Prior to the 2017-18 season beginning, I sat down and carried on Royce Young’s tradition of making bold Thunder predictions about the upcoming campaign. Now that the season is over, I want to go back and see how my prophecies played out. (Not well)
There are a few here that will remain incomplete until the NBA Awards show on June 25. However, we’ve got more time on our hands than originally anticipated. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Westbrook will record 18 triple-doubles.
I predicted 18 triple-doubles for Russell Westbrook — an extraordinary amount that only seemed low because he recorded 42 of them the season before. Well, Russ is a monster that only has one speed, so he dropped 25 triple-doubles in 2017-18 and averaged a triple-double for the second straight season.
My rationale for selecting 18 was, “Thunder fans should never want Westbrook to replicate last season’s performance ever again. It was fun to watch in the way Titanic is fun to watch — entertaining, sure, but you know the boat is going down at the end.”
2. The Thunder (finally) has three All-Stars
Russell Westbrook was the only Thunder player to make the original list of All-Stars. Paul George ended up being named an injury replacement, which helps. You have to assume Carmelo Anthony jusssst narrowly missed the cut, right? I was close. (don’t @ me)
3. Roberson makes First Team All-Defense
We won’t know how this shakes out until late June but there’s certainly an argument to be made for Roberson here. He was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation before being lost for the season. Considering the Thunder had a defensive rating of 97.6 with Roberson, and a 107.1 defensive rating without him, it’s hard to argue against him deserving the First Team nod.
Roberson could very well end up getting penalized for only playing in 39 games, but the scope of his impact became clear when his teammates began hemorrhaging points without him. The season was probably lost the moment he went down in Detroit.
4. The Thunder gets one against Golden State.
The Thunder picked up two wins against Kevin Durant and the Warriors. That’s basically like winning a title — the banner will look great in the ‘Peake.
5. KD will be booed in OKC yet again.
Low hanging fruit but I need all the wins I can get here. He was booed every time he touched the basketball.
6. Alex Abrines will make 175 three-pointers.
I wrote, “I think he will see a lot of run with guys that demand a lot of attention, and he should be open quite often. He shot 42 percent from deep after December of last season, and his final percentage in 2017-18 will end up north of that.”
So what did he do? He made 84 of them — 10 less than he made in 2016-17. He also shot 38 percent, which is well below my projection of 42 percent. While this prediction was a colossal failure, I have no regrets. I genuinely expected a big season out of Abrines.
7. Billy Donovan will break the record for most times using “very” in one sentence.
I can’t confirm or deny this one. One thing I learned this season is that no one is actually listening to Coach Donovan.
8. Westbrook will shoot 37 percent from downtown.
I wrote, “He hit 34 percent on 7+ attempts per game last season. He will take fewer, make them more frequently, and no I wouldn’t put money or my life on this holding up.”
He ended up shooting 4.1 threes per game, which is three less than the season before. But instead of his percentage going up, he converted on just 29 percent of his tries from long distance — about five percentage points worse than 2016-17.
At this point, I’m done expecting a meteoric rise in Westbrook’s three-point percentage. Like George W. Bush used to say: “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”
9. Nick Collison is going to play.
Collison saw action in 20 games in the 2016-17 season, yet I believed he might be valuable enough to eclipse that number. And look, I get it. He’s old, slow, etc. All those things are true. I just assumed his ability to play the right way might actually come in handy on a team that had yet to develop an identity.
It didn’t. Collison saw the floor 15 times and is most likely hanging it up this summer. One time for Hair Jordan.
10. Jerami Grant’s three-point percentage will crater deep into the earth’s crust.
After Jerami Grant shot a shade under 38 percent from deep in 2016-17, it felt like a safe bet to assume that wouldn’t continue. And while I do think I get credit for this one (Grant shot 29 percent this season), it requires a bit more explanation than that.
Grant was atrocious from downtown to open the season, shooting about 24 percent through his first 20 games. In fact, he was pretty bad all the way leading up the All-Star break, hitting 25.6 percent through 58 games.
However, Grant rounded into form as the season progressed. He ended up shooting 37.5 percent from deep in 23 games after the All-Star break, making himself a lot of money in the process.
So did Grant’s three-point percentage crater deep into the earth’s crust? I mean, yeah. It did. He also gets credit for correcting it. Everybody wins.
