NBA / Dec 30, 2009 / 9:30 am

The Thunder Could Be The Team Of The Next Decade

Kevin Durant, Dime #51

In the ’80s, it was all about the “Showtime” Lakers. Then it was MJ’s Bulls that ruled the ’90s, and the Lakers and Spurs took turns dominating the last 10 years. With a new year and a new decade on the horizon, it begs the question:

Who will be the team of the next decade?

The easy answer would be whatever team LeBron is on, or whatever team D-Wade is on. But it’s hard to say that when you don’t even know which teams (or team) that will be.

One franchise that has dynasty potential if they can keep their main core intact is the Oklahoma City Thunder. With a talented young core consisting of superstar-in-the-making, Kevin Durant, along with Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden, the Thunder have the pieces in place to take over this league. In just their second year in Oklahoma City, the ex-Seattle Supersonics are already putting their new city on the NBA map. After last night’s win at Washington, the Thunder are 17-14 and just one game out of the final playoff spot in the West. At this same point last season, the Thunder were just 3-28. You can see how much improvement they’ve made in just a year.

At just 21 years old, Durant has raised his game and his stats in each of his three seasons as a pro. This season, KD is putting up 28.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 3 apg (all career highs). There’s no doubt that he’ll be an All-Star this season and will be a Top-5 player in the League within the next two or three years. Westbrook (16.4 ppg, 6.9 apg) has built on his great rookie season. He’s extremely athletic and his point guard skills continue to improve. His assist numbers have gone up by almost two whole assists per contest, and he dished out a career-high 15 dimes in a game against Philadelphia earlier this month.

Green is one of those versatile players that can play and guard multiple positions. Similar to what Lamar Odom is to Kobe, Green is a good sidekick to Durant. Like I mentioned in an article the other day, Harden is a guy who has so much potential. He’s a good shooter and makes smart plays on the both sides of the court. Once he gets more comfortable with his team and the offense, I could see him growing into the team’s second scoring option. Then you add Oklahoma City’s other young talent like Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefolosha and Byron Mullens, and you have a some pretty good role players.

Fittingly, coach Scott Brooks is also young and getting the crunch-time reps now that will pay off in the future. This is his first head coaching job and he’s done a phenomenal job this season. If Brooks keeps it up, he’ll definitely get Coach of the Year consideration. Even though the odds of a coach lasting with one team for a very long time aren’t exactly promising in today’s NBA, the 44-year-old Brooks could be the exception: Remember that the mastermind behind the Thunder, GM Sam Presti, grew up in the San Antonio Spurs’ organization where he saw the positive results of long-term stability with coach Gregg Popovich.

But even with all that youth, talent and promise on the roster, you can’t guarantee that they will blossom into a championship team, let alone become a dynasty. There are so many factors that could derail that plan, like injuries, bad contracts, and bad trades. People were saying the same thing about the ’96-97 Timberwolves when they had Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. (In case you forgot, Googs was the leading scorer on that squad.) Two years later, Marbury had been traded, Googs was gone, and KG wouldn’t see a championship until he’d left town for Boston.

Then they said that the ’01-02 Clippers with Darius Miles, Lamar Odom, Quentin Richardson, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette would be the team of the decade. Obviously, that didn’t pan out.

Very soon, contract extensions and players seeking greener pastures will become an issue for the Thunder. But if they’re doing this much in their early 20s, imagine how they’ll look three or four years down the line. If they can keep their main core together and add some more solid role players along the way, I don’t see any reason why the Thunder can’t win multiple chips.

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  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    unlikely. are i know deep down (and even on the surface) we all root for the Thunder.

    but they aint gonna be no decade dynasty. they have no bigs. kevin durant is 6’10 and doesnt rebound. james harden and jeff green play the same position—the team will have to move one of them.

    can you really see Scott Brooks coaching this team in a WCF?

    the washington bullets were never a team of the next decade; and they had more talent than this OKC squad (rod strickland, calbert chaney, juwan howard, chris webber, george muresan).

    the new jersey nets never were (sam cassell, kerry kittle, kendal gil, keith van hord, jayson williams) a team of the decade.

    the orlando magic (penny,shaq,nick anderson, dennis scott, horace) never made it.

    point is…such a thing barely exist anymore. every team mostly has a 3yr window, then its “rebuild” mode again; or worse.

    and for the record…
    the ’80s Lakers were the best dynasty team of the decade for any decade!

