7. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered the biggest single loss in the NBA since LeBron James left Cleveland in the summer of 2010. When Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the rival Golden State Warriors, there was a power shift in the NBA, and Oklahoma City was left scrambling.
The difference between the 2010-11 Cavaliers and the 2016-17 Thunder, is the Cavs didn’t have Russell Westbrook. The Thunder obviously do, after locking him up to a three-year extension.
When LeBron left Cleveland, the Cavaliers went from a 61-win team to a 19-win team. That won’t happen in Oklahoma City. Westbrook and company will keep the Thunder in the playoff hunt, and they should be able to make the playoffs even without Durant.
Will the Thunder be the force that they’ve been for so many years? Probably not. But that’s what happens when you have one of the best players in the league and then that player departs.
Still, though, Westbrook is in town, and that should be enough to get Oklahoma City to the playoffs. Westbrook is now the clear-cut, unquestioned first option in OKC’s offense, which means he could have an MVP-type season.
Westbrook and the Thunder will also be even more motivated when playing the Warriors, as if they needed any more fuel in what has become a great rivalry.
Next: No. 6