Will The Oklahoma City Thunder Make the Playoffs?

By Kurt Bullard

The Oklahoma City Thunder came into this season already facing adversity, as it was revealed that Kevin Durant would be sidelined with a foot injury for at least the first four-to-six months of the season. But the hardship for OKC has not ended there.  In the second quarter of the second game of the season, Russell Westbrook incurred an injury trying to go up for a rebound against the Clippers. He has since decided to get surgery to repair his hand, keeping him out for at least the next four-to-six weeks of the season. Now, the reigning two seed in the vaunted West is without its two best players from last season and arguably the league’s best duo. Can the Thunder stay afloat for long enough in order for Durant and Westbrook to lead them back into the playoffs?

To try to answer this question, I tried to predict the winning percentage of the team if it were without KD35 and Russ for the next six weeks, which would sideline them for a total of 20 more games. I did this by finding the weighted average of the Real Plus Minus of the team, by projecting minutes played by each member of the Thunder, and using that point differential to predict winning percentage based.

To project minutes played by each member of the team, I averaged the minutes played of the last two games without the two stars. I then used 538’s preseason projections of RPM for each player for the upcoming season. The projections for Perry Jones, Lance Thomas and Sebastian Telfair do not exist but I have pegged them at replacement level of -3 RPM which seems reasonable considering they all have a current BPM in that ballpark . I then found the team’s weighted RPM, and estimated winning percentage by Pythagorean expectation:

Player Minutes RPM
Reggie Jackson



Serge Ibaka



Steven Adams



Nick Collison



Kendrick Perkins



Andre Roberson






Team Average


Projected Winning Percentage


Rounding up, the Thunder would be expected to amass 11 wins in the time that Durant and Westbrook are out and finish with a roughly .500 record, not as bad as some – including Zach Lowe – have predicted. Let’s not forget: Ibaka is still a very good player. After the 1-2 start, therefore, the team would be predicted to finish around 12-13 by the time Durant and Westbrook return. Assuming that 49 wins are needed to make the playoffs in the West (as was the case last year, to the chagrin of the 48-win Suns), the team would need to finish 37-20 to make the playoffs, a winning percentage which would be on pace for a 53-win season, which is completely realistic for a healthy Thunder squad. So – while the Thunder will surely miss Durant and Westbrook – they surely do not need to rush back faster than their bodies allow them.

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1 Comment

  • I don’t believe Nick Collison’s plus/minus should be that high with Westbrook and Durant out. Maybe you should also explore potential bias in the projection caused by who a player plays the majority of their minutes with.

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