- NBA Rank: 6
Conference Rank: 5
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Good is the enemy of great.Jim Collins
And the window closes...or at least, it gets much smaller, for the Thunder's championship hopes. Last season they topped the West, but an unfortunate injury to Westbrook wasted a historic season from Durant. Now, the Thunder are stuck with a roster that has great players backed by terrible players. They'll still be in the fray, but their chance to be a dynasty team is over.
Meanwhile, their prodigal son James Harden looms in Houston with a budding dynasty of his very own.
In 2012 the Thunder managed to slay giants on the road to the NBA finals. They ended up losing to the Heat, but it was forgivable and predictable.
At the end of that season, the Thunder were coming off an appearance as the youngest ever team in the NBA finals by two years (25.2 for Thunder, 27.1 for the 91 Bulls). And given the age progression of teams, there was every reason to believe they would dominate the next decade.
If you had given me the option I would have bet on OKC owning the NBA over the next five years.
Then, to save about $1 million per year, Sam Presti decided to trade James Harden (Harden would not sign for $14 million and demanded the maximum). In return for Harden, OKC got what amounts to a cup of coffee (unless a miracle occurs and a draft pick morphs into a player as good as.....James Harden). What's really bizarre is that they could have saved the money by amnestying Perkins to stay under the luxury tax. That trade in turn allowed Houston to begin building a possibly young dynasty of their own. That may end up being the apex of the Thunder's journey.
The Thunder had a good season last year, on the back of Kevin Durant playing a season for the ages, and were atop the west. However, an injury to Westbrook showed just how fragile this team really is. Throw in Memphis getting smarter and better, the Clippers pulling an opposite George and the Spurs being the Spurs and somehow the team of the future from 2012 winds up as the projected fifth seed in the West in 2014.
|Kevin Martin ||2136||31||.135||6.0|
|Eric Maynor ||391||26||-.026||-.5|
|Ronnie Brewer ||142||28||.100||1.8|
|Daniel Orton ||104||23||.087||.2|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Durant, Ibaka, Sefolosha, and Westbrook are an amazing core. Sure, you'd rather have Harden than Westbrook, but that's just salt in the wound. The problem the Thunder had was that after those four players they were quite fond of Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher. These two players are terrible. Are we sure Scotty Brooks is a good coach?
Unfortunately if you're going to play two terrible players regularly, you need your core to be healthy and going strong. And as we can see, that was not the case for Westbrook. Regardless, the Thunder do still have some key pieces, so why are we down on them for next season?
|Steven Adams ||5.0||519||20||.038||.4|
|Ryan Gomes ||3.1||391||31||.027||.2|
|Rodney McGruder ||1.0||277||22||.055||.3|
|Andre Roberson ||4.0||190||22||.050||.2|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
The reasons are pretty simple. First, it seems unlikely Durant keeps up last season's play. Yes, he's an amazing player but last season was ridiculous. Next, Westbrook is not likely to be full strength. Finally, the Thunder have some bad players that will still eat a good chunk of minutes. Perkins and Fisher are embodiments of the sunk cost fallacy. Jones and Lamb look poised to cost the Thunder wins. The Thunder did acquire a few new rotation players in the offseason, but we're not expecting anything there. In short, the Thunder have taken a step back.
Playoff Rotation: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher. I'm going to claim that the Thunder, despite having some very tough playoff options, will let the Perkyfish keep them down. Expect another "upset", which may even be with the Thunder as the lower seed.
The Thunder are a very good team. But what's maddening is they could have been great. Yes, they did hit the finals. And it's likely Durant will win an MVP at some point. But this team could have formed an amazing rivalry with the Heat. Durant vs. LeBron could have been this generation's Magic vs. Bird! Instead, pretend the Bulls traded away Pippen, so that Jordan never went on to threepeat. Many will gloss over this because the team will still do well. The Boxscore Geeks know better.
The Second Opinion Arturo pours some salt in the wound
For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost indeed. Two years ago I was convinced that Durant and Harden would own the West in OKC. I am now skeptical that KD can win a title in OKC. Westbrook is a talented but flawed player for that second chair on a title team. Scotty Brooks is too enamored of players that should not be anywhere near his starting rotation. Presti’s record since drafting Harden has been spotty at best.
At this rate, KD will wind up in Houston with his buddy Harden before too long.