ESPN project 26.9 wins for OKC Thunder in 2023

OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) celebrates after shooting a 3-point basket at the buzzer to defeat the LA Clippers: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) celebrates after shooting a 3-point basket at the buzzer to defeat the LA Clippers: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

With the OKC Thunder in the midst of training camp, there is much to be determined about the roster.  There are 20 players in camp with 15 varsity spots and two 2-way contracts eligible on the final roster.

Players on the fringe will be battling to snag one of the open spots or make enough of an impression to warrant inclusion on another club’s roster or grab a G-League spot.

That means Mark Daigneault and his coaching squad will be watching the battles closely to determine who gets the final jersey. Things got another shake-up on Friday when the Thunder and Rockets exchanged eight players.

Headed to the Rockets are Theo Maledon, Ty Jerome, Derrick Favors, and Mo Harkless. Coming back to the OKC Thunder are David Nwaba, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown, and Marquese Chriss.

As Rylan Stiles noted it’s likely the four incoming players will be waived. The combination of that factor as well as the exit of Jerome and Maledon would create one open varsity spot.

ESPN predicts 26.9 wins for OKC Thunder in 2022-23

Although the trade was cited as mostly to cut costs and lower the overhead it could also be argued this was a way to clear up space and minutes for the next iteration of youngsters who’ll don the Thunder jersey this season.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN offered his win/loss projections for every team this season. Although his article came out prior to the above trade it’s not likely the 26.9 win projections for the Thunder would be drastically different if it came out afterward.

Pelton’s projections are based on a number of factors …

"Nonetheless, statistical projections can be revealing. Mine are based on a combination of my SCHOENE player projections for box score stats as well as three-year, luck-adjusted Regularized Adjusted Four Factors (RAPM) from I estimate games played based on those missed over the past three years then make subjective predictions for playing time."

In addition to Pelton’s formula, he cites the injuries to Chet Holmgren and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as reasons to expect the OKC Thunder to finish 14th in the Western Conference.

Although the ESPN scribe doesn’t call out the Thunder as dedicated to tanking that is the implication. And, with Victor Wembanyama up for grabs in the 2023 draft, it’s not necessarily a bad choice for the Thunder to make although Danny Ainge sure looks to be trying to beat everyone to that prized possession.

Pelton’s 26.9 win tally is just three more than last season. The difficult part of determining win totals is the unknowns like injuries. For the past two seasons, the top players like SGA and Luguentz Dort were shut down for injury particularly late in the season to help bolster the team’s draft position.

It’s true not having Holmgren will hold back the progression of the core. On the other hand, aside from the three other rookies the majority of the 2022 team returns offering constancy for Mark Daigneault.

That latter factor should impact the team this season. Considering the OKC Thunder lost 12 games by five points or less it’s a worthy consideration for how many games this iteration of the Thunder will claim.

Again with a  franchise-changing prospect like Wembanyama in the mix, it’s not a stretch to believe this will be yet another tanking season. Keep that in mind when placing your bets on over/under this season.

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