Westbrook and what he brings in fantasy, especially last season, but I think he is due for a slight drop-off, rather than continuing what he did last season because of Durant's presence.
I think Kyle Singler, Enes Kanter, and possibly Dion Waiters are your gems for Oklahoma City. Kyle Singler without Perry Jones and Lamb, will be one of the first off the bench for the Thunder. Last season with the Thunder he averaged only 17 minutes per game. His previous 3 seasons? 26.7 minutes per. That's a huge difference and although it was with a struggling Detroit team, I can expect that he can get this without Jones and Lamb in the mix for the Thunder. Singler is 3 point specialist with a quick release that should get anywhere between 8-10 points a game, while averaging 2-3 rebounds, 2-3 assists. Singler will get open more with Durant around and I think we could see him drastically improve with this Thunder team.
Kanter should be receiving more minutes, which gives him more opportunities to get rebounds and easy points down low. I'm not really sold on Kanter improving per say, but more or else because he is getting more minutes, he's bound to have more chances and have a better fantasy year because of it. With Ibaka still not cleared to play, I think Kanter's value for the first part of the season could be higher, and how well he plays could be a factor in Kanter getting more or less minutes in the future.
As far as Waiters, I'm hesitant with the pick because he's extremely unreliable. He averaged almost 31 minutes a game with the Thunder, but his shooting percentage in all categories went down from his Cleveland days. I think he can regain some of his confidence and with two all-stars on the court, we could see the Waiters and company get more open opportunities to succeed. Waiters averaged 12.7 points per game with 30.7 minutes, I would expect to see him closer to 15 points in that same time. He has athleticism, drive, and the last month of last season he really picked it up, averaging over 16 points a game, shooting 40% from 3, and just under 3 assists a game. He's a “boom-bust" type of guy, but I like his potential and upside with this Thunder team under a coach like Billy Donovan.
The team is going to be improved with Kevin Durant and a full season with some the mid-season trades they made last year. I think that, with the pairing of new coach Billy Donovan, could make an immense difference in the way they play. The Oklahoma City Thunder should win the Northwest Division with ease and get somewhere between a 1-6 seeds in the West. They've got some depth and a good starting 5, with two All-Stars and one of the best players in the NBA, Kevin Durant. I see the team's offense being one of the most potent in the NBA, Kevin Durant and Westbrook of course can get you 80 by themselves, but with role players like Enes Kanter, Serge Ibaka, Adams, Kyle Singler, and D.J. Augustin, you've got a lot of extra help around the 2 stars. I don't see their points per game going up much more than last season, as it was one of the highest in the league, but nonetheless the team should be much more formidable and challenge the west's best teams for a top 3-4 spot.