Vegas over-under projects OKC Thunder to win 18 fewer games this year.

Chris Paul of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chris Paul of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Vegas over-under predictions place the OKC Thunder far down the list projecting the club to lose 18 more contests in the 2019-20 season.

As is typical for this time in the NBA offseason Vegas releases the projected over – under predictions for every team in the Association. In past seasons the OKC Thunder were often listed among the top ten squads.

This season, however, with all the movement by superstars combined with both Paul George and Russell Westbrook exiting the club the Thunder got hit — hard.

My first reaction was OUCH — 31 games! After absorbing how hard of a hit that would be I dove in again to look at where each of the teams was listed and which teams Vegas projects to do better than the Thunder. From highest to lowest here is where the teams were ranked (Western Conference teams noted by bold listing).

Projected top 15 squads:

Vegas ranks eight Western Conference teams to finish in the top of the Association with seven of eight 2019 playoff teams returning in 2020 and just our OKC Thunder falling off (the Lakers replace them).

  • Milwaukee Bucks – 57
  • LA Clippers – 55.5
  • Philadelphia 76ers – 54.5
  • Utah Jazz – 52.5
  • Denver Nuggets – 52
  • Houston Rockets – 52
  • LA Lakers – 51.5
  • Boston Celtics – 49.5
  • Indiana Pacers – 48.5
  • Portland Trail Blazers – 47.5
  • Brooklyn Nets – 47
  • Golden State Warriors – 47
  • Toronto Raptors – 45
  • Miami Heat – 43.5
  • San Antonio Spurs – 43.5

Projected bottom 15 squads:

On the bottom half of the equation, Vegas predicts eight East and seven West clubs but projects five of seven of the cellar dwellers being EC teams.

  • Dallas Mavericks – 41
  • Orlando Magic – 40.5
  • New Orleans Pelicans – 39
  • Detroit Pistons – 37.5
  • Sacramento Kings – 37
  • Atlanta Hawks – 36
  • Minnesota Timberwolves – 35
  • OKC Thunder – 31
  • Chicago Bulls – 30.5
  • Washington Wizards – 28.5
  • New York Knicks – 27
  • Phoenix Suns – 27
  • Memphis Grizzlies – 25.5
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – 24
  • Charlotte Hornets – 24

Best and worst projections:

In terms of the where Vegas seeds the teams; there are a couple over/under projections which jump off the page as questionable.

As much as I still believe the Pacers will be relevant in the East they’ve lost a slew of players. Seven players exit either via free agency, retirement (Darren Collison) or suspension (Tyreke Evans). And, Victor Oladipo is still out dealing with his injury. Although the additions of Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren look like perfect fits to Nate McMillan‘s system conversely expecting them and Jeremy Lamb to replace all the outside shooting and scoring is a stretch.

Again, I’d still bank on the Pacers being in the mix for a better East seed, but 48.5 (meaning they need 49 wins to hit the mark) is too high.

Conversely, the Blazers projection of 47.5 feels far too low. Terry Stotts crew remains largely intact (especially the core) and in the regular season, in particular, constancy is a major benefit. Likewise, the Nuggets 52 wins also feels off given they are a young, growing squad returning all their core pieces with a solid coaching staff led by Mike Malone.

While the NBA final teams (Warriors/Raptors) each lost key free agents and deal with injury their win totals sure feel like a low end projection. Without Kawhi Leonard playing last season, the Raptors went 17-5 and most of those wins came on the second game of back to backs (which are the most difficult regular season games). The Warriors might be a bit of a stretch, but something tells me Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will be eager to remind opponents and fans this may not be a “super team” anymore, but they still possess the two time MVP and DPoY on their roster.

OKC Thunder projection:

More from Thunderous Intentions

This might be a situation of putting the cart before the horse given additional trades could still occur prior to the season start. If OKC Thunder GM, Sam Presti moves Chris Paul or any of the higher end contracts of Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and Andre Roberson then all bets are off (no pun intended).

Conversely, if CP3 plays through til the trade deadline or potentially the entire year he will be motivated to push the Thunder for the final playoff seed. A starting rotation featuring Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, (and one of Terrance Ferguson, Andre Roberson or Mike Muscala), Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams should be competitive. Last season the Clippers pushed teams via gritty efforts and defense without stars on their roster. The Thunder could be in a similar situation this year.

Granted, it behooves OKC to capitalize on lottery positioning. Yet, based on the revised draft lottery process teams can compete for the last playoff seed and still capture a good pick. Navigating the tricky boundaries of that equation is what Billy Donovan will be tasked with. Even with the uncertainty of trading the best talents on the squad I’d still lean to the Thunder winning more than 31 games. Albeit, that might only be a few games, but I still think it’s plausible.

Last season the Sacramento Kings finished ninth with 39 wins while the eighth seed was the Clippers who won 48 games.

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Either of those markers might be a stretch, but we’ve never experienced the OKC Thunder actively try to tank and I doubt this season will be any different — especially with a motivated Chris Paul at the helm.