20 Thunder-centric predictions for the season

westbrook happy

Am I a homer? Heck yeah. I’m a fan of the team I write about. It’s not a difficult concept. I like to write about things I’m familiar with. I know basketball, but more specifically, I know Thunder basketball. So I write about it.

Predictions are always a difficult thing when it comes to sports. They are usually made with the caveat that a ton of variables remain static. Things such as injuries, front office moves, suspensions, chemistry can’t be taken into account.

When you look at these 20 predictions, know two things: 1) They are likely going to favor the Oklahoma City Thunder in some form or fashion. And 2) Because I know a little about basketball, I’ll never make a prediction so outlandish that it won’t have a chance of coming true. Without further ado, here are the predictions:

20. Josh Huestis will play over 750 minutes this season for the Thunder.

In his first two seasons, Huestis played a grand total of 86 minutes for the Thunder. But the third year forward looks determined to get some minutes this year, and his play in the preseason may warrant some looks. While 750 minutes may seem like a lot, that’s just 9.2 minutes per game over 82 games. I think Huestis will be a full-time NBA player this year and will get enough playing time to reach that minutes mark.

19. Andre Roberson will shoot 55% or better from the charity stripe.

Roberson’s free throw shooting has been a literal roller coaster throughout his career. His free throw percentages for his 4-year career have gone as follows: 70, 48, 61, 42. Using my 3rd grade logic of predictive sequencing, Roberson is bound to have a “bounce back” season.

18. Russell Westbrook will lead the league in assists.

Westbrook has finished in the top-4 in assists in the last three seasons. With more offensive firepower around him, there should be no reason why Westbrook doesn’t just luck into 1-2 more assists per game by just passing to his new teammates. In addition, the point guarding wonder twins in Houston will likely be taking assists away from each other. Westbrook’s biggest competition for the assist title will probably be John Wall.

17. Terrance Ferguson will get 400 minutes or more of action with the Thunder.

As I’ve been mentioning this preseason: Ferguson appears to be on the Steven Adams/Andre Roberson development plan. Roberson played about 400 minutes his rookie season, while Adams played about 1200. Two things factor into my thinking Ferguson will get playing time with the Thunder this year: 1) There will likely be more blowouts. And 2) Ferguson plays a position of high demand around the league. Developing him as quickly as possible will probably be in the Thunder’s best interest.

16. Kyle Singler will still be on the team at the end of the season.

This is my stone-cold lock of the season right here.

15. The Thunder will feature three 20-point scorers.

I’m pretty sure you know who they will be. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony are, all three, professional scorers by trade. Once they learn how to play with each other efficiently, the shots will be there.

14. The Thunder will have 3 All-Stars this season: Westbrook, George, and………..Steven Adams.

Westbrook and George are a given. But I think Adams is going to have a break through season this year. I see him putting up 14 points and 8 rebounds per game, while anchoring one of the best defenses in the league. Carmelo Anthony will also be in contention, but I think the narrative of Adams (first time All-Star, being the glue that holds the Thunder together) will get him the nod.

13. Russell Westbrook will get 30 triple-doubles and will pass Jason Kidd for third all time in that category.

The rebounding numbers will be the difficult stat to obtain this season.

12. Billy Donovan will win his first Coach of the Year award.

Tom Thibodeau and Mike Malone will push him, but Donovan will eventually win it. Bravo, Billy!

11. The Thunder will lead the league in technicals.

I think this team is going to have a nasty streak about it. Westbrook blasting Nikola Jokic will likely set the tone for the season, and players have a tendency to follow Westbrook’s lead.

10. Three Thunder players will shoot over 40% from 3 (minimum 100 attempts) – Alex Abrines, George, and……Huestis.

There will be a ton of open looks on offense. Abrines shot 38% on 3.6 attempts per game last season. Huestis has shown in the short amount of time we’ve seen him that if he has an open look, he will bury it. And George shot 39.3% from deep last season as the no. 1 option on a team bereft of elite floor spacers.

9. Brook Lopez will end up on the Thunder as a buy-out candidate in February.

February will be a crazy time in the NBA. Teams will be shuffling players as they prepare either for a playoff run or a tanking dive. The Lakers will likely be one of those teams. The Lakers’ 2018 first rounder is protected for the first pick and then 6-30. The Lakers will be fun, but I don’t think they’ll be that good. They lack the shooting necessary to be consistently good in the NBA, especially with the departure of D’Angelo Russell. I think Brook Lopez will be one of those players that gets traded to an undesirable location and then requests a buy-out. And then OKC snatches him up for $2.3 million and their empty roster spot.

8. The Thunder will be in the top half statistically of all major 3-point categories (attempts, makes, percentage).

Better shooters, more opportunities, more makes. We saw that play out in the preseason and it should continue into the season.

7. The Thunder will finish in the top 7 for offensive rating.

The Thunder finished no. 17th last season in offensive rating. They hovered around the No. 10 spot for much of the season, but sputtered a bit after the All-Star break. It may take some time for the Big 3 and the rest of the new players to gel, but once they do, I see the Thunder moving up the OffRtg ladder.

6. The Thunder will finish in the top 3 for defensive rating.

Last season, the Thunder were better on defense than many expected, finishing as the 10th ranked team in the league in that category. The additions of George and Patrick Patterson, along with the ability to play a riskier brand of defense (more steal attempts, more scrambling, less open lane looks) will give the Thunder one of the best defenses in the league.

5. Paul George will win the MVP award

I think Paul George is due for his best season as a pro. The freedom of not having to be the no. 1 guy on a team will allow George to play as freely as he ever has. I see George leading the Thunder in scoring at about 28 points, and contributing in other ways (7 boards, 5 assists, and 1.7 steals). In the end, the Thunder’s team success combined with George’s best season will be enough to see him hoist the Maurice Podoloff trophy.

4. The Thunder will win 61 games this season (beating the Warriors twice in the process).

3. The Thunder will finish 2nd in the West

Hold on….it gets better

2. The Thunder will win the Western Conference after defeating the……Spurs in 6.

I see the Spurs finishing with the 4th seed and beating the Warriors in an epic 7 game series in the 2nd round. The Thunder meanwhile will play their own 7 game series in the 2nd round against Houston, finally outlasting them in a Game 7 that sees Westbrook put up a triple-double.

1. Getting my Paul Pierce on….The Thunder will hoist the NBA Championship trophy defeating the Cavaliers in 6 games, with Russell Westbrook taking home the Finals MVP.

There you have it. We’ll check back in June to see how well I did. If you happen to gamble based off my predictions, and end up winning some money, I will expect a 10% consultant’s fee. If you do the same and lose money, just know I’m just a Russian hack bot and not a real person. Just kidding (sort of). What I am 100% sure of though, is that I can’t wait until tip-off on Thursday.


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