Russell Westbrook’s lingering knee issues have pushed doubt into the mind of many pundits regarding the Thunder’s potential outlook for this upcoming season.
But don’t include the Sports Illustrated’s NBA crew among that group.
In the magazine’s recently released league-wide preview, four of the six writers picked OKC to win the Western Conference, with three of them predicting the Thunder will unseat Miami and win the NBA championship.
“OKC may be a surprise pick to some, but no rival in the West has a better 1-2 punch than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who are peaking, experienced, hungry and surrounded by a deep front line and an athletic second unit,” wrote Chris Mannix. “OKC’s biggest threats in the West will be the Clippers and Spurs, but the latter are on the wrong side of the curve and the former need a year to develop Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as future champions.”
The entire preview can be seen by clicking here, which contains full explanations on each writer’s pick.
And in it, two of the six also selected Kevin Durant to win his first MVP.
“He was otherworldly last year, even if he was overshadowed during the regular season by LeBron James and during the postseason by the Thunder’s loss to Memphis sans Westbrook,” wrote Lee Jenkins. “But Durant has become stronger, more selective and more versatile, beating defenders in the post as easily as on the perimeter. He has finished second in the MVP voting three times. It’s his turn to win one.”