Power Ranked

Where ESPN put OKC headed into this season

USA TODAY

ESPN’s initial batch of power rankings have been release for the 2016–17 season and — you know? — they aren’t half bad. If it sounds like I’m surprised by that, it’s because I totally am. Respect for the Thunder has been hard to come by recently.

Coming in at #10, Oklahoma City looks like a team that might have some expectations after all. Although six Western Conference teams made the list before the Thunder, I’m content with a Top 10 placement right now. It’s one of those things where you want respect — but not too much respect. You know.. So the raging inferno that is Russell Westbrook has no trouble finding motivation. Like that has ever been an issue.

Via ESPN:

Question: How wounded were Oklahomans by Kevin Durant’s departure? Answer: They celebrated what might be only one extra season of Russell Westbrook as if it were a championship. Plenty of uncertainty about the future remains, but let’s also be clear: Our respect for Angry Russ is such that we still expect the Thunder, thanks to some typically Presti-esque tweaks around him, to make a run at 50 wins even without KD.

With Vegas setting the Thunder’s projected win total at 45.5, these power rankings seem to fall in the same line. I do think it’s possible the Thunder reach 50 wins, and wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit if they do. With the injury-plagued 2014–15 squad finishing at 45–37, I expect the Thunder to surpass that if everyone remains healthy. This KD-less team is simply better than that one was.

Here is the full Top 10 in the power rankings:

(10) Oklahoma City Thunder

(9) Portland Trailblazers

(8) Memphis Grizzlies

(7) Utah Jazz

(6) Boston Celtics

(5) Toronto Raptors

(4) L.A. Clippers

(3) San Antonio Spurs

(2) Golden State Warriors

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers