The 2023 NBA All-Star break has passed, so all attention is now on the final months of the regular season. Some organizations made moves to take them to the next level while others were a bit quieter.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fall under that latter group, making two small deals at the February 9th trade deadline.

The Thunder is 28-29 and No. 10 in the Western Conference. As of now, the team would have the last spot in the Play-In Tournament. Most notably, OKC is ahead of teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder is just one-and-a-half games behind the No. 6 seed but just half game ahead of No. 11.

Once projected to finish at the bottom of the standings, OKC has a real shot at making it to the postseason. For that to happen, the team must have a strong final stretch of the regular season.

With that being said, here are three bold predictions for the Oklahoma City Thunder following the 2023 NBA All-Star break.

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3. OKC misses Mike Muscala’s shooting

One of the trades the Thunder completed at the deadline was sending Mike Muscala to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Justin Jackson, who was immediately waived, and two second-round picks.

In 43 games with Oklahoma City this season, Muscala averaged 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds. Most importantly, he shot 39.4% from beyond the arc on 3.3 attempts a night. The veteran played an important role in the team’s efficiency from the three-point line. Currently, OKC is No. 11 in the league as it hits 36.4% of its tries from deep.

The problem is that Muscala was one of the best shooters on the roster. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, the team’s top scorers, are below-average three-point shooters. SGA makes 34.3% on 2.6 attempts, averaging less than one made triple per contest. Giddey is hitting 31.6% on three attempts and also making less than one long ball per game.

Without Muscala, fans should expect some struggles beyond the arc from the Thunder. Expect Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey to up their volume from three after the All-Star break in hopes of keeping the floor spread. Based solely on the their numbers, that change might not reflect an immediate improvement in terms of accuracy. However, if Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey take even subtle strides as shooters, OKC could potentially remain top-15 in three-point shooting.

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2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues his breakout year, earns All-NBA honors

It is no secret that OKC’s surprising season has come on the back of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The fifth-year guard is having a breakout season, which included the first All-Star selection of his career.

He is averaging 30.8 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds plus 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks a night. Gilgeous-Alexander is shooting 50.8% from the field and 91.2% from the free-throw line. Most of those numbers represent career-bests.

With franchises such as the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers getting better with the additions of Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell, respectively, things will get tougher for the Thunder in the West. Because of that, the team will need the best version of SGA possible.

The bold prediction is that Gilgeous-Alexander will continue his strong season, especially now that some notable opponents have leveled up for the season’s stretch run. He will certainly remain OKC’s main weapon, helping the organization in its quest to make it to the postseason. If Gilgeous-Alexander continues playing at a high level, it would not be a surprise if he earns his first All-NBA honor.

1. Thunder make the Play-In Tournament

After such a surprising first half of the season, it seems Oklahoma City’s ultimate goal is to make it to the postseason. However, with West foes such as the Mavericks and Lakers getting more help, things should not be easy.

Luckily for OKC, the team might have an easier path to close out the season. The Thunder has the fifth-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, according to Tankathon. For comparison, the No. 11 seed Utah Jazz has the 21st-toughest schedule while the No. 12 Portland Trail Blazers have the 14th-toughest.

Because of that, the Thunder could have an advantage over its main opponents for the final postseason spots in the Western Conference. The team could play .500 basketball for the season’s duration, which could come in handy down the line.

All things considered, the postseason battle should come down to a wire. Still, the bold prediction is that the Thunder will manage to finish the regular season strong and stay in the Play-In Tournament zone, setting up Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and company for what’s likely to be the first of many postseason appearances to come.