I read this the other day and thought that it was an interesting read aside from hearing about Miami.
If you haven’t heard, one NBA team has really made a splash this offseason by locking down its franchise superstar, making the right moves, and filling out its roster with productive role players.
Thankfully, for your reading pleasure, I’m not referring to the Miami Heat.
No, not “Miami Thrice” nor “LeBroshAde” nor “DLC and the Sunshine Band” or whatever convoluted nickname the “Three Kings” go by.
But rather the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On the heels of a surprisingly progressive ‘09-‘10 campaign that included one of the more entertaining and lively playoff series’ of the spring, the team finds itself in an advantageous position where the sky is the limit as it storms into the upcoming season with a monsoon of potential.
Weather metaphors are underrated.
2010 Coach of the Year Scott Brooks has plenty to work with as the team prepares itself to make a serious run at Western Conference supremacy.
Let’s take a look at the team which my early pick for Executive of the Year Sam Presti has carefully assembled, starting with none other than the humblest, quietest superstar you’ll ever come across.
First of all, bravo to both Presti and Kevin Durant for taking the high road with Durant’s extension and coming out of what certainly could have been a long, ugly process of contract talks smelling like roses.
The Thunder knew exactly what they wanted (which was to lock down the NBA’s premier emerging star long term) and KD knew exactly what he wanted (which was to get his deal done and not cause a mass hysteria for three weeks).
No summits, no cross-country tours, no one-hour decision specials, no neck beards.
They met, they got it done, they announced it on Twitter, and that was it.
Granted, The Durantula wasn’t a free agent so it naturally would have been a less publicized process anyway, but I’m having a hard time picturing Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook ascending from the bowels of the Ford Center to a stage surrounded by fans and busting out some ridiculous dance moves.
And that’s why this team will work.
Not one player on the Thunder has an ego that could even stand in the shadows cast by the Heat brigade’s self-admiration.
In all likelihood, the soon-to-be-22-year-old Durant will continue his aggressive development by improving on his already stunning totals of 30.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.8 APG which earned him second-place honors in MVP voting behind Benedict Arnold.
The scary thing is, he’s going to keep getting better year after year.
Right behind KD are Westbrook and Green, who at 21 and 23, respectively, are both shaping up into very capable NBA starters and potential All-Stars.
With both expected to stick around for years to come, the real “Big Three” might reside in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook, the third-year guard from UCLA, improved on his impressive rookie season by inserting himself into the “great young point guard” conversation by scorching Derek Fisher and the Lakers for six games in the playoffs.
Much like Boston’s Rajon Rondo, one key area that Russell is determined to improve on is his shooting touch. His field goal percentage rose last year, but it isn’t quite where it needs to be yet. But his nearly 48% shooting in the Los Angeles series shows that he is capable of putting it in the basket, so expect this aspect of his game to be less of a concern this season than it has been in the past.
Georgetown alum Jeff Green, while his numbers were slightly down last season, figures to be the productive big wingman that will complement Durant’s projected 52.8 PPG with about 18-20 of his own, along with some increased rebound numbers.
Alright, I might be shooting a little high with KD’s projected scoring output, but like I said before – this kid’s potential is unlimited.
This brings us to the wildcard of ’10-’11.
In his rookie season, Harden added ten points off the bench.
He can shoot threes, is solid at the line, and plays defense.
But how much more will he contribute next season?
Harden and Sefolosha will undoubtedly be competing for a spot in the starting lineup by the time the season tips off, especially given his solid Summer League play so far. Through four games, the former Arizona State standout has averaged 17.5 PPG.
If his minutes per game increase, which they will, his numbers will certainly follow.
To say that Harden will be the starting shooting guard by the start of the New Year is as bold a statement as saying that Kim Kardashian will move on another professional athlete after she breaks Miles Austin’s heart.
Heading into the offseason, a main concern for Oklahoma City was its size. Despite leading the NBA in block per game last season, shoring up the interior was a clear necessity.
That, along with grabbing a shooter to come off the bench, was marked as priority before the draft.
What did Presti do?
Well, for starters he traded the 32nd overall pick for the 18th pick and Daequan Cook, a career 36% three-point shooter.
The Thunder then sent No. 21 pick Craig Brackins and No. 26 pick Quincy Pondexter to New Orleans for No. 11 pick former Kansas star center Cole Aldrich and veteran Morris Peterson, a career 37% three-point shooter.
Both will contribute heavily, and Aldrich has a chance to be a star in this league in the short term.
On draft day, the Thunder also landed 7-1 German center Tibor Pleiss and 6-8 forward LaTavious Williams, who made history by being the first player drafted who opted to play in the D-League without playing college basketball.
Good things are happening in Oklahoma City.
And it isn’t as nauseating to hear about as the good things that are happening in the talent-rich South Beach.
Look for the Thunder to storm the Western Conference in ’10-’11 and make some rumblings with their heads held high but humbly.
And like I said earlier, weather metaphors are underrated, just like this team.