If you were told that Kevin Durant would only play 27 games the entire season, what would you expect from the Thunder? If you were also told Serge Ibaka would miss 18 games and Russell Westbrook would miss 15, what would you expect? When taken from that point of view, 45 wins doesn't sound so bad. However, missing the playoffs stings, and the reckless efforts of Russell Westbrook were just not enough.
There will be people that say mindless things like Russell Westbrook shot his team out of it. There will be people that question the job Scott Brooks has done. There will be people that continually reference the James Harden trade as the main reason for Oklahoma City's failures. The truth is, as far as luck goes, the Thunder has had none of it.
Prior to trading James Harden, the Thunder almost never lost games to injury. The continuity, in some respects, got boring. The starting five of Westbrook, Thabo Sefelosha, Durant, Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins was effective yet the likes of Thabo and Perk made it kind of boring. Oh how the Thunder would kill for boring again. Even the season following the Harden trade, Oklahoma City won 60 games. That team had an extremely high point differential as the Thunder steam rolled to the first seed. Patrick Beverly then went low on Russell Westbrook in the first round and that effectively ended the Thunder's season. The following year, the Thunder lost Serge Ibaka in game six of the Western Conference Semifinals. He would miss the first two games against San Antonio, and OKC couldn't recover from the 2-0 hole.
Since that Oklahoma City team lost in the finals, the Thunder hasn't been able to finish a season healthy. Maybe the best and only defense of Scott Brooks is the Thunder's lack of health. It's definitely possible that they would have a title (or two) by now if the Thunder could stay healthy through one season.
In 2012, many made the claim that the West would belong to the Thunder for a decade. It certainly appeared that way when the Thunder ran the Spurs for four straight wins and went to the finals. Since then, it has been anything but the Thunder's West. The Spurs have gone to two straight finals, and suddenly Stephen Curry's Warriors are historically good. Chris Paul is itching to breakthrough in L.A., and Anthony Davis is here to destroy worlds. If Anthony Davis gets any help, it may not matter what the Thunder does.
It has to, and will, pain Thunder fans if Golden State or, God forbid, James Harden goes to the finals and wins. Thunder fans can deal with San Antonio continuing to win. The Spurs are the team OKC wants to emulate. But another team? Winning in the Thunder's West? No. It can't be. Perhaps, it's LeBron James' year to end the suffering of Cleveland and deliver a championship to his home city. Perhaps, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli will ride into the sunset after one last championship. Perhaps, Steph Curry is simply unstoppable and will bring a title to Golden State. Perhaps, missing the playoffs is the best thing that could happen for this Thunder team.
Maybe the odds will be ever in their favor and Oklahoma City will luck into the first overall pick like Cleveland did last year, or like the Spurs did in 1997. But the only odds the Thunder really needs is to have health. A healthy Durant, a healthy Westbrook, and a healthy Ibaka. Those three are coupled with Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow and can provide the Thunder with an all new kind of firepower.
What do the Thunder need to do this off-season? Pray. Scott Brooks is on the hot seat for sure, but he's not going anywhere this year. Assuming the Thunder re-sign Kanter, OKC will enter next season with by far its deepest team yet. Next season is a long ways away, and the longest off-season since 2009 awaits the Thunder, but the six months where the team and city can heal is needed. Maybe they do luck into a top three pick, or maybe Sam Presti pulls his draft voodoo and gets a rotation player at pick 14. The point is, Oklahoma City has assets. They can improve for sure. A two-way player, or just developing Andre Roberson at all, would be beneficial for the Thunder at the two guard.
Besides that, this team doesn't have any glaring issues. They have a backup point guard, they have five good big men. They have a sharp shooter, and they have an (albeit awful) heat check guy in Dion Waiters. Do they have the coach? Do they have the luck? This is what everyone will find out. But not for six months, until then, cross your fingers and hope the odds land on the Thunder.