The Oklahoma City Thunder Should Miss the Playoffs


It has been a constant struggle all season for the Oklahoma City Thunder to fight and claw their way into the playoff picture and now that they have found themselves contending for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, their best option would be to miss the playoffs altogether.

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The team has been plagued by countless injuries this season, with the latest one being Kevin Durant. Durant will be forced to miss the rest of the season with another surgery on his right foot. This will be his third surgery on that foot this season. His return is expected to be in 4-6 months.

With KD done for the year and the Thunder clinging to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, many expect OKC to either fold and fall out of playoff contention or squeak into the postseason with an inevitable early round exit.

If the Thunder do manage to hold onto the eighth seed in the West and make the playoffs, they will face one of the best teams in the NBA in the Golden State Warriors. Russell Westbrook has played outstandingly these past few months but even his stellar play wouldn’t be enough to propel the Thunder to a title. The Thunder are 1-3 against the Warriors this season and without Durant they will need a near miracle to not only defeat Golden State in the first round but even have a chance of coming out of the West to be able to compete for a NBA Title. Even if Durant were healthy, it would be a challenge to contend but with him done for the rest of the season the Thunder might just want to give up early.

It sounds a lot worse than it is for many reasons. No one wants their team to be the ones not making the playoffs after a hard fought season and especially a team with high championship aspirations every year like the Thunder and their fans always have.

It would be beneficial for OKC to miss the playoffs because of the draft and their first round draft pick for next year.

Earlier this season the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the Thunder’s 2015 first round pick from the Denver Nuggets, which the Nuggets got from the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Cavs acquired in the Dion Waiters deal. This would mean that OKC would not have a first round pick this season.

The pick is top-18 protected which means that by not making the playoffs, the Thunder would assure themselves their 2015 pick which would be in the lottery (a top-14 pick).

If the Thunder do manage to make the playoffs then they would not be in contention for a top-14 pick but instead would get a pick based the record of teams in the playoffs going from the worst (the 15th pick) and the best getting the 30th.

At the moment the Thunder would be get the 18th pick in the draft if they were to make the playoffs. But depending on what their final record and every other playoff team’s final record then they could easily slip out of the 18th pick and it would then belong to the 76ers. That would leave the Thunder without a first round pick next year and thus losing the chance of getting a young player out of the draft that could help them right away.

With the lottery pick the Thunder would get by missing the playoffs they would be able to draft a young player with potential that would have a low salary and would be under contract for at least two years. This would give the Thunder some flexibility in the off-season as they have some players that will be free agents after this year. They could also get a player that would make an immediate impact to the team and possibly one that could finally get them over the bump to win a championship.

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For a lesser reason, it would give the players some well needed rest and also not risk more injuries. With this crazy season full of injuries there is no telling what could go wrong.

The best option for this young and experienced Thunder team is to look forward to next season. This year has been tough and the playoffs are what every OKC fan has been looking forward to but without Durant the Thunder don’t have the best of chances to win. As much as every NBA fan and especially Thunder fans would love to see OKC in the playoffs as they have been for the past years, tanking might be the way to go at the end of this season. With the team no where close to healthy and an early round exit eminent, missing the playoffs to secure a top-14 pick and avoid losing their first-round pick altogether seems like the best way to go this season.