Here are some predictions heading into Wednesday, this week, next month, this spring and beyond for
The Thunder will win at Utah Wednesday and Kevin Durant will score 30-plus points
This game has nothing to do with the fact the Jazz are one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, it has everything to do with Durant. Without Westbrook, Durant is going to be eager to show he's good enough to carry the team. It starts Wednesday.
Speaking of Durant – he'll average 30 points per game for the first time since 2009-2010
Durant came into the league and folks thought all he could do was score. Since then, Durant has worked on and improved in all areas of his game. He became better defensively. He became a better assist guy. But now with Westbrook out for at least the first part of the season, Durant will go back to being the elite scorer. And he's going to do it at an amazing pace.There are others on the team who will pick up some points, but they won't be able to do it consistently. The result means Durant scores even more.
The Thunder will start the season 6-0
Russell Westbrook will play less than 40 regular-season games
We know Westbrook is out for at least a month, but the Thunder have been real quiet about setting dates and expectations for Westbrook to return. My guess is they are trying to avoid what happened with the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose last year with his health status consistently and continually questioned all year. In addition, Durant will be able to beat a lot of teams by himself. After all,
OKC doesn't have to to play Memphis and Houston and the Clippers every night. And if Durant is having success, there will be no reason to rush Westbrook back. If Westbrook comes back healthy for the playoffs, the Thunder will be just fine – regardless of what their seed is.
OKC will win at Miami on Jan. 29
Jeremy Lamb will be the Thunder's sixth man
We're used to James Harden and Kevin Martin providing consistency off the bench. That may not happen this year. Lamb is way more of a wild card, but the Thunder will be eager to show the trade to get Lamb as part of the Harden deal was worth it. Lamb will get plenty of minutes and plenty of opportunity, even if he struggles, which very well may happen.
Steven Adams will end up being the starter at center by Christmas
Because Kendrick Perkins.
Derek Fisher will be open a lot
Not only will Fisher get a lot of minutes, especially with Westbrook out, but he's going to have to knock down shots, because Fisher is going to have some looks. If you don't like Fisher playing, you better get over it. He's going to be in there a lot. Fisher averaged 14.4 minutes per game last year. Expect more than that for the first half of the season.
No chance Durant gets more than 10 technicals this year
He had 12 last year.
Reggie Jackson will average 12-plus points per game
He's not afraid to shoot it. He goes to the rim. Aside from Durant and Westbrook, Jackson is the best bet to create his own shot. With an increase in minutes this year, now that he'll be the starter, Jackson will be a legit scorer.
Oklahoma City will go 51-31 in the regular season
The Thunder will miss Kevin Martin
A lot. Martin played in 77 games last year and averaged 14 points per game. Meanwhile he did that while playing a role he had never encountered before – coming off the bench. Instead of having Martin start or do the same this year, the Thunder will have to break in a new 6th man. That won't be easy. OKC doesn't have anyone who can score like Martin and doesn't have anyone who has the experience Martin has either.
Andre Roberson will be your favorite player not named Nick Collison
Everyone loves what Collison brings every night. Everyone will see Roberson is the same kind of player. Roberson is a high-energy guy. Think Kenneth Farried of Denver. Think Bridman, but with more skills. Roberson isn't much of a scorer, but he's going to be a guy who gets involved on both ends of the floor. Lots of tipped balls. Lots of rebounds. You'll see.
Durant will have a 60-point game this year
He'll also average 40 minutes per game
At least until Westbrook comes back.
Serge Ibaka will be better on offense, but not as good on defense
Maybe it will be because Ibaka will feel the need to score, but count on the shot-blocking champ to still do his share defensively, but expect him to take a lot more shots, too. Ibaka averaged 13.2 points per game last year as well as 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He's going to be looking for his offense more this year. That means something has to give. It will be his defense.