2016-17 Record: 47-35
Players Added: Paul George (trade), Patrick Patterson (free agent), Raymond Felton (free agent), Terrance Ferguson (NBA Draft), Daniel Hamilton (free agent), Markel Brown (free agent), Rashawn Thomas (free agent), Bryce Alford (free agent), Isaiah Canaan (free agent), Carmelo Anthony (trade)
Players Lost: Victor Oladipo (trade), Domatas Sabonis (trade), Taj Gibson (free agent), Enes Kanter (trade), Doug McDermott (trade)
Projected Team MVP: Russell Westbrook
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are superduperstars. However, neither of them are the reigning league MVP. This is a team that will go as Westbrook goes, just like it did last year, even if the MVP has two All-Stars as running mates now.
Even when Kevin Durant was in Oklahoma City, the heart and soul of this franchise is Westbrook, which is part of why the Thunder made him the highest-paid player in league history. While he won’t need to do nearly as much as he did last season, there’s no reason to think that Westbrook won’t be brilliant this year, even if he’s not going to average a triple-double again. (Well, he’s probably not going to average a triple-double again.)
The craziest thing is, Westbrook could be better this season, even if he doesn’t have the historically gaudy stats that he had last year to back that belief up. He will now be afforded the luxury of picking his spots offensively, he can take prolonged breaks that won’t leave him gassed late in the fourth quarter, and he can go “I’m having an off night, Melo and PG can pick up the slack.”
Of course, doing that would be so amazingly un-Westbrookian of him. But the possibility is there if he wants to pursue it, which is nice.