Without Westbrook, Thunder's Title Odds Plummet

Russell Westbrook's loss means an 8 percent title odds hit for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This one hurts.

After not missing a game in his first roughly 18,365 Thunder starts (actual number: 439, including playoffs), Thunder star Russell Westbrook has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus. He's at least out for the rest of the Rockets series, and it could be much longer.

Normal meniscus tears have a player out 4-6 weeks, and you'll hear it bandied about that Insane in the Membrane Metta World Peace returned in 13 days. We're not here to speculate how long before Westbrook returns from injury, though. We're here to tell you exactly how the Thunder are going to fare in his absence if he is indeed out the rest of the way.

Before the injury, the Thunder were the second-most likely team to win the NBA Title, with their odds coming in at 27.8 percent. Now? Well, they still hold the second-best odds, but their chances of upending the Heat have taken a huge hit.

Championship Blow

Reggie Jackson is a more than capable replacement point guard, but he's no Russell Westbrook. The analytics are well aware of this fact, and if Jackson is given a starter's minutes in OKC while Westbrook is knocked to zero, OKC's title odds take a significant hit.

How significant? Well, so much so that Westbrook's injury means OKC's Title chances drop 8.0 percent, from 27.8 percent to 19.8 percent.

This places the Thunder still as the second-most likely team to win it all, and they're still twice as likely as the third-place Clippers who sit at 9.7 percent. Still, though, this injury may just be yet another stepping stone to the coronation of Title No. 2 for LeBron.

With Westbrook's exit, the Heat's title chances rise 2.1 percent. Their total odds are now at a 36.6 percent chance of winning the championship, otherwise known as more than the Thunder, Spurs, and Nuggets (the top three seeds in the West) combined.

San Antonio's own odds also increased by 1.4 percent with Westbrook's exit, now up at a fourth-best 8.4 percent total. Each of the other four teams we consider "true contenders" (the Clippers, Pacers, Nuggets, and Knicks) each increased their title odds by about one percent.

The Immediate Impact

According to our oddsmakers, Westbrook's absence shouldn't have too harsh of an immediate impact on the Thunder/Rockets series. With the Thunder already in control of the series 2-0, it would take an incredible run from the Rockets to be able to close the gap.

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Oklahoma City29.02%34.67%16.50%11.65%91.84%

Where you might see the difference, though, is in a potential second-round series against the L.A. Clippers. Lob City came into the playoffs as our third-most efficient team as it is, holding a 70.4 nERD rating (0-100 scale where 50 is an average team). Although Miami and Oklahoma City were in a class of their own with 79.5 and 78.2 nERD ratings, respectively, Westbrook's loss closes that gap just a bit.

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Oklahoma City8.21%17.50%16.54%19.22%60.57%
L.A. Clippers4.54%7.93%14.15%12.81%39.43%

Without Westbrook in the fold, the Thunder would only hold about a 60 percent chance of getting past the Clippers in Round 2. That's what happens when you have Reggie Jackson trying to attack and guard Chris Paul instead of Westbrook. Under these new circumstances, the most likely series outcome is Thunder in 7 games as well, meaning this one may be close down the very end.

Could it have been the Thunder's year? It's impossible to tell. In fact, it could very well still be OKC's year, and with the second-best NBA Title odds, not all hope is lost. But an eight percent Title odds hit is a tough pill to swallow, and any Thunder championship run will have to mean Kevin Durant playing above and beyond his current expected efficiency.