How will Oklahoma City Thunder perform without NBA MVP Kevin Durant?
By Ian Palmer
It’s a little more difficult to predict the winners in professional sports when star players are out with injuries. In fact, it’s usually hard enough to pick them when they’re playing. This means NBA fans will see the odds of the Oklahoma City Thunder fluctuate quite a bit during the first couple of months of the upcoming 2014/15 season as reigning MVP Kevin Durant could miss anywhere up to 10 weeks of action.
The 26-year-old Durant has been diagnosed with a fractured right foot and he’s expected to be sidelined from six to 10 weeks while he recovers. This news will obviously be distressing to Thunder fans since their chances of winning without Durant will definitely take a hit. However, there might not be any need to panic yet since Oklahoma City still has a decent squad without Durant. He’s definitely one of the league’s top two-way players as he averaged 32 points per game last season along with 5.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds.
At the moment, with the NBA season tipping off just a couple of weeks away on October 28th, most oddsmakers have the Thunder listed as 7/1 to capture the league championship. The franchise’s chances of achieving this will certainly be reduced with Durant injured, but he could be back in the lineup as early as the beginning of December. Durant’s Thunder teammates will have to pick up the slack with their best player on the shelve and all eyes will probably fall on Russell Westbrook as he’s expected to take over for Durant as the team’s top scorer guard until the small forward returns from injury.
However, while some players thrive when they’re given an opportunity to play regularly, others wilt under the added pressure. The 25-year-old Westbrook averaged 21.8 points per game last season to accompany his 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals. The point guard was chosen fourth overall in the first round by Oklahoma in the 2008 and should now get the opportunity to show the club and its fans that he’s worth his $14.7 million salary.
Westbook claims that he won’t change his game while Durant’s out of commission since everybody on the team has to pull together to make up for his absence. Durant is a former rookie-of the year, five-time all-star, and four-time NBA scoring leader and because of this Westbrook realizes that it’s impossible for one player to try to replace him and it’s more likely to hurt the team’s chances if he attempts to. He remarked that the Thunder is a great team with Durant in the lineup and a good team without him. For those who like to wager on NBA games they might want to take this into consideration when making their picks.
Oklahoma City, who play in the NBA’s Northwest Division in the Western Conference, were 3-3 in their first six preseason games. They finished the 2013/14 campaign second in the conference at 59-23. They were knocked out of the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals in six games by the San Antonio Spurs.