The Oklahoma City Thunder has found themselves in a predicament this season. They have had to spend the majority of the first half of this season praying for a speedy return of their two star players. The worry had gotten to the point where some were saying “OKC Thunder will not make the playoffs”. That seems highly unlikely because their victory over the magic last night has brought them to the .500 mark, 4 games from 8th place. Barring another major injury, the Thunder seem poised to make a statement in this year’s playoffs but not with home court advantage. What does this mean for the top teams of the western conference? It means for one team, the joy of completing a successful season will be quickly replaced with the horror of matching up against a very good OKC team.
Before the season started the timetable for reigning MVP Kevin Durant’s injury was noted but unexpectedly injury also fell upon their other star, Russell Westbrook. A major inconvenience became an absolute tragedy as the Thunder plummeted in standings.
One would have to think back a few years to find a team that relied solely on the play of their star players as much as the Oklahoma City Thunder have in the past few years. Most of their plays have a pick and roll set up but essentially they end up in isolation plays where Durant or Westbrook use their athleticism and skill to demolish opponents one on one. Without their superstars, they were an unrecognizable Thunder team that lost their identity. Now that their identity has been recovered, I doubt they will see a first round exit.
Competition to get a playoff seed in the western conference is incredibly difficult every year. Being 4 games back in the west is still a daunting task. The Thunder will be in the bottom four teams, which spells disaster for one of the top four teams. Seeds 2-7 currently are not separated by much. Those teams have the greatest chances of playing the OKC Thunder in the first round. Throwing games is usually reserved for failing basketball teams but it would surprise no one if at the end teams “rest their starter” to maneuver into a more favorable position.
Fantasy Foresight: The true Thunder team has shown its face and it is just as fierce as ever. They stumbled but after their big win against The League’s best, Golden State Warriors, they have proved they are no joke. They resemble last year’s team in every way except some added playing time for Reggie Jackson. If you have KD or Russell Westbrook it is safe to say that their absence has affected your team in a negative way. Their stats will be phenomenal for the remainder of the year but trading KD is an option. You might ask, why trade a player if he is going to play at a high level? The answer is because you probably got KD at a discount draft spot and with the numbers he is putting up you can get two solid stat sheet stuffers for one. How does Kevin Durant for Kyle Korver and Blake Griffin sound? I guarantee there are people who would make this trade.