Coming into the 2017-18 NBA season, many people, including analysts and fans, considered the new and improved Oklahoma City Thunder to be a threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. The team acquired All-Star forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason to go along with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to counteract the super-team out in Oakland. The Thunder were picked to finish as a top 3 seed, behind the Warriors and Houston Rockets.
But things did not play out the way they hoped. The team lost a key piece of their starting lineup, Andre Robertson, to a torn ACL injury. That devastating loss played a factor for a huge chunk of their season, as the big three struggled at times to stay healthy and be productive. And the defense often gave up over 100 points. Not exactly NBA championship-performance material. As a result, the Thunder finished fourth and made the playoffs, only to be bounced in the First Round by conference rival Utah in six games.
One of the biggest questions heading into the offseason is if George will be back with Oklahoma City next season. A free agent this summer, he will be drawing interest from the L.A. Lakers, among other teams. The Lakers, under the leadership of Magic Johnson, are looking to become championship contenders in the West again after six consecutive seasons missing the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony may very well opt out of his OKC contract and leave to join forces with his buddy LeBron James in Cleveland or Chris Paul in Houston. Westbrook will still be leading the charge as the face of the franchise, but his supporting cast will have to be reshuffled again. The head coach, Billy Donovan, will most likely return despite not leading his team past the first round for two straight seasons.
The Thunder are a talented, competitive basketball team. Westbrook cannot keep being a one-man show and expect to win a championship. LeBron James did a virtual one-man show in Cleveland in 2007, lifting the Cavaliers to the finals (only to be swept by experienced San Antonio). He knows what it’s like to carry a team on his shoulders with a subpar supporting cast. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a tremendous, energetic fanbase. It would be a shame if they weren’t treated to a championship team.