No Playoffs for the Thunder?
Today (11/29), the Thunder are riding as high as they have in this young NBA season after getting Russell Westbrook back and winning two games in a row. Kevin Durant should be back any day now and the Thunder should then get back to winning a whole lot of games. The question remains, though, have the Thunder dug themselves too far in a hole already to even make the playoffs in a supremely tough Western conference?
After 17 games, the Thunder have incurred a 5-12 record, good for 13th of 15 in the West. The 8th and final seed for the moment, belonging to the Phoenix Suns, sits with a 10-7 record. Going off of last year standings, in order to get the 8th seed in the West, the Thunder are going to have to win at least 49 or 50 games this season. In order to do that, they will have to finish the season with a 45-20 record. That's a tall task, especially with a schedule loaded with western conference powerhouses remaining on the schedule, and the fact that Kevin Durant is still not quite back on the court.
With 65 games remaining on the schedule, a look at their schedule shows at least 30 games that are bound to be tough. I counted those tough games as bouts against Portland, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis, Dallas, Phoenix, Golden State, and the Los Angeles Clippers in the West (not included are the surprising, but talented Sacramento Kings), as well as Eastern conference games against Toronto, Washington, Chicago, and Cleveland (Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would have something to say about that). If they manage to win 67% of those games, that would leave the Thunder with only 10 games against lesser opponents that they could afford to lose. That's certainly not a lot of leeway.
So, will the Thunder make the playoffs? It will be a race for the 8th seed in the West, but I believe the Thunder will remain on the outside looking in when the playoffs come around. It may take a couple of games for Durant to get to game speed and there is always the possibility of more injuries. Combine that with the fact that the Thunder have one of the weakest head coaches in the West, and the Thunder are looking at a lost season. They are also one season closer to losing both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to free agency.