Here it is. The new season. The biggest EVER, if you’re one to fall into that sort of thing. How many wins? How many losses? How’s it end? And how does that other thing in July play out and what influence does this season have on that thing?
1) Would you rather have the Thunder… a) win the title this season and Kevin Durant leaves or b) the Thunder not win a title this season and Kevin Durant stays?
Royce Young: It seems obvious to say Durant stays, but here’s why: You can have a championship now, or you could have possibly up to a decade more of tries at five or six of them. Yes, the guaranteed thing is tempting, and what’s the point of close calls. But let me ask you: Do you really think that euphoria of a championship will sustain you five years from now? Maybe? Do Tampa Bay Bucs fans bask in the glory of their one Super Bowl, or are they sick and tired of not being good right now? Honestly, I’d go a step further: I’ll take a guarantee of no championships to have Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City for his entire career. Fifteen years of that is worth more to me than one summer of partying and a banner hanging.
Jon Hamm: I’d rather see the Thunder win a title now while the window is open because you never know what tomorrow will bring. If the Thunder win a title, it does nothing for me personally besides give me all the feels. But it would mean everything to the owners, staff, and players. I’d like to see their hard work rewarded after all of these years. And to paraphrase Kobe Bryant, players come and go but banners hang forever.
Brandon Rahbar: B. Look, a guaranteed title is impossible to turn down… unless the possibility for multiple titles exists. And as long as you have Durant for multiple years, you have the chance for multiple championships. Especially since I’m of the belief that if KD stays, then Russ and Serge will follow suit and make the 405 their home away from LA and the Congo for another half decade.
Besides, KD means more to OKC than just his otherworldly ability to put a basketball through a hoop. He’s an ambassador of the state, a pillar of the community, a living, breathing manifestation of the city’s booming growth and success, and an entire population’s adopted son. That championship banner would feel bare and naked without #35 running up and down the court 100 feet beneath where it hangs.
2) Over/under wins: 60.5.
Young: I’ve already said it will be so: 61 wins.
Hamm: I say under, because Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter will cost the team at least 22 victories this season, right? But seriously, I have 59 wins penciled in for the Thunder. Just a gut feeling that may turn out to be way off in the end. One fun note: the last time there were two 60+ win teams in the Western Conference was 2006-07, when Dallas won 67 and Phoenix won 61. There are at least four teams in the west that have 60 win potential. Crazy.
Rahbar: Over. Yeah, yeah, I can already hear the cries of “Sunshine pumper!” coming from the stoically “realistic” types who refuse to drink any flavor of kool-aid from their half empty glasses, but the pessimistic peanut gallery needs to catch some of these inspirational rays. When KD, Russ and Ibaka have been healthy, the Thunder has an been elite squad. So what do you get when you take an elite trio and add superb depth and a much-needed coaching shakeup, subtract a Perky pinch of dead weight and then multiply that sum by the built up anger and motivation born of a wasted season? You get 63 wins, that’s what.
3) The Thunder’s last game this season will look like what?
Young: With the whole world watching, the Thunder will play that horrible Black Eyed Peas song (COME ON THUNDER GET A NEW SONG) as the seconds tick away to the first championship in Oklahoma City history.
Hamm: There’s an extreme temptation to describe a scene where one Kevin Wayne Durant hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy above his head (and no, not because the Thunder traded him midseason). What gives me pause is the fact that the Warriors aren’t going away anytime soon and the Cavs will morph into a steamroller come late March/early April. I’ll be brave enough to pick the Thunder as a Western Conference Finalist at a minimum.
Rahbar: A murder crime scene straight out of CSI: Cleveland. A sullen 20,000 sadsacks wearing free Game 6 tees in a frustrated exodus out of Quicken Loans Arena. A torch shaped as the face of the NBA passed, nay furiously seized by way of scythe, from King James to the Slim Reaper. The prelude to a parade in downtown Bricktown. The commencement of a KD contract extension. Pump that where the sun don’t shine.