3 Teams standing in the way of the Spurs returning to the playoffs this season

Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson
Kyrie Irving, Keldon Johnson / Tim Heitman/GettyImages
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2.) Oklahoma City Thunder

After several seasons of tanking, the Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the surprise teams last season. However, being a surprise team doesn't always translate into more success the following season. Luckily for the Thunder, they have good reason to believe that they will be better than their 42-20 record from last season. First is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who transformed into a superstar in 2022–23.

He will likely enter next season ready to pick up where he left off since he is competing in the World Cup this summer. OKC also has two promising young players, Jaylin Williams and Josh Giddey, both of whom could be in for big seasons. Then there is Chet Holmgren, the second pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. Holmgren missed all of last season but is expected to give Wembanyama a run for his money in the Rookie of the Year race.

A young superstar, at least a couple of young players ready to make a big leap, and a Rookie of the Year candidate should put them in the 45-win range. That may result in them being the seventh-best team in the West and possibly the Spurs' play-in opponent. The Spurs can control their own destiny some with four games against the Thunder, with both teams likely to finish within a few games of each other in the standings. A strong showing in those games could help San Antonio come April.

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