  • Detroit Dave

    Oklahoma City doesn’t play in front of sell out crowds so that means their profits will be low. After they give Kevin Durant a Max Contract (which he deserves) they will still have to resign Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook the following year and James Harden two years after that. By the time they sign Durant and Green the team will be looking to trim their pay roll. Just like the New Orleans Hornets are trying to do.

  • An

    Correction about the ’96-’97 Wolves. Gugliotta did not get cut. The Wolves offered him a maxed deal, but he didn’t like playing with Marbury, so he signed a $80 mil deal with the Suns. And then Marbury demanded to be traded either to New Jersey or New York. He was on the last year of his rookie deal, so the wolves were stuck. He didn’t want to be second fiddle to KG.

  • Arrogant

    I would say its between them and the blazers… esp if injuries dont hamper them like it is now… Bulls get a solid player in 2010… i would say them

  • gilford22

    @Heckler

    How can Green(who is 6’9) and Harden(who is 6’3 or 6’4) play the same position?

    I think the team of the decade is the Orlando Magic or maybe even the Cavs and Heat depending on what will happen in the free agency this summer.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    @1&2

    OKC has one of the better fan bases in the NBA you idiot. They have had their share of sell-outs and their arena is always jumping. More than Chicago, who is more like a wine and cheese crowd…so embarassing

    and Durant is 6’10 and has been rebounding his ass off this year. He’s had several double doubles. But because he is a SF, he hovers around 7-8 rebounds per game….kinda like LBJ you f^king jagaloon. His PF, C, and PG all rebound very well.

    @DIME,
    yes OKC will be the team of the decade unless Miami manages to get Bosh and Keep Wade. And even still, OKC may be better all around.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    @arrogant,

    I’ve already conceded that the Bulls will be mediocre during Derrick Roses stay here. The management in Chicago isn’t about winning, they are about selling hope. They make a good enough team to get the fans to buy tickets, but then they don’t try to get elite players( KG and Kobe both wanted to get traded here) we just stumbled on Jordan and Pippen. And we didn’t even WANT TO PAY PIPPEN!!! End Dynasty. the whitesox are the only team that was forced to step up and bring in real talent…but since they won the WS, they are back to picking up $h!t players.

  • jdstorm

    @heckler.

    While the thunder don’t have more then project bigs at the moment, thats alright. because the 2010 draft is loaded, and OKC have two picks. their own and an unconditional one from Pheonix.

    that plus some expiring contracts should be enough to fill out a good big man rotation.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @Gilford22—

    jeff green and james harden are both small forwards. james harden is about 6’5 for your information.

    jeff green is 6’8 or 6’9, but he’s only 230lbs or so. PF weight is 250+. and jeff isnt really a two-guard. but since KD is the SF, and you need to find minutes for jeff green, he is forced to play out of position.

    that is why i mentioned the Thunder will have to move one of them more sooner than later.

  • Arrogant

    @chicagorilla The team they have is average… agreed, but they have tried to get prime players… Tmac and kg when they were in their prime. and Kobe was never leaving the Lakers…. if he woulda came we would have still been average @ best. they wanted too much and after the squad he left to be traded would be better than the squad he would be traded too.

    Deng was paid cause he was aborderline all star before he went soft. the Bulls made moves to get under the cap in 2010 so lets see how we do then… i want them to package salmons and get Tmac who hungry as hell to prove Rockets wrong..

  • Ian

    heckler
    didnt the article say if they keep their core together? none of the teams u mentioned did (trades or injuries).

    i have to say if lebron is always in the east they could lose to him in the finals a couple of times in the future.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @chicagorilla–

    jagaloon?

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @jdstorm–

    hopefully they get a decent reliable big.
    they need a big.
    too bad that tyson chandler trade aint work out last season

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @ian–

    if EVERY team keeps their core together, they can be in a conversation for team of the decade

  • Jayo

    How bout we wait till they actually accomplish something like say making the playoffs at least once before we annoint them the next anything.

  • asdf

    @heckler your comment about harden/green just made everyone a little dumber. same with durant not rebounding, check your shit before you post plz. and best dynasty team was jordan’s bulls they could have won more if jordan didn’t decide to play baseball

  • Keith

    I dunno about this. I’m a Thunder fan and even the most one-eyed fan can see that there are some major pieces missing in this team before there is hope for the future

    Ibaka needs to become a massive shot-blocking influence in the paint. At the moment the post defence is the biggest concern. Durant has enough length to keep bigs honest, but Krstic is too weak and Collison too short to really bully anybody. A playoff against the Magic would just be embarassing, watching Howard dominate every night.

