We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:
Which team will take the biggest step back this season?
Kurt Helin: Oklahoma City Thunder
In terms of the raw numbers, the Miami Heat may well take the title; they could lose 15 or more games this season compared to a year ago (thanks to no Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade). But Miami’s slide is not as painful as Oklahoma City’s for the fan base — the Thunder will fall out of contender status. I expect OKC will win 7-10 fewer games than a season ago, but still make the playoffs. However, with Kevin Durant they were legit title contenders, without him they are likely a one-and-done postseason team at best. That’s a real blow for the team’s fans.
Dan Feldman: Oklahoma City Thunder
Could it be any other team? Losing Kevin Durant took them from legitimate championship contender to uncertain playoff team. Even if Russell Westbrook leads Oklahoma City to the highest end of its potential, there’s a huge drop knowing a title is no longer realistic.
Dane Carbaugh: Miami Heat
It’s hard to look at losing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and not think the Heat are in for a big step back. The Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season got tougher: Boston added Al Horford; the Hornets are building; Detroit is in Year 2 of Stan Van Gundy; Chicago is … well, they have Wade at least. The Heat re-signed Hassan Whiteside, and Justise Winslow will continue to grow. But if things go poorly for Miami to start, Goran Dragic could be an early trade piece and with him gone a Miami slump out of the playoffs would be almost guaranteed.