• Russell Schmidt

NBA Future Power Rankings 20. Oklahoma City Thunder


*Photo via USA Today

The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the toughest teams to rank in our future power rankings. With two of the best players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on their roster, OKC is a championship contender every season, barring injuries of course.

So how’s a championship contender ranked so low? Uncertainty; Durant is in his final year of his deal with the Thunder and there will be plenty of suitors lining up for his services. If that isn’t scary enough, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will be free agents in 2017. If Durant opts for a new franchise, Westbrook and Ibaka may follow and join new rosters as well.

With the addition of a new head coach, Billy Donovan, the Thunder need to make a big time impression on Durant this season as losing him would be a catastrophic blow for OKC that would set the franchise back for years. The uncertain futures of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka have put pressure on the Thunder to make moves that help them win now. The Thunder have traded away two future first round picks; a 2016 top-15 protected pick and a 2018 top-14 protected pick in deals that brought them Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter.

Durant’s pending free agency and the need to have a successful season put the Thunder in a tough spot when it came to keeping Enes Kanter. Knowing this, division rival the Portland Trail Blazers gave Kanter a four-year, $70 million max offer sheet which the Thunder were forced to match.

What should give the Thunder hope for this season was how good the team managed to be despite many tough obstacles last season. OKC managed to finish 45-37 and nearly made the playoffs in the West in spite of often playing with a depleted roster. Many key players like Durant (55 games), Westbrook (15 games), Ibaka (18 games), Steven Adams (12 games), and Mitch McGary (50 games) missed games last season.

The Thunder will also be hoping rookie Cameron Payne (14th pick in the draft) can make immediate contributions. The Thunder looked poised to be one of the top teams in the West and compete for a title next season. The fate of the OKC Thunder rests on the decision of Kevin Durant, a high-risk, high-reward scenario.

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Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com, ESPN.com

Salary cap and contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com, Hoopshype.com, Basketballinsiders.com

Future draft commitments and rosters information courtesy of RealGM.com

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