Is Oklahoma City Done? Plus, The 8th Seed Races

When Kevin Durant broke his foot in early October, the original timetable was mid to late January for his return.  He beat that, and came back December 2nd.  Durant suffered a Jones Fracture in his foot, an injury notorious for rushing back to early.  It’s also plagued the NBA this season (C.J. McCollum, Brook Lopez, Julius Randle).

Durant came back, and has played 27 games.  That’s it.  Setbacks have plagued him.  He came back to early.  There’s no other explanation.  Yet, it seems no one wants to admit it.  Yeah, we all feel bad for him.  He’s the reigning MVP and has an expiring coming up next year, one that’s receiving much attention.

With Durant’s presence not there, Russell Westbrook has taken over and entered the MVP race. Westbrook’s run has been unbelievable.  He pulled off four straight triple doubles, including six out of eight games.  He’s still been incredible since, logging his 10th triple double of the season.

Now, Durant’s had yet another setback, and the Thunder have no timetable for him.  None.  They could shut him down or bring him back for the playoffs.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Say Durant is done for the regular season, and comes back at like 80% percent for the playoffs.  Basically, the same situation as Derrick Rose.  With this scenario, the Thunder have New Orleans to worry about, who is being carried by Anthony Davis.

Davis has been phenomenal this season.  He averaging 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and is shooting a ridiculous 54%.  However, he’s carrying that team.  He doesn’t have a lot of help, and, if the Pelicans make the playoffs, he enters the MVP race.  The Pelicans have Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and yeah, guys like them.  It’s not great, and it’s quite astonishing they’re in it.  The coach doesn’t help; Monty Williams is a little delusional when it comes to VERY MANAGEABLE basketball decisions.

Really, the Thunder have Anthony Davis to worry about.  They’ll have to do it without Durant, for at least the regular season.

If the Thunder sneak in at the 8th seed, a first round matchup with the Warriors would be fascinating, even without Durant.  The Pelicans would be destroyed by the Warriors, not having the defense on the perimeter to defend the Splash Brothers.

Oklahoma City is gonna face a tough test getting in, but beating out one guy on a decent team ain’t hard.  The Thunder will have to stay healthy.  That’s key number one.  Two, Russell Westbrook doesn’t have to be triple-double every other night Russell Westbrook, but he has to carry this team.  They have solid guys in the rotation, but without a good Westbrook, the Thunder aren’t charged for the playoffs.

To add to the problem, Serge Ibaka is hurt, and won’t be back for the beginning of the playoffs.  That’s a killer blow to the paint game for the Thunder.  Ibaka can do dirty work while also providing elbow shooting.  He’s a great defense player too.

I believe OKC will get the 8th seed in the Western Conference.  Russell Westbrook has been unstoppable, and the team is racking up solid wins against good teams.  The Pelicans will definitely challenge them, but Davis needs more help down South, and probably a new coach.  OKC is prone for a playoff run, but they must be healthy.  I can’t say they’d get out of the first round without KD.

Let’s touch on the race for the 8th seed in the dreadful Eastern Conference….

This is just one big bummer.  This isn’t fun to write about.  Currently, Miami sits at No.7, Boston at No.8, the Hornets at No.9, and the Pacers at No.10 in the Eastern Conference.  I fully expect Miami to remain at seven.  Even with Chris Bosh out for the year, the Goran Dragic trade was helpful to the Heat.  He’s another scorer and takes some command.  They probably won’t get out of the first round, especially with a possible matchup with Cleveland looming (* Lebron licks lips*).

We should just blame everything on Boston.  With the Bruins collapse (league shift), the Ottawa Senators 😦 now sit in the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.  In the NBA, the Celtics, who aren’t very good, not even at 35 wins…. sit at No.8, and are looking at a matchup with the Hawks in the first round.

Boston, like other teams, has risen since the trade deadline.  Acquiring Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix gave them scoring, and a very solid point guard who can take over the game when needed.  Thomas has flaws, like shot decisions and guarding other smaller positions (mostly due to his size), but he’s fit perfectly into the Celtics system.

Boston can also give credit to Brad Stevens, their super smart and good thinking coach.  Stevens is a perfectionist on the court.  He loves to correct every mistake, and that makes him great, especially for a young team.  He, and the team, aren’t tanking, as that was confirmed at the deadline.

The Celtics, if they end up in the playoffs, won’t go far, at all, but will provide excitement and perhaps a little chaos to the Hawks.  Though, the Celtics have teams behind them.


Charlotte isn’t the team I’m referencing above, but they remain in the race after a treacherous start to the year.  They’re definitely under-achieveing, as the chemistry has been shaky.  Lance Stephenson’s fit has been rocky, as he’s struggled to play with Kemba Walker. Al Jefferson’s been healthy, but has lacked on the defensive end this year.  His rebound totals are down, and isn’t grabbing the boards that he used too.

The Hornets though, do have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s game has taken off this year.  The guy is a defensive wizard.  I’ve loved MKG since he’s been drafted, and this year, he’s making me happy.  While MKG is only averaging 11.7 points per game, he’s grabbing 7.5 RPG, and is shutting down everyone on the perimeter on defense.  His perimeter defensive game is where he excels.  He’s stated his ambitions about being excellent on defense.  MKG’s on his way there.

The Hornets can make the playoffs.  They have the talent to do that.  Perhaps they can ride MKG and a healthy Al Jefferson into the postseason.

Ahhh, now the team that, even though last in the order of teams, is gonna gear up for a run: The Indiana Pacers.

This is what I’ve been waiting for all year.  I want the Pacers in the playoffs.  Why?  Because Paul George is coming back.  And I don’t really care what he said about their chemistry.  They need him if they want to make the playoffs.  Indiana sits at No.10  right now.  They’re in reach.

My theory on this.. is that, with a 80% Paul George, and a couple good games by the rest of their team, they’re in.

George Hill has been quite good this year, and Rodney Stuckey has came out of nowhere, averaging close to 13 PPG.  There’s no starry names on this team right now.  They’re simply playing well together.  The Pacers have chemistry, are sharing minutes and shots, and playing much better on defense then they were last year at this time (cough, Lance Stephenson, cough).

Until George comes back, which was supposed to be 10 days ago, the Pacers just have to keep doing what they’re doing, and let George kinda take over late.  Again, he’s gonna be 80%.  Not perfect.

Quick hits:

  • I can’t stand to write about the Nets
  • Poor Pistons, that team looked really good at the deadline
  • The West is just ridiculous.  There’s a good game every night between teams in the top eight.  It makes great basketball.
  • Also, in the West playoffs, nothing will be considered an upset in the first round.  A No.8 over a No.1 won’t shock me.
  • MVP race: 1. James Harden: Means more to team 2. Stephen Curry: I want Curry to win, as a Warriors fan.  His stats are incredible and he’s on a better team. 3. Lebron James: The Cavaliers suck with Kevin Love on the court, so he (Lebron) makes up for it.  4. Russell Westbrook: Even with his incredible run, he’s gonna have to the Thunder to the Finals without KD to win it.  A loss in the first round won’t cut it.