The Oklahoma City Thunder are facing a definitive season ahead of them. Not only is the city dealing with the fact that Kevin Durant left and won a championship with the Golden State Warriors, they now must factor in the Russell Westbrook and Paul George tandem. The Thunder are hoping Westbrook and Paul can co-exist on the same court, wearing the same uniform and be successful. Not only successful in terms of winning but successful in tuning out the media.
See, both players can walk away from the Thunder at the end of the year and the media will attack this story until there’s no more story to attack. Will this become a distraction in 2017 like the Durant headline did Westbrook last year?
Westbrook has yet to sign an extension and George, well, if the rumors are true then he may bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers. But what happens if they win? The bigger question is– how much will they have to win. Are 50 games enough? 60 games and a second round exit or will they need to make it to the Western Conference Finals or beyond? If that were to happen then maybe George decides to stay and Westbrook signs his extension and the Thunder can persuade players like LeBron James and Chris Paul to take that one-year player deal and make a super team in OKC.
However, if the team fails or if they are struggling come trade deadline time then all bets are off.
The Thunder can look to trade George and get assets in return but what happens if Westbrook doesn’t resign or becomes frustrated? He too can walk leaving the Thunder high and dry like Durant. Here is where things could get scary. Let’s say the Thunder decides to let Westbrook play out this year and see where this new tandem can lead them. They fail to make it out the first round and both leave to join the same team. Can we say Lakers?
Whether the Thunder, Westbrook, or George realize this, but their futures are tied at the hip. I have no doubt they can perform magic on the court as a duo but what they must figure out this preseason is how much winning will it take to keep them together. George has gone back on his previous statement about Lakers so that gives the Thunder a little hope moving forward.
But it will still come down to winning. Either they can win as a duo or they both may slide out of OKC as a duo.