Can the Oklahoma City Thunder Make an NBA Title Run Without Kevin Durant?
The Oklahoma City Thunder can't catch a break.
Well, we all know how things have been ever since.
After running into the Miami buzzsaw in the 2012 NBA Finals, a cringe-inducing trade and some ill-timed injuries have stymied the franchise's potential.
This year, of course, things also started bleakly, as Durant entered with a broken foot and has played just 913 minutes in 27 games.
Further, Serge Ibaka hasn't played since March 11th because of a knee injury and may or may not return by the end of the regular season.
Do they have enough to make one last push?
Thunder Without Durant
The Thunder have played nearly three times as many minutes without Durant than with him this year, and, well, they've been unsurprisingly worse without him.
|2014-15 Thunder||Minutes||eFG%||Opp. eFG%||ORtg||DRtg||Net Rtg|
The Thunder have posted a Net Rating of just 0.1 without Durant compared to 8.4 with him, and both their Effective Field Goal percentage and opponents' Effective Field Goal percentage has been better with Durant on the floor than without him.
It's really no surprise. After all, Durant is just one of four players who have played at least 900 minutes this year to post a Win Shares per 48 minutes better than 0.250. When he's played this year, he's been really, really good.
Thunder Since the Deadline
The Thunder certainly were willing to wheel and deal at the trade deadline on February 19th. Coincidentally, Durant's last game of the season came on that very day, a 15-point win against the Mavericks.
How have they been since then?
|2014-15 Thunder||Record||ORtg||DRtg||Net Rtg||Pace|
|Through Feb 19||29-25||102.5 (16)||100.7 (10)||1.8 (14)||97.36 (7)|
|Since Feb 20||12-6||108.9 (4)||107.2 (29)||1.7 (9)||100.35 (3)|
Well, they're actually a smidgeon worse since the deadline but not by much. They've just, obviously, changed the philosophy, going from a relatively balanced team in both Offensive and Defensive Rating to the extremes in each. Their pace -- their possessions per 48 minutes -- has increased as well.
We can't knock their new approach too hard, though. They're 12-6 since the deals even without Durant and without Ibaka for the last eight games, during which they've posted a 6-2 record.
Are They Good Enough?
That's the real question, of course, but even though they are ninth in the NBA since February 20th in Net Rating, they're just fifth among the eight current Western Conference playoff squads.
|Since Feb 20||Win Pct||ORtg||DRtg||Net Rtg||Pace|
Talk about relentless.
Despite hanging on well without Durant and Ibaka, the biggest problem facing the Thunder isn't their own struggles but rather the road ahead of them, a road likely leading to a first-round matchup against the ridiculously, historically good Golden State Warriors.
It's hard not to root for the Thunder after their midseason resurgence back to title relevancy, after Westbrook's MVP-caliber play, and after their fall from dynasty potential.
Even though they're the 12th-best team in the league, according to our power rankings, without Durant, their odds grew even thinner. Considering their NBA Championship odds sit at just 0.9 percent already, this looks like the final blow to a never-say-die squad.
Guess we might just have to appreciate a Westbrook versus the world matchup in round one.