NBA / Oct 19, 2010 / 6:00 pm

Oklahoma City Thunder 2010-11 NBA Season Preview

Russell Westbrook (photo. Jeff Forney)

Russell Westbrook (photo. Jeff Forney)

As the NBA regular season approaches, we preview the upcoming campaign with the “Highs and Lows” system — predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team.

Added: Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Morris Peterson

Lost: Etan Thomas, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Ollie

Ceiling: Western Conference Finals
It’s easy to see why so many people are so high on the Thunder, and a lot of it has to do with Kevin Durant. He is the MVP front-runner, a safe bet to lead the League in scoring again, and has that scary combination of limitless potential and already-elite production. Durant (30.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg) has committed to improving his defense and playmaking, but he knows his role: This team only goes as far as his ratchet can carry them … After KD, Russell Westbrook (16.1 ppg, 8.0 apg) had a breakout summer with Team USA and is now considered one of the 10 best point guards in the League, and Jeff Green (15.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) rounds out OKC’s version of a “Big Three” … The Thunder had two significant areas of need going into the summer, and took care of both: Trading for Daequan Cook and Mo Pete to get some pure shooters on the roster, and getting Cole Aldrich on draft night to bolster the front line. Not to mention the continued development of James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens helps address the shooting and size concerns. And while a lot was made about OKC’s front line because their season was ended by a Pau Gasol tip-in, the Thunder actually weren’t a bad rebounding team; they finished sixth in rebounding differential … The Thunder’s appeal as a title-contending dark horse was born during last year’s playoffs, when they stretched the Lakers to six games in the first round. And OKC’s chances look even greater now that the West no longer has a clear-cut, second-best team. The Nuggets, Mavs, Spurs, Rockets, Jazz and Suns could just as easily lose in Round 1 as they could advance a couple rounds. The Thunder are in position to take advantage of a weakened field and make a power move in the West.

Basement: 8th seed, Western Conference
At the same time, the basketball world may need a collective dose of Settle Down when it comes to the Thunder. Durant is going to get his 27-30 points a night for the next decade, and his teams will always be dangerous. But we’re still talking about a defending 8th-seed without a true power forward or proven low-post scorer in the rotation, and a point guard with an shaky jumper. Could Durant, Westbrook and Green lead the Thunder to a 2-seed and the conference finals? Sure. Could they also fall behind the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs, Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz and Blazers in the standings and go into the postseason as an 8th-seed again? Absolutely … Of the 2010 playoff teams, only the Bobcats and Jazz averaged more turnovers per game than the Thunder. Westbrook is a year older and is still learning how to be a true point guard, and Durant also needs to cut down on the turnovers he commits when he tries to do too much offensively … Green puts up numbers, but he’s prone to disappear for long stretches, particularly in big games. For half of the Thunder/Lakers series, Jeff was playing like Tom Green … The core group is talented and plays together, but the bench/role players consist of too many specialists or players with holes in their game. Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha are all-defense, no-offense. Nenad Krstic, Cook and Mo Pete are all-offense, no-defense. Aldrich, Harden and Eric Maynor are still learning the pro game. And even with his Coach of the Year trophy in hand, Scott Brooks is still making his was as an NBA coach. In a seven-game series against Jerry Sloan, Rick Adelman, Nate McMillan, George Karl, Rick Carlisle, Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson, do you put your money on Brooks to walk away from that fire alive?

*** *** ***

10/19 — Detroit Pistons
10/15 — Golden State Warriors
10/12 — Chicago Bulls
10/12 — San Antonio Spurs
10/5 — Toronto Raptors
10/1 — Sacramento Kings
9/28 — Atlanta Hawks
9/27 — Portland Trail Blazers

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  • Shot In Your Face

    No way is the basement 8th seed in the WC. 4th seed is their basement behind the Lakers, Dallas, and possibly the Jazz/Nuggets.

  • Stunnaboy2K11

    @Shot In Your Face

    Unless Green grows 2 inches they may very well fall to 6/7th seed. LA, Dallas, Jazz, Portland, Nuggets, Spurs and MAYBE Rockets.

    It all depends on Westbrook and Green to me.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    The basement is out of the playoffs, but just barely.

  • Joe’s Momma

    These boys are a low post option away from being in that first tier in the West. And the only teams in that tier are the Lakers and the Lakers.

    They scrap on defense, have a a glut of wings who can defend and shoot, a bunch of bigs who can bang, and a couple of guys who are pretty much impossible to guard.

    If Harden can prove he was worthy of being a #3 pick, he should be a sixth man of the year candidate in his second year. I would expect him to handle the ball a little more this coming year. Imagine if they went Curry instead?

    The coaching there is phenomenal, the players are young and coachable. The only bad thing I can say about the Thunder is how bad they shafted Seatle. But the product on the court is pretty fun to watch.

  • IGP

    Tom Green actually has a nice jumper and get rebound well.

  • RC

    Russell Westbrook is a beast. Pure speed and power game for a point guard. Durant is a pure scorer plus he has not even reached his peak. I really like watching this team play.

  • neoy

    @Joe Mama- i used to always think what happens if Thunder drafted Curry too, Westbrook would be the 2… and that team would be so fun to watch.

    but all seriousness, I think thunder should end up around 4-5th seed, HOWEVER if one of their main guys get hurt by injury. They might even sink out of the playoffs.

    Thunders are going to have many more hard games this yr, the scouting reports finally came in

  • Balanced thoughts!

    Jeff Green carries those “intangibles” that other players cannot obtain (rather it takes years to develop), it’s sad people are screaming he “disappears in stretches” yet, he understands his role and effectively contributes night in and night out!

  • dan

    man i just wanna say i LOVE seeing LA cats like westbrook and derozan rocking UNDFTD t’s. that’s my shit right there.

    jeff green rocks ‘intangibles’ like ‘not scoring efficiently’ and ‘not rebounding tough’ and ‘not stopping pau gasol, ron artest, al jefferson, david lee, or blake griffin ever no chance.’ dude’s not a chump, but come on, he’s not a part of the ‘big 3.’ he’s 7th man. Start Ibaka at PF, Harden 6th man.

  • Balanced thoughts

    Has blake played a game yet?….next question!

    David Lee? he’s the same mold as a jeff green but just a different pigment…lol!

    Al Jefferson is seriously injury prone

    Jeff Green knows his role as a team player who produces on the daily he does the dirty work, in which he doesn’t get credit for, but hey he’ll stay out of the spotlight and will continue to produce on the regular!

    Seriously 7th man? Ibaka is just the basic “euro” type of player who is more finesse and doesn’t bang like on the board, Paul Gasol is still soft for a seven footer! Ron Artest is by far the bi-polar athlete in the NBA!