The broken foot suffered by reigning NBA MVP and scoring leader Kevin Durant is the most substantial preseason injury in the Association in recent memory. As expected, it had a major impact on Thunder NBA futures odds.
Surgery or Not for Durant?
I'm not a doctor and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night so I won't go into detail about Durant's "Jones fracture" in his foot. It's not an uncommon injury in the NBA with how much footwork is involved by oversized guys on hard courts. Durant still hasn't decided on surgery, but USA Today explained that the area where Durant's fracture took place, his fifth metatarsal, has limited blood flow. Thus it would seem to push Durant toward surgery because healing on its own would be more difficult. A doctor writing for ESPN.com said this: "A recent study found that Jones fractures treated without surgery had just a 76 percent chance of complete recovery, while those treated with surgery found a 95 percent return to full health."
Regardless, Durant is probably going to miss anywhere from 6-12 weeks, with many believing it's closer to the latter than the former. If he misses exactly two months from the date of the injury being found, he would return Dec. 9 and Durant would miss 20 games. He has missed only 16 games in his seven-year career. Durant averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists last season and was a deserving MVP. Only three other players -- Wilt, MJ and Elgin Baylor -- averaged 32-7-5 in a season.
NewsOK.com had a great breakdown of OKC's schedule in that 20-game stretch. The toughest is probably the first six games: at Portland (Oct. 29), at L.A. Clippers (Oct. 30), vs. Denver (Nov. 1), at Brooklyn (Nov. 3), at Toronto (Nov. 4), vs. Memphis (Nov. 7). All but the Nuggets were playoff teams and Denver should be much better with the return of Danilo Gallinari from injury and a trade for Arron Afflalo.
After the first six, the Thunder play six of their next seven against non-playoff teams (Houston the only one that made it). Overall, the average winning percentage of the teams the Thunder play in their first 10 games was .471 last year and the teams in Games 11-20 was .432. Oklahoma City misses good teams like San Antonio, Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas and Washington in the first 20 games. Incidentally, the Thunder host LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Dec. 11, a TNT Thursday game. Oklahoma City faces the Spurs the first time on Christmas.
All Shook Up
Oklahoma City remains the third-favorite to win the NBA title at sportsbooks, listed at +700 on Sportsbook.ag. Those NBA odds didn't change too much because in reality Durant should be fine by the time the playoffs roll around. OKC also remains the +320 second-favorite on NBA odds to win the West behind the Spurs. That got just a bit longer. The one concern is that the Thunder could drop a few spots in the Western Conference pecking order without Durant and that could cost home-court advantage in potential series against the Spurs or Clippers (maybe others). OKC remains the -300 favorite to win the Northwest Division, with Portland (+280) second.
The big hit came on win totals at NBA odds. Originally the Thunder were at 57.5. That dropped to 53.5 earlier this week and perhaps the sportsbooks are taking heavy under action because it has since dropped to 53. The 'under' is a -120 favorite. Oklahoma City's wins total will be hugely influenced by how much scoring slack Russell Westbrook can pick up. If he gets hurt, and that tends to happen, then the Thunder won't likely sniff 50.
Finally, Durant was slightly behind LeBron James on the MVP prop at sportsbooks, but now James is even money and Durant at +400. Can you vote a guy the MVP if he misses a quarter of the regular season? That injury really opens the door for guys like Blake Griffin (+1200), Chris Paul (+1500), Stephen Curry (+3000) and even Westbrook himself (+3500). If the Thunder are something like 16-4 with Durant out, that will be a huge boost to Westbrook's MVP campaign.
Free NBA picks
'Under' 53 wins, just barely for your NBA picks. Thunder finish close second to Blazers in the Northwest Division. No MVP repeat for Durant (Curry is great value at that price). It's too early to project championships either overall or the West for the Thunder. I expect Durant will have surgery and miss those 20 games or so at least. Then you have to expect the team brings him back slowly. He won't be playing 38 minutes a night right away. Perhaps even getting some back-to-backs off like Westbrook did. Also consider leaning more 'under' totals with Durant out as the Thunder averaged eight points fewer (101.7) per 100 possessions with Durant on the bench last year than they did with him on the court.