2015–16 Bold Predictions

You’re going to hold me to these, aren’t you?

Seeing as how the 2015–16 Thunder season tips off Wednesday evening, it’s about time to start throwing out predictions for how this will go. As a self-proclaimed Thunder nut and admittedly biased in every way imaginable, it’s important to understand I’m making these predictions as a fan. Informed? Yes. Ultimately? A fan.

That being said, these are realistic in the fact I think every one of them is obtainable. You need a lot of things to go right in order to live up to expectations — something we learned the hard way last year. But here’s to a new season bringing renewed hope.

Let’s get it.

  1. The Thunder Will Win 58 Games

Following the cursed 2014–15 season, OKC rebounding to win 58 games will feel like going undefeated. Granted, this still wouldn’t have been enough to win the Western Conference last season, but a 2–3 seed in the wild West is a job well done.

When healthy, I think this Thunder team is as good as any Thunder team before it. But following last seasons barrage of injuries, I wouldn’t mind exercising caution with the workload.

Final record: 58–24

2. Russell Westbrook Will Finish Higher in MVP Voting than Kevin Durant

I think it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Kevin Durant returns, scorches the entire league, wins MVP and nominates himself for presidential election in 2016. There’s not one ounce of me that would be surprised or upset about any of that.

But if I had to put money down on either of our two superstars, I think Russell Westbrook absolutely brings it this season and continues his reign of terror. He’s a triple-double machine, match-up nightmare and the last guy you want coming down the lane at you. Durant being back in the lineup will maximize Westbrook’s capabilities in ways we’ve never seen before. I’m fully on board the Russell Express.

3. Serge Ibaka Makes His First All-Star Team

A healthy Kevin Durant isn’t the only star returning to the lineup — the Thunder will also be welcoming a healthy Serge Ibaka back into the fold. He missed 18 games a year ago, which was the most he’s ever been out in one season. He also experienced a down year in terms of production, which left a lot of Thunder fans curious about his progression.

In 2015–16, Serge Ibaka will look like the Serge of old as he wipes our memories clean of last season. He’ll play at least 75 games, average 15+ points and average 3 blocks for the first time since 2012–13.

Bold Prediction: Ibaka ends his All-Star drought. He makes his first appearance this season.

4. OKC Stays Healthy

Listen to anyone talk about the Thunder’s chances this season and you’ll end up at the same place — “Well as long as they stay healthy….

Outside of the everyday injuries that just happen, I’m predicting the Thunder to stay relatively healthy this season. I believe Durant’s foot is healed. While he did have assorted issues last year, Westbrook’s knees haven’t been an issue in quite some time. This just feels like everything coming together at the right time — however last second it may be.

The entire season will be one where fans nearly faint every time a player falls to the floor, I get that. But I think we get through this one.

5. The Thunder Will Win The Western Conference — and the NBA Finals

The two of us that manage Up The Thunder text on nearly a daily basis, talking about everything from ideas, theories or what we should post on Instagram. One question we discussed last week was pretty great in my opinion:

“So what do you think happens this season?”

Incredibly difficult question to answer, but I found myself coming back to the same place: I honestly feel like the Thunder will win an NBA championship this year. I can’t help it, guys, I really can’t. I’m all in.

While we’ve had some great teams in OKC over the past few years, this is the first time I’ve entered the season with a feeling like this. Durant is healthy. Westbrook is a monster. Ibaka has something to prove. The entire supporting cast provides a depth I’m genuinely excited about….

I mean this has to be the season, right?

With Durant’s decision next summer looming somewhere in the distance, I think it’s natural to feel urgency this time around. As a fan, I certainly feel it. And I think it’s that urgency that makes me believe this is going to be the year. Pressure creates diamonds, as they say.

Oh, and for the record? I think he stays.