So, were the Oklahoma City Thunder in the news this summer? Anything at all? I'm racking my brain, but I can't think of anything at all. It seems like they are just going with the exact same roster as last year. Nothing to see here. Oh yeah, I guess they did lose their franchise player to a bitter rival. And trade away a defensive stalwart. And let a couple of free agents leave. Other than that, though, it was a dull summer.
2016 Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Storylines
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Needless to say, the loss of Kevin Durant is significant. In Durant and Russell Westbrook the Thunder had arguably the best one-two punch in the league. Now they have to play him and try to find a way to get past him in the playoffs - something that just isn't going to happen. The hardest part for the Thunder is that it comes as a surprise - few seemed to believe that he would actually leave. In large part this season, and especially the first month of it or so, is going to be defined for the Thunder by how well they can accept their new reality and move beyond it without bitterness or regret. They are a whole new team now, and they have to positively embrace that.
It's not like the team is left without a star, though. Russell Westbrook has long been fantastic, and now he will have every opportunity to shine. He has done very well when on his own, and he will be driven by the situation to shine. He's the favorite to win the MVP and it makes sense why - he won't have to worry about his all-star teammates splitting the vote, and he will be putting up silly statistical numbers. My concern, though, is that Westbrook could look to do too much. He has always been by far his own favorite player, and now that no one will doubt that he is absolutely the man here there is the risk that he will try to do too much. Him putting up a triple-double every night is great, but not if it comes at the expense of others being able to contribute fully. On the plus side, though, while Durant and Westbrook coexisted marvelously, it doesn't feel for a second that Westbrook needs Durant to be what he is, so his ability to shine isn't limited by the roster change.
When I first heard that Serge Ibaka had been traded I didn't hear any other details and I was shocked. The more I think about the move, though, the more I like it. Ibaka was getting older and somewhat less effective, and he was heading into the last year of a deal with no certainty of re-upping. The primary piece back was Victor Oladipo, a much younger player with a better contract situation. Oladipo is like Westbrook-lite in some ways in terms of playing style, and if the two can find chemistry they have a chance to make up a backcourt that will be an absolute nightmare to play against. Oladipo was only a part-time starter last year in Orlando and still put up big numbers. Now he will play a bigger role and has a chance to really improve. Plus, the team added Ersan Ilyasova in the deal as well, and he has a good chance to start and contribute significantly at power forward. Brilliant deal, really.
2016 Oklahoma City Thunder Additions and Departures
We've mostly covered this already. Durant headed to Golden State. Ibaka was traded to Orlando, with Oladipo and Ilyasova coming the other way. Randy Foye headed to Brooklyn in free agency, Dion Waiters went to Miami, and Nazr Mohammed also left.
A couple of intriguing young players join the fray this year. Domantas Sabonis joins out of the draft after a strong career at Gonzaga. He's a player I was very high on in college, and I look forward to seeing how he can fit in here. Also joining the team is Alex Abrines. He's a Spaniard who was drafted in the second round in 2013 and has been playing in Barcelona since. Last season the wing was named the Euroleague Rising Star, an honor previously earned by familiar names like Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Mirotic.
2016 Oklahoma City Thunder Futures Odds and Trends
The Thunder won 55 games last year but were a disaster for bettors - they were 37-44-1 ATS, so there was actually solid money to be made betting against them despite all the wins. They went "under" the total in 43 of 82 games, so there was no real money to be made on the totals. They were a much better 10-8 ATS in the playoffs and went under in 10 of 18 postseason contests.
Oklahoma City Thunder Futures Odds (from Bovada)
NBA title odds : +4000
Western Conference title odds : +2000
Russell Westbrook MVP Odds : +200 (favorite)
Domantas Sabonis ROY Odds : +2500
Season win total (from Westgate): 45.5
2016 Oklahoma City Thunder Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
It's a two-way fight for divisional supremacy between the Thunder and the Trail Blazers. I give the nod to Oklahoma City by a narrow margin. With the notable exception of the departure of Durant, I like the rest of how the summer went for the team. They will get a decent playoff seed, win a playoff round or maybe even two, and then get overwhelmed by a better team. Not much has really changed, in other words. Westbrook will be a season-long factor in the MVP race, but there isn't nearly enough value in this price to consider betting on him to win it.
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