Since 2009/10, the Oklahoma City Thunder established themselves as one of the premier teams in the NBA. The heart of the team has been Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. The three have led the Thunder to a 316-160 record since 2009/10. Three times in the last six years, they made the conference finals and in 2012 the NBA final. The team, the only major franchise in the state of Oklahoma, feeds on the fans who turn out in numbers day in and day out.
2014/15 was, however, not one of the better seasons. The start of the season saw Durant and a number of other players ruled out because of injuries. Westbrook missed a few games at the start as the Thunder were toothless in their attacks. They recovered, but once again, both suffered more injuries after the All-star break. Durant was ruled out for the season. Ibaka was also ruled out for 6 weeks in March. Despite the valiant efforts of Mr. Triple Double Westbrook, the thunder lost the #8 seed to the Pelicans.
Scott Brooks was fired at the end of the season. While it surprised many, Brooks had actually failed to achieve much. Granted he successfully led the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the squad at his disposal, he should have at least more NBA finals appearance, if not a Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Billy Donovan, coach of the University of Florida’s basketball team was hired. Donovan had joined the Orlando Magic in June 2007 but backtracked instantly. Now, he is determined to make his impact in the NBA after successful 19 years in the NCAA. So far, Donovan has managed to gel with his squad. Kevin Durant is a happy man in training now, with the coach getting him on working his rebounding abilities. He would not want Durant to leave since he is a mega scoring option (on top of being an efficient, all-around shooter) for the team. Improving his rebounding would really cement Durant and his teammate Westbrook as the focal point for the new look thunder.
Now, why is the upcoming season more important for Oklahoma? Durant and Westbrook will enter free agency in one and two years respectively. Next season Durant will be the hottest property in the market, unless the coach can get the squad to adapt to his philosophies that emphasize on player movement, ball movement and making the extra pass and not compromising the play of Durant and Westbrook. They are the key to the Thunder’s success in the NBA.’
Mid-season trades saw the Thunder add five new players to their roster including Singler and Kanter. These two are set to play an important role in the upcoming season, having been signed by the Thunder during the Free Agency period. On a whole, The squad seems much more efficient on both ends of the court and healthier.
For the upcoming season, Oklahoma should aim to win the Northwest Division at the very least. Along with that, they really should try to finish the Western Conference as the Numbe 1 seed, but will face tough competition in a highly competitive Western Conference.
Next season’s performance would be the foundation for holding and attracting star talent and would be the difference in playing in the 2017 NBA post-season or participating in the 2017 Draft Lottery.
What’s for sure, Thunder has a make or break season under Donovan.