After the 2013-14 NBA regular season kicks off on Tuesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder will kick off their campaign for this year on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz. The Thunder are coming off yet another season where they finished with the best record in the Western Conference, but are also coming off of a premature postseason departure due to the Russell Westbrook injury.
Like the way it derailed their playoff chances last season, the Westbrook injury still looms over OKC at the start of the regular season. Early in the preseason it was announced that the All-Star point guard would need another surgery on his knee that will keep him out likely until mid-December at the earliest. Without Westbrook for the first 25 or so games of this season, the Thunder’s season outlook certainly looks a bit different.
With the season about to begin, people are frantically discussing teams’ over/under win totals set by sports books. Vegas and other sports books usually have a pretty good grasp on a team’s chances heading into the season and over/under totals are a good way to project what the team is going to do in the upcoming season.
According to the lines set by Bovada, the Thunder’s over/under total is set at 52.5 for the 2013-14 season. For a team that won 60 games last season and won 47 in the lockout shortened 2011-12 season, that total might seem a bit low. Even with that, I’m taking the under for the Thunder.
Obviously the point of contention to picking the under would simply be Kevin Durant. As he gets closer to his prime, which could be absolutely incredible, Durant is still improving from a place where he’s already the second best player in the league. Without Westbrook, he figures to be even more dominant as both a scorer, defender, and even playmaker this season for OKC.
However, I think there are too many things working against the Thunder to take the over here. For one, the rest of the West has improved this season which means a higher of level of competition. More than that, though, the personnel surrounding Durant worries me quite a bit.
Even with Westbrook healthy, I’m not sure about the rest of the Thunder’s roster. I don’t know if Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson are capable of delivering offensively at the level that James Harden and Kevin Martin have done in the past off of the bench for OKC. When you throw in the Westbrook injury, the uncertainty of Serge Ibaka’s development and ability to shoulder a big workload, and the general ineptitude of Kendrick Perkins, the supporting cast has a ton of questions.
Durant is going to have a monster year, possibly the best of his career. However, the surrounding parts on the Thunder’s roster worry me. With Westbrook out for a month and a half, on the short side, and the rest of their pieces, I’m not sold on the Thunder’s chances this season. Maybe I’m wrong, but 53 wins seems like a little too much for this team.