We continue our 2015 NBA playoffs series outlook with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has clawed their way back into contention as the No.8 seed in the Western Conference, surprisingly under the leadership of MVP candidate and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook. Unfortunately, the Thunder will enter the playoffs without their fearless leader Kevin Durant, who suffered a season ending foot injury.
Without Durant, the Thunder already have the odds stacked up against them as the enter the postseason versus a red hot Golden State Warriors team looking to make a run at the 2015 NBA title.
-Team S.U. debates
Bobby Bourhis (NBA Contributor, If I Were a GM- Personal Blog): The Oklahoma City Thunder can simply not contend for the NBA Championship this year without their primary offensive weapon, Kevin Durant. Russell Westrook has done an incredible job carrying OKC into the playoffs but without Durant in the playoffs, Westbrook will not be enough against a Golden State Warriors team that has impressed the league all year long. Especially when you factor in the home court advantage, where the Warriors are nearly unbeatable. The additions of Dion Waiters and particularly Enes Kanter have been extremely valuable, and perhaps if they were going up against any other team in the West, then they might have a realistic shot at getting out of the first round.
But assuming Golden State is at full strength, they will have a tremendous amount of defensive versatility, meaning that they can defend Westbrook in a multitude of ways. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala off the bench could disrupt him with their length and quickness, while Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are simply just bigger and can bully him on the perimeter. My expectations for Westbrook in the playoffs are not extreme, as I see him being a high volume shooter with just not enough help to beat a team like Golden State.
Keith Rivas (Sports Unbiased Writer): Without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook knows for certain that he will now have no other choice but to go it alone this post season. Thankfully for Westbrook, this won’t be too much of an unfamiliar territory to cover. He has already had to carry more than his fair share of the weight of OKC’s injury and other concerns for the majority of this season, it will now just come down to how long it takes for OKC to crack under the pressure.
Despite all odds, I see them having enough dark horse determination in them to knock off the Golden State Warriors in the first round — I feel like I can guarantee that — but from there it’s a complete coin flip.
I expect A LOT of triple doubles from Russell Westbrook this post season. He has demonstrated time and time again that his truly unique capabilities allow him to completely go off in a different zone that I feel the NBA has not seen since Michael Jordan. No, I’m not saying he’s overall as good as Jordan was or will win as many rings as Jordan has, but when it comes to producing like a work horse, Westbrook’s got the magic touch.What needs to happen in OKC is Westbrook needs to begin to trust the rest of his team more, especially with the news that Kevin Durant will not be officially rejoining them for quite some time. Westbrook can’t do it alone — by it I mean get the Thunder anywhere past Round 1, heck let alone into the playoffs — and he should be well aware of that by now.There may be no “I” in team, but there is a “we” in Westbrook
Sauping R. Arguello (NBA Contributor): Without the reigning MVP (Kevin Durant), the Oklahoma City Thunder have a very small chance to do any type of damage in the playoffs. Despite the monstrous tirade Russell Wesbrook is having while averaging nearly a triple double these past few months, the Thunder will not have enough depth to threaten the Golden State Warriors.
Russell Westbrook will not disappoint this postseason. I see him averaging a triple double (34.6 pts, 12 reb., 11 ast.). He does so much for his team just to keep them competing at a high level versus the elite Western Conference. I currently have Westbrook a close third in the MVP race behind Stephen Curry and James Harden. The Westbrook/Curry match-up will be beautiful basketball to watch. There’s very little these two perennial All-Stars cannot do on the offensive side of the floor. Unfortunately, Westbrook cannot will his team past the first round versus the number one seed.
Jeb Taylor (NBA Contributor): Without Durant in the lineup, the Thunder won’t be close to the matchup nightmare they were expected to be. Just as we saw last year when Westbrook went down with injury, when one of OKC’s dynamic-duo goes down, the whole team goes up in flames. Russell has been phenomenal during Durant’s absence, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into wins and it sure won’t result in the Thunder knocking off the likes of Golden State or Memphis. Expect great numbers for Westbrook, but also expect a first-round exit.
Steve Turner (NBA Writer): Despite Russell Westbrook’s insane level of play lately, I don’t think this team will be much of a threat in the playoffs. With Durant out for the playoffs, the OKC Thunder are most likely going to experience a first round exit. With the Golden State Warriors at the number one seed and OKC currently at the eighth seed, they will most likely meet up in the playoffs in the first round. I don’t see the Thunder beating the Warriors in a seven game series. OKC doesn’t even have a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, as the New Orleans Pelicans are still right behind them for the No.8 seed– but they have some ground to cover and might not make it in time. If OKC wants any chance of winning in the first round, Russell Westbrook is going to have to shutdown Stephen Curry. Most importantly, Westbrook is going to really have to play like the MVP if OKC wants to advance.