It’s time to forget about last year. And the year before that, and before that… This season, Oklahoma City should have one goal, and that is to win it all.
It’s difficult to rank seasons by importance, but it is fair to say that this may be the most important year in Oklahoma City professional basketball history.
With Kevin Durant facing free agency after this season, the Thunder need to convince him that this team is loaded for the future and that they are committed to winning for a long period of time.
Winning a title does not necessarily mean that Durant will absolutely stay—as Albert Pujols can attest to when he left the St. Louis Cardinals after winning the World Series in 2011—but it is definitely an important factor for players when deciding where to sign their free agency contracts.
Offensively, this is probably the best Thunder team that they have ever had. With two of probably the best five players in the NBA and scorers at every position, Oklahoma City is a favorite to lead the league in points this season.
Durant and Russell Westbrook will help lead the scoring this year, but quality rotation players like Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters will help as well. The team also has promising young players like Mitch McGary and Cameron Payne to back them up.
What will define this team all year is how they play defense. The previously mentioned players can definitely score, but they are mostly limited defensively. The Thunder’s primary defensive plan is to funnel opponents to Serge Ibaka and hopefully he will block their shot. Kanter and McGary are two of the worst defenders in the league and their play on defense will impact every game.
A new coach comes with extremely high expectations, and the Thunder are projected to improve from last year’s disappointment when they missed the playoffs.
Billy Donovan seems to have a better basketball mind than Scott Brooks, but he will likely be judged all year based on the final result of the team performance.
It doesn’t really matter if the Thunder show improvement at all over the course of the year; if they win the title, it’s a success, and if they don’t, it’s a disappointment. It’s as simple as that.