The Oklahoma City Thunder and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook added Paul George to their ranks in a blockbuster offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers. Now OKC will find out whether that's enough to keep pace in the league's "superteam" era.
Westbrook and George should create one of the NBA's most dynamic duos. Depth remains a serious question mark, however, especially when competing in a loaded Western Conference led by the defending champion Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
Let's check out all of the important information for the Thunder's upcoming campaign following the league's 2017-18 schedule released. That's followed by a look at their premier matchups and a prediction for how their regular season will play out.
Season Opener: Oct. 19 vs. New York Knicks.
Championship Odds: 20-1 (via OddsShark)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Golden State Warriors: Nov. 22, Feb. 6, Feb. 24, April 3
The Warriors are the ultimate measuring stick for not only the Thunder but every NBA team with hope of seriously challenging for the title. Their one-loss journey through last season's playoffs showed how far ahead of the pack they were thanks to their ridiculous amount of star power.
For OKC, the litmus test will come at the defensive end, where it will find out whether its rebuilt lineup can contain the quartet of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Dubs averaged 121 points while going 4-0 against the Thunder last season.
The matchup might not create as much buzz as last year, though. That's because George told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski during a television interview after the trade that Westbrook and Durant are back on speaking terms after the latter's exit, per Adam Kemp of the Oklahoman.
"Whatever went between him and Russ that's their business. It's not my point to want to know or want to figure out what happened. It's pointless," he said. "They are buddies, they are back good again. I'm here to build something different and something special."
Nevertheless, the road to a Western Conference title goes through Golden State, and the Thunder will want to show their up to the test.
Houston Rockets: Dec. 25, March 6, April 7
Houston, like Oklahoma City, showed an understanding of the NBA's current landscape by going all-in during the offseason with the acquisition of Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. While those type of marquee moves come with risk, it's a necessity in an effort to contend.
The meetings between the Rockets and Thunder will take on additional importance because they could end up contending for the second seed in the West. Of course, the Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves could have some say in that race, as well.
Add in the fact both teams made major offseason additions along with the lingering questions on defense for each side and there's a recipe for some high-scoring, highlight-filled instant classics when they face off during the regular season.
In the end, the winner of the season series could decide which team holds home-court advantage should they face off in the postseason.
The Thunder are a bit tricky to forecast because it's always difficult to grasp how long the transition phase will take when a major change is made. If Westbrook and George click instantly, OKC could push toward 55 wins, which should be in the two-seed territory.
A lot will also depend on whether the secondary contributors, led by Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Andre Roberson, are able to find a niche. Roberson will need to have a successful year defending the opponent's top perimeter weapon for the Thunder to reach their potential.
In July, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman passed along comments from head coach Billy Donovan about getting the pieces to fit together.
"Maybe some of the things that we did last year offensively may not be the best thing for this team offensively, and you've got to figure out what are those things," he said. "For me, going through the film and watching that, I enjoy that part of it, trying to figure out ways that we can help complement each other."
All told, a safe estimation for Oklahoma City is around 50 victories and a place inside the West's top four seeds. The more prominent factor is whether the roster, with potentially a key deadline addition, is able to reach peak efficiency to match up with the Warriors and Co. in the playoffs.