The State of OKC Thunder with Durant Ruled out for Season
by Trevor Whenham - 3/30/2015
In the rankings of anti-climactic news this would rank pretty high - the Oklahoma City Thunder have officially announced that Kevin Durant will be lost for the rest of the season and that he will be facing yet another foot surgery. It's obviously far from ideal news - losing an MVP rarely is, never mind in the middle of a fight for your playoff lives. It had been essentially a lost season for Durant, though, so it's not like they have to suddenly and rapidly adjust to a harsh new reality. Whenever news this significant comes out, though, the betting public is going to take notice. The more smart handicappers can anticipate and respond to public thinking, the better off they are. To help you out, here are a collection of thoughts about the Durant injury situation:
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Playoff bound?: Even without a surprise return of Durant this team is likely heading to the playoffs. They are 2.5 games up on the Pelicans as I write, and they have played 74 games. That's not an insurmountable margin, but Oklahoma City is playing better recently, has more experience, has more home games than road games remaining, has a better offense and even without Durant has the deeper roster. They are three games back of the Mavericks for seventh place, so that is as unlikely to change. This team seems destined to get the dubious prize of a first-round matchup with the Warriors. It will be an epic point guard showdown but not the matchup Oklahoma City would likely dream of.
A break could be a good thing: Durant is notoriously intense in the offseason. Even last year when he stepped away from national team obligations because he wanted a break he still worked out very hard, played a lot, and generally moved at a frantic clip all the time. He's not dumb about it, and it has obviously served him well until this injury issue. This surgery is going to force him to operate at a much less harried pace this summer, though - and that could be a good thing. He's not getting younger, so a summer of recharging and letting his body rebuild could actually be a positive both now and into the future.
Westbrook doesn't have to look over his shoulder: Russell Westbrook has certainly taken advantage of his time at center stage this year so far. He is playing at a very high level - an MVP level if it weren't for Steph Curry. He had to be looking over his shoulder, though - knowing that at any time the bigger star could return and regain the spotlight and leadership mantle for the team. Now Westbrook knows that he is the man and that he will be the man for as long as he can keep this season rolling. That could free him up a bit and allow him to perform at an even higher level.
2016 free agency will be even more of a distraction now: 2016 free agency was going to be a mess anyway with guys like Durant and LeBron James available and teams due for a massive boost in the salary cap due to the new TV deal. Oklahoma City fans are terrified of losing Durant but know it is a possibility. If James can leave his hometown then surely Durant could leave - especially if he were to head back to his hometown. It was going to be a distraction until the second that Durant stated his intentions anyway. Now, though, there is an added pressure. How healthy he is will factor into what people will think his mindset is and what people think teams should do. No fan or organization wants to invest tens of millions of dollars in a guy who can't walk. Many guys who have had this same surgery have bounced back and been just fine. Some haven't. It's another level of complication to an already complicated situation and another reason for people to take about Durant's future. Not ideal for the Thunder next year because it will hang over them, and they will all be asked about it often.
ATS Performance with vs. without: The Thunder have played 74 games this year. Durant played 27. The team is 37-35-2 ATS on the season - a small loser overall for bettors who bet every game. The team was 13-13-1 ATS in the games Durant played - also a small loser. From a pure betting performance perspective, then, this situation only barely moves the needle this year. No need to panic - though many will.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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