2018 Oklahoma City Thunder Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
The Thunder made some big moves heading into last season, assembling their own Big 3 to try to contend with the Warriors and the rest of the arms race in the league. And it didn't really work out. Paul George worked well, but Carmelo Anthony was a mess who never fit in, and the team was a disappointing first-round loser - albeit to a Utah team that is very good, so there was not a ton of shame in the loss. Sam Presti could have held on and hoped for better results, but he again showed why he is on the short list for the best GM in the league as he made some nice moves to improve this team without a whole lot of downside cost or significant sacrifices. So, now they are again in a big arms race in a conference they almost certainly can't win, but they aren't likely to roll over against anyone.
The biggest surprise of the offseason - for any team - was the signing that gave every small market team out there hope. When Paul George arrived in Oklahoma City last year everyone, including him, expected him to be suiting up for the Lakers right now. But when faced with his own free agency, something about the lifestyle, his teammates, the coaching, or the opportunity - or perhaps the more money that he could sign for staying in Oklahoma City - convinced him to stick around for four more years. He wasn't at his best last year, largely because the three-headed monster never worked, and he wasn't as comfortable as he could be. He obviously feels good about the pairing with Russell Westbrook, though, and he should - it makes a lot of sense. And this is a team that plays intense defense, which suits George well, too. It seems quite reasonable to expect a big step forward from him this year.
Westbrook is the heart and soul of this team - as Top 5 guys in the league tend to be. But he had arthroscopic surgery on his oft-troubled knee in early September and will miss all of the preseason and likely the first few regular-season games. How he comes back from that, and how it affects the chemistry early on, are open questions. But over the long term it doesn't make too much sense to worry about Westbrook - especially with Anthony out of the picture.
This team plays mean defense and is even better when Andre Roberson is on the court. He's an absolute defensive machine. He's dealing with a serious knee injury, though, and it could be December or later before he is cleared to return to action. The sooner the better in terms of maximizing what this team can do.
2018 Oklahoma City Thunder Additions and Departures
Just getting rid of Carmelo Anthony's contract would have been a major accomplishment this offseason. But Presti not only managed to deal it away but wound up with Dennis Schroeder in the process. Schroeder was a good starting point guard for the Hawks, but they are such a rebuilding mess that the cap space was worth more than his presence, and Trae Young is in town now. The Thunder obviously don't need a point guard to start beyond the first couple of games of the season unless Westbrook is hurt again, but having the ability to bring a guy like him off the bench is a huge benefit, and they could potentially do something interesting things playing both points guards at times as well. He is a very nice added benefit to the jettisoning of a bad deal.
The team added another interesting piece in free agency in Nerlens Noel. The big man has been a disappointment in the NBA, but he comes cheap here, and he doesn't have to carry the big load for the team - that is Steven Adams' role. As another depth piece he is a serious plus for the team.
The team didn't have a first-round pick. But they did wind up with three guys in the second round. The most interesting is Kentucky shooting guard Hamidou Diallo. He never lived up to his recruiting ranking in his year at Kentucky, but has serious talent, and is a huge upside project out of the second round.
2018 Oklahoma City Thunder Futures Odds and Trends
NBA title odds ( from Bovada ) : +3000
Western Conference title odds : +1500
Russell Westbrook MVP Odds : +1400
Paul George MVP Odds : +12500
Season win total: 49.5
The team went 37-50-2 ATS, so there were big profits to be made in consistently betting against them last year. Only two teams were more profitable to consistently bet against. They went "under" the total 49 times and "over" 39, so there were also solid profits there.
2018 Oklahoma City Thunder Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The team won 48 games last year, and that was without ever fielding an ideal lineup. If Westbrook comes back quickly and is healthy, he and George can work better without a third wheel, and Roberson can return reasonably quickly, then this feels like a 50-win team for sure - and a division winner, for what that's worth. I like the over here on the season win total quite a bit here. But can this team beat Golden State? Simply, no. But there is no shame in that - no one else probably can, either.
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