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NBA Bubble Wrap: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Who will be the last team to pop the bubble?

2013 Oklahoma City Thunder 1 by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NBA Bubble Wrap: The Oklahoma City Thunder


Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us.  With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion.  While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.

The NBA is a fickle beast.  Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next.  With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump. 

We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch. 

Let’s hit the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Expectations: Upset the Rockets in Round 1 (maybe)

The Thunder are playing with found money right now. This past summer they traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George and received the following assets

2021 Draft

  • The Heat’s first round pick
  • Right to swap with the Rockets’ first round pick

2022 Draft

  • The Clippers’ first round pick

2023 Draft

  • The Heat’s first round pick
  • Right to swap with the Clippers’ first round pick

2024 Draft

  • The Clippers’ first round pick
  • The Rockets’ first round pick

2025 Draft

  • Right to swap with the Clippers’ first round pick
  • Right to swap with the Rockets’ first round pick

2026 Draft

  • The Clippers’ first round pick
  • The Rockets’ first round pick

The 2019-20 season essentially didn’t matter for this team as the future is where their real potential lies.

However, Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (the players they received in the Westbrook/George trades) didn’t let that happen. They led a team with less than 1% chance of making the playoffs before the year to the #5 seed.    

What’s Working for Them

This team has almost no expectations for their post-season run, and that’s a good thing. Their first-round match-up with the Rockets will give Paul a chance for revenge after being dealt. And any playoff experience for a young star like SGA is important, especially if he’s not expected to win.

Add in the fact Westbrook is hurt and is at least missing Game 1, and there is definitely a path for an upset.

What Might Hold Them Back:

Exceeding expectations typically only lasts for so long and while the Thunder are a nice story, it doesn’t feel like there’s going to be a championship-level happy ending. The overall talent on the Thunder simply isn’t at the level of the teams above them in the seeding.

It is also perfectly conceivable they still lose to the Rockets without Westbrook. Or Westbrook comes back in the series and the Thunder fall.

Storyline to Watch

Chris Paul vs. the Rockets. That’s it. Get your popcorn ready!

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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