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How it’s all going to play out, 2016-17 edition

How it’s all going to play out, 2016-17 edition


It’s mid-August so you know what that means? It’s perfect time for some reckless prognosticating. And on top of that, in probably the most unpredictable Thunder season yet.

Let’s take it 10-ish games at a time and see what we come up with. Disclaimer: I have know idea what I’m going to come up with here.

Oct. 26 – Nov. 13: at 76ers, Suns, Lakers, at Clippers, at Warriors, Wolves, Heat, Raptors, Clippers, Magic

The season starts out easy, or so it would appear. The 76ers feel kind of like they have a new life to them, but even with adding Ben Simmons and possibly getting Joel Embiid back, they’re still a 20-win team. The Suns should be a little better, the Lakers too. But the Thunder should be 3-0 going into Staples to take on the Clippers, and probably 3-1 heading for the first Durantbowl.

I feel like we’re going to learn a lot about the new Thunder in these first 10 games. They play some good teams, some mid-level teams, and some bad ones. And seven of them are at home. I’ve gone back and forth from 7-3 to even 3-7. I think I’m going to settle somewhere in between.

Projected record: 6-4
Record through 10: 6-4

Nov. 14 – Nov. 30: at Pistons, Rockets, Nets, Pacers, at Lakers, at Kings, at Nuggets, Pistons, at Knicks, Wizards

Man, the Thunder’s first month is going to feature a lot, isn’t it? Durant, then Serge Ibaka, then Reggie Jackson, then Reggie Jackson again, then Scott Brooks. Meanwhile, they’re going to be trying to figure out who they are. What I think Thunder fans are going to learn in this first month is that you can’t expect wins anymore. This team is going to be better than average I believe, but any given night they may get beat. And beat bad. That’s what happens when you go from one of the three or four elites to somewhere closer to the middle. Russell Westbrook will have bad nights, and when he does, shooting 6-23 or turning it over seven times, the Thunder are going to drop ugly games against the Kings or Nuggets. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

Projected record: 5-5
Record through 20: 11-9

Dec. 4 – Dec. 23: Pelicans, at Hawks, Rockets, Celtics, at Blazers, at Jazz, Suns, Hawks, at Pelicans, at Celtics

My expectation is the first month features a lot of rough, gross basketball but through the will of Westbrook the Thunder survive with enough to see a positive future ahead. And then in December, they start finding an identity and Billy Donovan starts developing them into a better group.

Projected record: 6-4
Record through 30: 17-13

Dec. 25 – Jan. 11: Wolves, at Heat, at Grizzlies, Clippers, at Bucks, at Hornets, at Rockets, Nuggets, at Bulls, Grizzlies

One thing that makes the Thunder hard to predict is the rest of the league is hard to get a feel for. We know the Wolves are going to be better, but like a lot better? Like a 50-win team better? That’s going to make a difference. Or the Grizzlies. Are they a top four team? Or just a playoff group?

Projected record: 7-3
Record through 40: 24-16

Jan. 13 – Feb. 1: at Wolves, at Kings, at Clippers, at Warriors, at Jazz, at Pelicans, Mavericks, at Cavs, at Spurs, Bulls

Oh goodness. January is a monster for the Thunder. Especially the second half. It features the longest road trip, which happens to include beastly opponents. Looking at this stretch, and I’m seeing two games I think the Thunder will for sure win. They might get to four if the Pelicans and Bulls stink. It doesn’t look good here.

Projected record: 3-7
Record through 50: 27-23

Feb. 3 – Feb. 28: Grizzlies, Blazers, at Pacers, Cavs, Warriors, at Wizards, Knicks, Lakers, Pelicans, Jazz

Some home games. And a chance to get some back. This features the Durant return, but outside of that and visits from the Blazers and a couple Eastern road games, the Thunder have a some winnable tilts here. Really, they need to win a good bulk of these. Otherwise they’ll go from a team competing for the top six, to just trying to get in.

Projected record: 7-3
Record through 60: 34-26

March 2 – March 20: at Blazers, at Suns, at Mavericks, Blazers, Spurs, Jazz, at Nets, at Raptors, Kings, Warriors

I’m starting to realize I have the Thunder winning very few road games. And they’ve always been a pretty good road team. My guess for the road record: 19-22. Which I think would be pretty solid. And give them a chance at 50.

Projected record: 6-4
Record through 70: 40-32

March 22 – April 12: 76ers, at Rockets, at Mavericks, at Magic, Spurs, Hornets, Bucks, at Grizzlies, at Suns, at Nuggets, at Wolves, Nuggets

The stretch run features a lot of winnable games that happen to be on the road. This could be a make or break finish for OKC, especially if it’s trying to get into the top five or six seeds.

Projected record: 9-3
Record through 82: 49-33

I’ve been saying for the last few weeks to everyone that’s asked that I think the Thunder are still a 50-win team. And they very well might be. But I’ve landed on 49 here. Which I’m a little disappointed with because they won 45 in the injury riddled 2014-15, and that team overall was worse than this one, I think. Even with 27 games of Durant. What would 49 wins get them this year, though? Last year, that’s the five-seed. And this year, it could be close to that again. So that’s where I’ll plant the Thunder: fifth.