    The scoring is there, the teamwork is there too. But the team needs post players badly. They’re not a team like New York or Toronto that live and die by the 3-ball, but I can see them being the new Bulls i.e nice pieces that scream for a low-post threat that never comes

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @ASDF—

    then you tell me. what position does harden lay? what position does green play? and what position does kevin durant play?

    one of them will have to be moved.

    and durant DOESNT rebound the way he should. the guy is 6’10! you telling me its acceptable for a 6’10 guy (dreaming of being an allstar) to average less than 7 boards a game?!!?
    …especially when he is a small forward and being boxed out by only 6’6-6’8 players?!!?

    nah son. I like Kevin Durant too. but homey needs to hit the boards more.

  • http://www.ballers.cz DZ

    @heckler:
    Man, are you doing drugs or something? You just talking bullsh*t. Jeff Green is PF and James Harden is SG and thats how it is, i know that both of them can play SF but that is not their primary position, so shut the f*ck up about trading them. In Boston, KG and Ray Allen can too play SF, but you got Pierce here like Durant in OKC, so you think Ray Ray or Garnett should be traded huh? Stupid.

  • asdf

    @heckler: james harden is a SG, jeff green obviously is not… he is a forward, call him a power or small it doesn’t matter, the point is he’s not a damn SG lol. we shouldn’t even be arguing that.

    but as their team is constructed right now, green is the starting PF and durant the SF. durant avgs more rebounds than green playing the SF position, so if anything you should be criticizing green’s rebounding not durant.

    @keith; i like your points, but not every team needs a DOMINANT post presence to win. solid defense can help compensate for that. i am in no way comparing the thunder to the bulls of the past, but jordan’s bulls did not have a post player, they had perimeter oriented centers, but they were tough inside on defense (ie. rodman) to handle the malone’s kemp’s etc.

  • LoBezn0

    Maybe they just need a good, tough center like Gortat or Haywood so Krstic can move to PF and Green can be the first big off the bench; that or Krstic becomes the first big off the bench.

  • Keith

    asdf – I agree that championship teams don’t need a dominant big man, but you mentioned Rodman, someone who was very capable of pressuring the main opposing bigs. Even Horace Grant was capable of doing that for the Bulls before Rodman. Until the Thunder get the same kind of presence I don’t see them being able to win 7-game playoff series. If Oden is capable of making a full recovery and learning how to not get in foul trouble then I can see the Blazers being more capable of sustaining success.

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    @heckler: Green is 6’9 and is still young enough that we don’t know what he will look like in 4 or 5 years. With the weight training these guys go through Green could end up adding 10 to 15 pounds. I mean look how skinny KG was when he first came into the league. Don’t be surprised if in a couple years Green comes out looking diesel which will help him grab boards from the four spot.

  • Celts Fan

    There’s no chance in hell these guys don’t flee from Redneck Pergatory the first chance they get. Ain’t no one wanna be in OKC, not even people from there.

    @Gerald – the 80′s weren’t all about showtime (although, I’ll grant you that one of htem may’ve been the best team ever.) there was a damn good Celtics team that is, at the very least, an honorable mention.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    team of the next decade might be….The Lakers!

    expect oj mayo to bolt memphis the first chance he gets and to sign with the lakers. he will take less money to be in LA (on a short term contract) and then he’ll re-sign with LA (on his LB rights) for a max contract.

    any of you believe he gonna stay in memphis?
    exactly. not a chance in hell. oj mayo came into the nba looking to be a star and a (quiet) celebrity.

    and the Lakers will need to think about life (one day) after kobe bryant.

    i can bet all your lives oj mayo goes to the lakers.

    oj mayo and andrew bynum will lead the lake show mid-way thru the next decade. we just have no idea who’ll be coaching them…..

    kurt rambis?

  • Celts Fan

    @Heckler – that’s the single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard from you, and that’s saying a lot.

  • asdf

    haha assuming oj mayo to go to the lakers is very bold. i highly doubt a young dude like him would take less money. if you haven’t noticed, the trend is to make money and earn your awards when you’re young, then to take paycuts when you realize you can’t win it yourself. lol you got everything backwards

  • asdf

    @keith that’s why i made sure i stated that i was in no way comparing them to jordan’s bulls lol.

