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ESPN’s pool of experts predict 32 wins for the Thunder

A group of 53 NBA experts predicted win totals for every NBA team. starting with the East yesterday and the West today.  And the average total for Oklahoma City? Thirty-two.

Their comments:

No West bandwagon is more crowded than OKC’s, with our panel seeing the team that started 1-16 a year ago making the leap to mediocrity. Given the age of Kevin Durant (20), Russell Westbrook (20), Jeff Green (23) and newcomer James Harden (20), it’s not hard to see what the excitement is about. But it will be hard to see them on TV.

So… if I were to set an over/under at 32, what would you take?

It’s really tough for me to say because I’ve been saying all summer I see this team in the 32-36 win range. I feel safe with those numbers, unless Russell Westbrook makes The Leap and becomes an elite point guard. Then I see this team winning 40 or more and potentially challenging for a playoff spot. Kevin Durant is going to score, Jeff Green will be again solid but also better and the addition of James Harden is no small thing. Add in quality role players like Thabo, Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic and Shaun Livingston and that’s a nice rotation right there. Surely better than the 23-win team for last year. Right? Right.

If I said under, then I’d be going lower than the 32-36 range that I set in my mind. So that would mean 31 or fewer and this team should be at least nine wins better than last year. At least I think so. Consider:

  • The team started 3-29 last year.
  • The team finished 23-59.
  • Since Dec. 31 the team was 20-30 including 13-12 at home.
  • Carry that winning pace over to this season and the team finishes 31-51. And that’s not counting the assured improvement of Durant, Westbrook and Green, plus the addition of Harden. Plus another year and a full camp under Scott Brooks. Plus having D.J. White for a full season. Plus being much more settled in to the Ford Center and Oklahoma City.

But the question is, how many wins do those things add up to? This team is still young, still raw and still doesn’t know how to win night in and night out. I think we can be sure there won’t be a 3-29 start, but how will they play in February? How will they handle a tough two month opening? How will they handle injuries when they surely hit? Can they win tight games? These are the questions you ask when you’re deciding win totals.

So I’m either going push or over. And I have faith in this uber-talented roster improving and Scott Brooks coaching abilities. I take the over. I don’t know by how much, but I think this team is better than 32 wins. What say you?

[poll id=”10″]