Oklahoma City Thunder has the talent to get back to the playoffs

Don't underestimate the Oklahoma City Thunder. This team has the talent to compete in the Western Conference this season.

It was a roller coaster of an offseason for the Oklahoma City Thunder, losing superstar forward Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors -- but Russell Westbrook is ready to lead the revamped Thunder to their seventh playoff appearance in eight seasons.

Last season the Thunder won 55 games behind the trio of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Heading into this season, Westbrook is the only piece remaining from that trio. Even though the Thunder will be without Durant, who signed a two-year contract with the Warriors, and Ibaka, who was traded to the Orlando Magic on draft night, the Thunder now have a new trio that fans will be excited to watch this season.

In the Ibaka trade, the Thunder managed to upgrade the shooting guard position with the acquisition of Victor Oladipo. Oklahoma City also got younger at the power forward position adding Domantas Sabonis, the 11th overall pick in this year's draft.

With Durant now out of the picture, center Steven Adams will now be a key piece in the offense this season. In the playoffs last season, Adams saw his minutes increase and averaged 10.1 PPG and 9.5 RPG -- after averaging 8.0 PPG and 6.7 RPG during the regular season, according to basketball-reference.com.

With the addition of Oladipo, the Thunder have arguably the most athletic backcourt in the NBA. Both Westbrook and Oladipo can create shots for their teammates, and Oladipo has the ability to average five to seven assists per game.

With Durant and Ibaka gone, the new trio of Westbrook, Oladipo and Adams will be fun to watch. We have already seen the chemistry between Westbrook and Adams over the last few seasons with their pick and roll play, but now it will be fun to see the chemistry of Westbrook and Oladipo.

However, even though the Thunder have an intriguing trio, it will be hard to see this team match 55 wins from a year ago. There are a lot of new faces on this team. The Thunder brought in Ersan Ilyasova, Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo and Joffrey Lauvergne via trade, Alex Abrines from overseas, and Josh Huestis from the D-League. It will take a couple months for this team to jell, but they have the talent and pieces to compete for a playoff spot.

Everyone doubted the Portland Trail Blazers last season when they lost LaMarcus Aldridge via free agency to the San Antonio Spurs. With Damian Lillard as the only reliable piece on the Trail Blazers, people expected them to be a lottery team, however, players like C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu all stepped up in Aldridge's absence and took the Trail Blazers back into the playoffs. The same can happen for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City has the talent to be a mid-tier team in the Western Conference this season. They have their franchise player back in Russell Westbrook. They have a young shooting guard in Victor Oladipo. They have a young and talented front court in Andre Roberson, Domantas Sabonis and Steven Adams. The bench will have 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow, Kyle Singler and Alex Abrines, big-men Enes Kanter and Joffrey Lauvergne, veteran Ersan Ilyasova, and a young and exciting backup point guard in Cameron Payne. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost key players this offseason, but they brought in young players with upside that will take them back to the postseason for the seventh time in eight years, led by Russell Westbrook, the face of the franchise.


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