Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oklahoma City has title aspirations and a bright future

This year the Thunder had big expectations after showing they were a team on the rise.  They palyed well during the beginning of the season and positioned themselves in the middle of the pack in the playoff race.  It was clear they had caried over their success from last year and improved as a team but they were still considered to be a year or two away from being a true contender.  A mid season trade to acquire Kendrick Perkins has changed all of that, and now if Bynum's ability is affected by his injured knee Oklahoma City could be a scary contender.

The Thunder have been playing great down the stretch and have won some big games.  The addition of Kendrick Perkins and Nazir Muahmmed gives Oklahoma two big seven footers to content with the Lakers' front and it allows Serge Ibaka to play his natural position at the 4.  Kendrick Perkins is known as a big time defender and he is one of the toughest post defenders in the league, something that the Thunder realized they lacked after their loss in the playoffs last season.  He has also been able to shift the mindset of the Thunder and make them a tougher team, his presenece has allowed Ibaka to be a beast on the weakside and he has been swatting balls out of the gym.

Another reason that the thunder are so dangerous is that they have two emerging super stars now that Westbrook has become one of the best guards in the west.  He has an evolving game to go along with his elite athleticism and size for his position.  He has improved on his passing vision and has incorporated a growing scoring attack along with the ability to follow his shots and hit the boards.  He is athletic enough to be a great defender and has very long arms which makes it easier for him to challenge jumpers. The main knock on Westrbook is his shot selection, if he makes some changes he will dominate this post season.

Durant is the piece that makes the thunder a true contedner.  He is a budding superstar and has won the scoring championship two years in a row.  His length and athletic ability make his jumper impossible to block but he neesd to remember not to settle for the long jumper. He sometimes tries to do a little too much for his team but he is one of the top 3 players in the league and is gettin better each year still has a lot to improve.

Another key player is Thabo Sefolosha who is overlooked as one of the best wing defenders because of all the talented more flashy players on the team.  Thabo is a defensive stopper who can match up against the top twos and some threes and give them a tough night.  he doesnt do too much on offense but thats not his job.  He is a perfect role player and glue guy for this team.

The bench has been huge down the stretch led by James Harden. Harden has played great since the all star break and looks to be getting more and more comfortable in the NBA.  He has been much more successful on the offensive end because he has been  driving the ball more lately using his athleticism more and getting to the line instead of settling for long jumpers.

The rest of the bench is just as important, Eric Maynor is a perfect back up for Westbrook, because he can manage a team.  He has a steady jumper and he is great at finding the open man. Nick Collison is one of those role players who are tough competitors and will do the dirty work. Daquean Cook has come on as of late, finally showing signs of regaining his 3 point stroke. Nazir Muhammed has also provided another big 7 foot body to roam the paint.  They still haven't worked Nate Robinson into the rotation yet.

The Thunder also have a lot of talent in the D-league.  They have built a very good farm system to develop players. Latavious Williams has a lot of potential and reminds me of a Thaddeus Young type player. Cole Aldrich is their first rounder from the draft last year.  He averaged over 2 blocks per game in the D-league and played off and on during the season. Byron Mullens is another 7 footer who is improving, averaging 15 points per game and also getting 1 block per game. Robert Vaden is yet another player to show potential as he was brought up for the last few games of the season. All of these players have showed potential to develop into productive players and they are all extremely young. Any player they acquire in this years draft is just a luxury.

Because of the combination of all these factors the Thunder look poised to make a deep run in the 2011 playoffs and should be a mainstay at the top of the western conference for the next 5 years at least.  There is no doubt that their GM Sam Presti has built a power house.

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