Kevin Durant, one of the NBA’s most outstanding players, played a significant role in shaping the Oklahoma City Thunder’s legacy. The former MVP spent nine seasons with the Thunder, greatly influencing their playoff odds and even helping lead them to an NBA Finals berth in 2012. His presence on the court made the Oklahoma City Thunder odds favorable in many of their games.
However, his departure in 2016 to join the Golden State Warriors marked a major turning point for the franchise, and suddenly, the Oklahoma City Thunder odds faced a dramatic shift. In this blog post, we will delve into the statistics to see how the Thunder’s performance has evolved before and after Durant’s departure.
The Kevin Durant Era: Thunder’s Rise to Prominence (2008-2016)
Kevin Durant joined the franchise in 2007 when it was still the Seattle SuperSonics before the team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008. Throughout Durant’s tenure, the Thunder transformed from a struggling team to an NBA powerhouse. The most notable seasons were from 2009-2010 to 2015-2016, where the Thunder consistently made the playoffs, powered by Durant’s performances. During the 2011-2012 season, the team reached its pinnacle, making it to the NBA Finals, though ultimately losing to the Miami Heat. Durant’s average points per game during this period were an impressive 28.2, and he was named the NBA MVP for the 2013-2014 season.
The Thunder’s winning percentage with Durant from 2008-2016 was .627, showcasing their dominance. Durant, along with Russell Westbrook, crafted a team that was not just competitive but a serious title contender.
Durant’s Departure and Its Immediate Impact (2016-2017)
When Durant announced his decision to join the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016, the Oklahoma City Thunder were left with a significant void to fill. Despite Russell Westbrook’s Herculean effort in the 2016-2017 season, which earned him the MVP award, the absence of Durant was acutely felt. The Thunder’s winning percentage dropped to .573 in the 2016-2017 season. They also fell in the first round of the playoffs, a clear step back from their deep playoff runs with Durant. Westbrook’s elevated performance, though remarkable, was not enough to compensate for the loss of Durant’s productivity and leadership.
The Post-Durant Era: A New Direction (2017-Present)
In the subsequent years, the Thunder have had to redefine their identity. Stars like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joined and left the team. Ultimately, the Thunder decided to lean into a full-scale rebuild after trading Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in 2019.
In terms of win-loss records, the Thunder have been fluctuating. The 2019-2020 season saw a surprising turn of events as they finished fifth in the Western Conference, led by Chris Paul. However, since trading Paul, the 2020-21 season marked a significant drop with a winning percentage of just .319, indicating the challenges of a team in a rebuilding phase which resulted in a 0.488 winning percentage in the last 2022-23 season.
Individual Performances: Filling Durant’s Shoes (2016-Present)
Post-Durant, several players have risen to the challenge of filling his substantial shoes with varying degrees of success. Russell Westbrook elevated his play to historic levels in the 2016-2017 season, averaging a triple-double and breaking Oscar Robertson’s long-standing record for most triple-doubles in a season.
Later, the likes of Paul George and Chris Paul had standout seasons with the Thunder, with George finishing third in MVP voting in the 2018-2019 season. Though none have fully replaced Durant’s impact, these individual efforts have been crucial in keeping the Thunder competitive and facilitating their transition into a new era.
Kevin Durant’s tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder undeniably marked one of the franchise’s most successful periods, a time when they were a consistent fixture in the playoffs and were considered serious title contenders. Durant’s departure undoubtedly left a significant impact on the team’s performance and led to a new era defined by changes and rebuilding. The stats indicate a shift in the Thunder’s fortune, although it is also evident that the team is navigating its way through the post-Durant era with a focus on building a solid foundation for the future. As the Thunder continue their rebuild, it will be fascinating to see how they evolve and whether they can recreate the success they enjoyed during the Kevin Durant era.