Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010-2011 Oklahoma City Thunder

Everybody knows that Kevin Durant is the truth. And it would be so easy to pawn off the Thunder as the Oklahoma City Durants (a la the Cleveland LeBrons), but Russell Westbrook is the key cog to throwing these guys over the top. KD hits buckets from anywhere, everywhere, and otherwhere, but it's Westbrook's insane athleticism and attacking ability that actually makes teams not quintuple-team Durant on every single possession. That second dimension of the Thunder's offensive attack is why the front office was content of adding cheap, smaller pieces while basically standing pat with their rotation from last season to this one. Why spend seven figures on David Lee or dismantle your team for an Al Jefferson trade when your entire roster is impeccably young and only getting extraordinarily better?

2010-2011 Oklahoma City Thunder

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook/Eric Maynor/Royal Ivey
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha/James Harden/Daequan Cook
Small Forward: Kevin Durant/Morris Peterson
Power Forward: Jeff Green/Nick Collison/D.J. White
Center: Nenad Krstic/Serge Ibaka/Byron Mullens/Cole Aldrich

But we'll still start with Kevin anyways. Durant will be the unquestioned best player in the game in three years. His scoring will only go up and up because his jump shot accuracy, ridiculous range, blow-by ability, and finishing capabilities are getting better by the day. In the way that Kobe managed to score 35 a night on an alright Laker squad pre-Pau, Durant has the capability to put up 38.5 a night on a championship contender. Effortlessly. It's disgusting. Durant'll prolly put up 32 or 33 this upcoming season. His efficiency is unheard of for a perimeter volume shooter and that's why he's able to literally take any and every shot he wants and his teammates continue to know that it was probably the best option. My stupid comparison I like to make is that he's somewhere halfway in-between George Gervin and Larry Bird. But if you think enough about it, it's not stupid at all. Praise my genius.

One of the minor tweaks the Thunder made this season was bringing in two additional shooters in Daequan Cook and Morris Peterson. I don't know how much Peterson has in the tank besides being a high-character veteran, but I definitely believe in the longball proficiency of Cook for the future. There was a stretch in '09 with the Heat where Cook was entrusted with taking every essential 3-pointer in crunch time, which he quite often delivered on. He obviously needs to work out the kinks in his floor game and decision-making, but when you got KD or Westbrook drawing all the attention ... just spot up. It better be automatic at that point. Add that to James Harden's guaranteed improvement and Jeff Green's occasional jumper and you've got some nice options lined up.

The frontline is where the Thunder really lack since Nenad Krstic is only half the player he was when paired with Jason Kidd on the Nets. Serge Ibaka is a promising energy guy whose greatest skill is apparently blocking Pau Gasol, but he definitely needs another dimension to his game before he's a consistent difference maker. Nick Collison wishes he was Kevin Love, but he's just a stiff who boxes out well (but not as good as Love) and can hit a midrange set shot (but not as good as Love). I don't see Mullens or Aldrich seeing the floor or being productive any time soon, so the Thunder's best bet is going with an unconventional line-up and living with either Green or Durant always at the 4 ... which they're perfectly content to doing. I don't know how they plan on adding more talent since the front office is generally opposed to impact trades and they'll no longer have high draft picks, but I still get the feeling that Durant needs one more All-Star level sidekick before they're taken 100% seriously. But I obviously think highly enough of the current roster constitution since I have them jumping from the 8th to the 3rd seed in the West and eventually having their rematch with the Lakers in the Conference Finals. These guys are good. They aren't even in the top half of the league in terms of overall talent, but what they do have is a super-superstar (do I really need to say who?), a freakish sidekick (Westbrook), defenders (Sefolosha, Harden, Ibaka), shooters (Cook, Peterson, Harden), and rebounders (Green, Collison). Sounds like a ball club to me.

Regular Season: 56-26
Playoffs: Eliminated in Western Conference Finals

... and do the John Wall.

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