The future is here and the future is now. There is no more denying that the Oklahoma City Thunder have elevated themselves to the best team in the NBA. Last season, they experienced more growing pains in the playoffs. Not to be denied though, they reached the Western Conference Finals to battle the eventual NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks.
Destiny and the growing pains of a great, but young team held them back last year.
This core has played together for two seasons now and amassed a 12-9 record together in the playoffs, both times exiting to the eventual champs. That is a feat rare in itself. Young teams do not come together that quick, including the great Michael Jordan Bulls teams.
That was last year and the reality of the matter is that it took this Thunder team only two seasons to gell and become a championship threat. They built through the draft, starting in 2007 when they landed a two-time NBA Scoring Champ and filled the rest of the core over the past three years by drafting current and future All-Stars.
The beauty is in roster balance, the character and chemistry they play with.
They have a top-five NBA player in Kevin Durant. He is going to light-up scoreboards over the next decade and carry this team. What makes Durant so special is that there is no player in the NBA like him. He stands nearly seven-feet tall with an enormous wingspan (7’5”). He has the best shooting stroke in the league and is also the best at getting to the free-throw line, a lethal scoring combination.
Russell Westbrook is a budding superstar in his own right. His combination of size, strength and explosiveness is unmatched. Year after year he proves to be the most complete guard in the game, averaging nearly 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and over a steal a game for his career. If he continues to make strides in his game, Westbrook may surpass the incumbent superstar, Durant, as the face of the team.
With multiple All-Stars on the roster, the Thunder need to add the right types of role players around them. Harden and Ibaka have proven to be some of the best role players in the game. The glue is James Harden; he can do everything well and gives the team whatever is asked of him on any given night…including being the third-best player on both ends of the floor. Serge Ibaka is an enforcer down low. When you bring the ball in his paint, you will be denied.
The rest of the roster is filled with great complimentary players who know their role and do not demand money or attention. Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook all know their roles and play them well.
The only thing holding the Thunder back now is destiny. The growing pains are over.
What do you think? Who has the brightest future?
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