Oklahoma City Thunder
"They’re no longer contenders without Durant and they’ll struggle to make the playoffs. Even if Westbrook is the MVP, it will be hard for them to crack the top four in the West because they’ll have a bottom-10 defense. I give them 44 wins. … They will look totally different this season. For years, their whole MO has been two guys doing everything and the rest of the team standing around. This year it’s going to be a much more collective approach. … Westbrook won’t allow them to fall apart. Sometimes people view him only as an athlete but he is savvy beating guys off the dribble and he understands that putting pressure on the rim can make a lot of good things happen for his team. He’s the best rebounding guard in the league on both ends. I can see why people think his emotion gets the best of his sometimes, but his fire and the competitiveness is something so many players, even some stars, lack. … Westbrook is my MVP pick. He’s on a mission without Durant. If I had to pick one point guard in a vacuum, I’d take Westbrook over Curry, Paul and everyone else. His team will always win because he sets the tone and gives you a clear identity with his aggressiveness. … Getting Westbrook to sign an extension was the best move any team made this summer besides LeBron and Durant. That saved their whole franchise. … Adams’ growth in the playoffs is just the start for him: he’s going to take big leaps this season and become a foundational piece. … Pairing Westbrook and Oladipo might not work. You don’t see too many great backcourts with two non-shooters these days. But if any backcourt could get by without shooting, it’s these guys because their physical tools are off the charts, they’re both so physically imposing and they play in sixth gear. … Oladipo is in a great spot to get paid big. At the same time, OKC won’t commit to him if the fit isn’t right. Look at how quickly they moved on from Waiters. … Trading Ibaka was a big mistake. I didn’t like the return package at all. Ilyasova can’t guard fours in the West for sustained minutes. No way. Sabonis is getting thrown to the wolves. They’ve lost so much length and athleticism defensively with Durant and Ibaka gone. … Kanter has to come off the bench. He can attack certain matchups and pile up points but he’s a lost cause defensively. … Their options on the wing are very, very weak. Their biggest strength with Durant has become their biggest weakness. Roberson will play heavy minutes even though he’s a defensive specialist and he cramps the court. They can also go small with Payne in three-guard lineups to try to run teams off the court. Payne can shoot and he can play off the ball. … The Thunder are absolutely screwed if Westbrook misses any time with injury. They need him to have perfect health. He’s the most indispensable player in the NBA."