    @big shot great point about the training regimens these dudes get nowadays..

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @CeltsFan–

    be more specific. what are you referring to?
    i say/type/write plenty of dumb shit.
    dont mean it wont be true tho.

  • D.J.

    @ Celts Fan

    Have you ever been to OKC or are you just making an ignorant assumption? Sure, it’s not exactly New York or LA but plenty of players stay in places like Salt Lake City and Milwaukee and neither of those cities is appreciably more “cool” than OKC.

  • rgs

    Celtic Fan: “There’s no chance in hell these guys don’t flee from Redneck Pergatory the first chance they get. Ain’t no one wanna be in OKC, not even people from there.”

    What a stupid, bigoted comment. Do you assume that all of the 6 billion people on the earth share your preferences?

    Durant is on record as saying that he wants to spend his entire career in OKC. Most of the other players are positive about the city as well. They like each other, enjoy playing together, like the team, the city, and the organization. Even the players that have been traded or released are mostly positive about OKC.

    Of course that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes and unexpected trades, but your idea of a mass exodus just doesn’t pass muster. It’s just a narrow minded statement based on outdated sterotypes. It’s a shame you chose to share your ignorance.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    @Heckler

    come on man, you never watched Step Brothers… where is the culture in this world?

  • D.J.

    One more thing about OKC which many do not consider: The cost of living is very low, comparatively speaking. A max deal in New York is worth far less than a max deal in Oklahoma. Intelligent NBA players might consider that when they consider their options.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    the smart ones don’t really care about the nite-life of the cities they play in. They do care about the fans showing up to the games and appreciating the team.

    OKC has suprised me with how much they like basketball. I would love to play in that enviornment day in and day out.

    Its not like players go out daily DURING the season. I’m sure the off-season will be spent in Miami or Cali. Being from Chicago, I wouldn’t even spend the summer here. I’d be bouncing around.

  • JP

    An Intelligent NBA players might consider tumbleweeds and Applebees when choosing not to play for the OKC Zombies.

    Long live the Sonics!

  • rgs

    Tumbleweeds would be more likely in Dallas, San Antonio, or Phoenix. Applebees is everywhere but I’ve never been to one.

    Just another case of uninformed prejudice

  • http://www.gmail.com 2aa

    @ rgs -

    you’re from okc, right? if so, pls go back there as there ain’t no rednecks on this board.

    hope you enjoy your applebee’s.

  • John X

    Yet again, i’m amazed at how fast Dime’s msg boards spiral downward into an infinite abyss of stupidity. Bravo.

  • ndd

    @Heckler

    Your the biggest idiot in the whole damn world. Jeff green and harden play the same position? your an idiot, do u watch any nba bball? True green might not be the perfect fit for the pf over time but in no way are both their natural positions the sf. And why in the hell would the lakers sign oj? thats the most random thing ive ever heard, wheres your proof? back up the stuff you say dude you got a lot of knowledge to gain before you should ever talk about NBA basketball

  • tron solo

    Ah man, people crack me up. I’m from cali, now living in tulsa, ok and wouldn’t change a thing. the seattle sonics would not have came here if they didn’t think highly of okc. They saw the potential in the hornets brief stint here. I believe I read that this season so far okc ranks somewhere in the top 5 in attendance, that may have been wrong, but its nearly always sold out and has been several times, and that’s only having one primetime game. We are excited about our core and can’t wait till we land a solid big man and prove people wrong in the next few years…good article.

  • JP

    @tron solo: “the seattle sonics would not have came here if they didn’t think highly of okc” Really — geez, I wouldn’t have thought that Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon think highly of OKC, imagaine that.

    By the way…The Sonics attendance avg in 06-07 (before the team was sold) was 15,955 [capacity was 17,072]
    Our record that year 31-51.

    This year OKC attendance avg is 17,924 [capacity is 18,203]…Wow, you are bringing nearly 2000 more people to the game…with a brand new franchise that is the only game in town. OKC’s fans are just the best ever!

    You stole the team…you want our championship banner as well…we think highly of OKC, so why not.

    PS: I am just waiting for the Zombies to include former Sonics on their “best ever” list…kinda like Earl Campbell was the best Tennessee Titan ever….BS!

  • Maroussia

    It will be great to watch San Antonio Spurs, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/San_Antonio_Spurs-tickets looking forward to it.