The Oklahoma City Thunder have been perennial contenders in the NBA ever since drafting Kevin Durant back in 2007. But with free agency looming in 2016, injuries may play a role in whether Kevin re-signs with the team or heads elsewhere when his contract ends.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Durant’s injuries threaten to derail Oklahoma City from competing for an NBA title this season.
“Before his injury, the Thunder had been considered one of the favorites, along with Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio, to win the NBA championship this season. But the door has opened a bit in the super-competitive Western Conference, in which 10 teams could be pushing for a playoff spot. And the elite teams, such as the defending NBA champion Spurs, the Clippers and Golden State Warriors, are probably hoping to open a big enough lead in the standings before Durant returns to prevent the Thunder from securing home-court advantage in the West.”
And Durant is not the only significant training camp injury Oklahoma City has dealt with in recent days. Aside from Kevin, who is sidelined for six to eight weeks with a foot injury, Oklahoma City’s rookie forward Mitch McGary will also miss the first month of the season. And now shooting guard Anthony Morrow has reportedly suffered a left MCL sprain at practice this week and will also miss the start of the regular season.
According to ESPN, Morrow’s injury really stretches the Thunder thin, as Morrow figured to play a larger role with the team this year.
“With Durant out, Morrow was a strong candidate to slot into the Thunder’s starting five at shooting guard. Along with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams, Morrow started the final three preseason games. Now, coach Scott Brooks will be forced to reconsider his starting group again, likely turning to either Jackson, Perry Jones or Jeremy Lamb to fill the role.”
And therein lies the long-term effect these injuries could have when Durant makes up his mind whether to stay in Oklahoma City or bolt to the less competitive Eastern Conference in 2016. Last year, the loss of Serge Ibaka late in the year derailed Oklahoma City’s attempt to knock off the eventual champs in San Antonio. And now, with even more of Durant’s supporting cast on the sideline to start the season, Oklahoma City’s playoff seeding could be impacted six months from now when the playoffs start.
Of course, the silver lining for Oklahoma City in all of this is that once Kevin Durant and his injured teammates return, the chemistry and momentum could swing back in their favor. If Oklahoma City is able to capture their first NBA title this rash of injuries will be long forgotten in Kevin’s mind.
[Kevin Durant Image Via ESPN ]