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Nine Bold Thunder Predictions For 2016-17

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

With the NBA season tipping off tonight, here are some bold predictions for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City finishes second in the West behind the Warriors. There’s reason to think the Thunder will make the playoffs, but is the two-seed impossible in the West? Maybe, but the Spurs and Clippers are the main competition and OKC has fared pretty well against those two franchises lately.

Russell Westbrook will lead the league in usage rate. With Durant off the floor, Westbrook had an absurd 36.8 percent usage rate last season. Last year’s leader, DeMarcus Cousins had a 35.4 percent usage rate. Besides Cousins, Houston’s James Harden, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s John Wall and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez could also vie for the top spot. Okay, it’s not the boldest of bold predictions.

Steven Adams makes the All-Star team. This is quite the reach with Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl Towns, Marc Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge still in the West, but Adams is poised for a breakout. It’s not unreasonable to think he could average somewhere near a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double. The biggest limiting factor could be his own teammate, Enes Kanter, depending on how many minutes they play together.

Victor Oladipo comes off the bench in at least 15 games. He’s expected to start but we all know how Billy Donovan likes to tinker with his lineups. Aside from Enes Kanter, bench points might be hard to come by so might Donovan try Oladipo with the second unit for a spell?

Enes Kanter is named Sixth Man of the year. It’s not a stretch to pick Kanter here since he finished third behind Jamal Crawford and Andre Igoudala last season. He’ll still have to contend with those two in 2016-17.

Domantas Sabonis appears in less than half the team’s games this season. The NBA can be rough on rookie big men and Sabonis will also be dangling as trade bait should the Thunder decide to pull the trigger again.

Kyle Singler leads the Thunder in three-point percentage (minimum 100 attempts). He shot a career-worst 30.9 percent from range last year but has a career-average at 37.0 percent. He’s shown the ability to knock down the three, so it’s a safe bet he progresses toward the mean.

Andre Roberson plays 28 minutes per game. He’s been a starter but he’s never had “starter” minutes. He averaged a career best 22.2 mpg last season. Roberson has improved across the board each year he’s been in the NBA and if that trend continues, he’ll need to be on the court a lot.

The Thunder trades for another star. Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Blake Griffin? DeMarcus Cousins perhaps? It’s unlikely, but never say never with Sam Presti.

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