11. The Thunder bench will keep its head above water.
The Thunder bench had an overall net rating of -3.2 in 2016-17. This season, the reserves posted a net rating of -0.1. That’s close to having a head slightly above water but there was again a lot to be desired off the OKC bench.
12. Enes Kanter will pass the ball to Russ at least once.
He didn’t pass Russ the ball but he did show up to a playoff game in a “Stache Bros” t-shirt. Between that, popping up in a social media video with Mayor Holt of OKC, and then speaking in front of the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week, I think I deserve half credit for suggesting he’s still wearing Thunder blue in his heart.
13. There will be three 20+ PPG scorers.
The Thunder got two 20+ PPG scorers: Westbrook (25.4) and George (21.9). Melo was the weak link in my prediction, coming in at 16.2 PPG. Of all his disappointments this season, not coming through for me here is the most unforgivable.
14. Josh Huestis will deserve to play more.
Oh Huestis — I’ll never be able to quit you. The young man saw 11.7 MPG in October, 10.9 MPG in November, 15.9 MPG in December, 16.7 MPG in January, 16.3 MPG in February, then slowly watched as his minutes diminished in March after the Thunder signed Corey Brewer. He ended up drawing a DNP in seven of the last 12 games and got 5 MPG in four playoff appearances.
Although Huestis is possibly done in OKC, I’m comfortable saying he should have played more. Terrance Ferguson may end up being the better player when everything is said and done, but the rookie didn’t deserve a heavier workload than Huestis this season. Especially not after Roberson went down. I remain in fear of Huestis ending up in San Antonio and transforming into one of Pop’s cold, calculated killing machines.
15. Steven Adams will make his first career three-pointer.
This didn’t happen but listen — it’s coming. Mark my words.
16. Patrick Patterson will shoot 45+ percent on corner threes.
As the last remaining inhabitant of 2Pat Island, it’s disheartening to report that he shot 39.2 percent from the corners this season. Regardless of how often I tried to speak it into existence, things never came together for Patterson in 2017-18. I’ll give it a rest until October.
17. PJ Dozier sells an inordinate amount of custom #35 jerseys.
Surprisingly, I never saw any of these. However, even one would be considered an inordinate amount for a player of Dozier’s popularity. I’m convinced he sold at least that many.
While we’re on the subject, here’s his one basket from this season. Still strange to see that number doing things.
18. The Thunder will break the franchise record for three-pointers made.
OKC crushed its single-season mark for three-pointers made, hitting 881 of them this season. Previous most in Thunder history was the 692 made in 2016-17. Previous most in Thunder/Sonics shared history was Seattle’s 723 in 2003-04.
19. Paul George & Russell Westbrook will both be on All-NBA teams.
I expected Westbrook to end up as a second-teamer, with Paul George nabbing a third-team spot. I still think Westbrook gets the honors, even if it ends up being on the third-team. However, despite stretches of play that made it seem like a no-brainer, George will likely come up short.
We’ll see, though.
20. The Thunder wins the Northwest Division by 4 games.
Swing and a miss.
Oklahoma City finished second in the Northwest, precisely one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers and tied in the loss column with Utah. The division was a bloodbath — four of the five teams made the playoffs. Denver, who came in last in the Northwest, was 10 games above .500 and just narrowly missed a postseason berth.
21. Westbrook won’t win back-to-back MVPs.
I believe that hardware belongs to Mr. Harden.
22. OKC will have a 54-28 record in the regular season.
I wrote, “The Thunder won 47 games last season, so it feels counter-intuitive to assume this new roster will only add seven wins. That being said, 54-28 would be a great finish and allows enough wiggle room for the inevitable growing pains.”
The final regular season record was 47-35. Anyone know how long growing pains last? Asking for a friend.
23. The Thunder will finish third in the Western Conference.
I had Golden State, Houston, OKC, then San Antonio in the top four. Although the West was an unpredictable train wreck, the Thunder still entered the postseason as the 4-seed. Not bad… the team just took the most inconsistent and frustrating route imaginable. It didn’t feel like a big accomplishment and the home-court advantage didn’t ultimately matter.
24. The Warriors will eliminate OKC in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
Boy, would that have been sweet.
25. The band will stick together — if only for the short term.
Welcome to the great unknown. We’ll see how this plays out, but — right now — it doesn’t feel like the Thunder even wants the entire band back together. With Melo demanding a bigger role and reports of Paul George being gone, this could very well be remembered as “that one random season where Melo and Paul George were in OKC.”
Time will tell.