Vegas Over/Under: 51.5
Fromal’s Record Projection: 52-30 The Bet: Prevent lean over
Since Kyle Wagner broke down to FiveThirtyEight, the inclusion of Paul George immediately vaulted the Oklahoma City Thunder back to contention in the Western Conference:
“The top-5 of Westbrook, George, Enes Kanter, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are worth 53 wins all on their own. But CARMELO believes so little of this Thunder bench that the rest of the roster is worth -2 wins. That seat was awful last season, but young players like Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott may improve with an extra season with the group, and this season’s first-round draft select Terrance Ferguson has potential as a spot-up shooter on the wing, which the team desperately needed last year. However, with Taj Gibson likely leaving in free agency, the Thunder will be sparse. But while their projection doesn’t put the team nearly at the level of this Golden State Warriors, or even the newly minted Chris Paul Houston Rockets, obtaining George should have an outsize influence on the Thunder.”
The TL;DR variant here is that even without factoring in the upside that stems from possible internal advancement, the Thunder already should have been expected to win 51 games. And that was written before OKC inked Patrick Patterson–a power forwards who fits perfectly with another expected starting pieces–to a bargain of a bargain.
Improving much beyond the 51-win benchmark is a challenging task as the Thunder try to weave in new players effortlessly. But after watching Russell Westbrook function as a one-man show throughout his MVP-winning campaign, they get to put so much more talent .
Expect big things.