Here's Why The Oklahoma City Thunder Will Still Contend For The Title This Season

The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered a big blow in the offseason when Kevin Durant left to sign with the Warriors, causing many to write OKC off as contenders in 2017. However, with Russell Westbrook locked up for the next few years thanks to a recent extension, the new-look Thunder are primed and ready to be one of the best team in the league again. Here are three reasons why they'll contend for the championship next season:

3) Improved supporting cast

OKC's role players started to step up late last season, and with a few offseason additions, the Thunder have the best overall supporting cast they've ever had. Center Steven Adams broke out in the postseason and should be a rebounding/defensive star this year, and his emergence allowed them to trade Serge Ibaka - who has been getting worse every year since the Thunder's 2012 Finals appearance - in exchange for Victor Oladipo (who will start at shooting guard) and first-round pick Domantas Sabonis. Both of them are young players with immense potential and can make plays on both ends of the floor.

Plus, Andre Robeson and Enes Kanter both grew as all-around players in the playoffs. As long as no one takes a step back next season, Oklahoma City will have a very formidable lineup and a quality bench unit.

2) Russell Westbrook's dominance

All that being said, Russell Westbrook will determine how far this team goes. He is now THE guy after Durant's departure, and he's more than ready to take the keys to the care and drive it as fast as it can go. We know how dominant he was last year even with Durant on the team (23.5 ppg, 10.4 apg, 7.8 rpg), and we all remember the insane triple-double spree he went on when KD missed most of the 2014-15 season - which is why he's the preseason favorite to win the MVP this year. Westbrook simply won't let Oklahoma City fall too far off the pace.

1) Added motivation

For all the talent the Thunder have, they are going to play at another level this year to prove the doubters wrong. They have been written off by everyone since losing Durant, and Oklahoma City is ready to prove that he wasn't the reason for their success. The Western Conference is thought to be a one-team race - but the Thunder are more than determined to make their voice be heard.

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Related Topics: Andre Roberson, Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Russell Westbrook, Thunder News, NBA News, Enes Kanter