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NBA Team Previews: #5 Oklahoma City Thunder

5) Oklahoma City Thunder 60-22 in the 2012-2013 season. 1st in the West. 1st in the Northwest.

The Thunder suffered a big blow with Westbrook going down to injury for the beginning of the season. The Thunder have been dangerously close to the title, even making the NBA Finals in the 2011-2012 season before getting beat by the Miami Heat. Now the team is looking to revamp for another long run in the playoffs, but there are uncertainties with Westbrook's injuries and worries about the other role players on this team. Oklahoma City is a team with a lot of questions. How do the Thunder handle Westbrook's injury? Who will help Westbrook and Durant score? What happens with Perkins' expiring contract? This year will at least answer some of those for us.

Acquired: Ryan Gomes

Drafted: Steven Adams (#12), Andre Roberson (#26)

Lost: Kevin Martin, Ronnie Brewer

Depth Chart:

Starters: Reggie Jackson (PG), Thabo Sefolosha (SG), Kevin Durant (SF), Serge Ibaka (PF), Kendrick Perkins (C)

Bench: Russell Westbrook (injury - eventual starting PG), Steven Adams (C), Jeremy Lamb (SG), Nick Collison (PF), Derek Fisher (PG)

Team Stock:

Up: Serge Ibaka - When Westbrook went down in the first round series of the playoffs vs the Rockets last year, someone had to step up for the team. Serge Ibaka stepped up. He has stretched his game all over the floor and even developed a long range jumper, making him a lethal threat anywhere on the court and helping Durant produce. With less options on this team, Ibaka will have more and more asked from him throughout the year.

Down: Kendrick Perkins - Talk about a nose-dive in his career. Ever since he was traded from the Boston Celtics, he has yet to be anywhere near what the Thunder had expected him to be. With his expiring contract coming up, it's almost a certainty that he will be either let go by O-K-C or even traded away to another team for assets. Pretty sad to see after seeing how important he was to Boston's NBA title in 2008.

X-Factor: Russell Westbrook - Even with Kevin Durant being the second best player in the NBA, this team's key is going to be Westbrook's health and his driving ability when he returns. No other player took more shots in the NBA last year than Westbrook. He is an insanely huge part of the Thunder's game plan, and with him out there will be a ton of pressure on K-D. With a lot of talented teams around the league, the Thunder aren't getting even close to a title without Westbrook healthy and aggressive enough to give Durant space to play his game.

Question to Ponder...If O-K-C makes a trade, what position should they trade for?

I believe the Thunder have to make a trade if they want to make another run at the NBA Finals this year, but when you consider the market for trades, it's a much more difficult question to pick a specific position to go for. They had James Harden as a star SG to compliment Westbrook and Durant, yet should they go for that again, or a big man? The market for both is there, such as Pelicans SG Eric Gordon, Rockets C Omar Asik, or even a bench guard like Suns Guard Goran Dragic. They have a lot of options, but they have to question what type of player will best fit the system with Ibaka, Westbrook and K-D to give them the best chance to come out of the Western Conference and get into the NBA Finals once again.

Bold Prediction for the Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant will lead the league in Points Per Game and win the MVP this year!

This year is set up for massive numbers from Kevin Durant. All the pressure will be on him to produce until Westbrook returns from his injury. This team really doesn't have any other imposing scoring threats, which leave him under pressure to put up the numbers to win games for Oklahoma City. He will be forced to take more shots than anyone else in the league, and if the Thunder want to be in the top tier of the Western Conference, it will take a career year from Durant, which could put him in the driver's seat for the MVP. He has to be the odds on favorite to win the Points Per Game title, yet I think he wins the MVP as well, even if Lebron has another one of his "Lebron" type years. If you're drafting a Fantasy Basketball team and you have the #1 pick, I would take Durant. He might be the best player statistically in the league this year.

Projected Record: 57-25 2nd in the West, 1st in the Northwest.

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