Oklahoma City Thunder Want to Seize the Moment
The Thunder had the scenario set up perfectly for them to succeed in 2012-2013. F Kevin Durant and G Russell Westbrook were back and hungrier than ever, coming off a five-game loss in the 2012 NBA Finals at the hands of the Miami Heat. Additionally, the duo was able to experience the highest of highs by dismantling the rest of the world’s competition in the Olympics along with the rest of the best players in the NBA following the summer. Everything was lined up for the Thunder to dominate the West – which they did, and get back to the Finals. There, they would either exact revenge against the Heat, or knock off whoever they eventually faced.
Then Westbrook injured his knee early in the 1st Round of the 2013 Playoffs, and the train gradually flew off the tracks, leading to a loss in the Western Conference Semifinals at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder are another team that are built to win right now. The caveat with this team is that the core of talent is both young and signed for multiple years, under the salary cap. In other words, the Thunder are in pretty good shape, despite no one being naïve enough to think that any team can just be written into the Finals (ask last season’s Los Angeles Lakers). They know they are in good shape, but they are hungry to capitalize on their place in the NBA pecking order. In order to do so, the Thunder are going to have to compensate for the loss of James Harden’s toughness (for all of the scoring ability of Kevin Martin, he does not bring the element of toughness that Harden brought – which was the key reason why the Thunder were able to ultimately blow past all of their competition in the Western Conference during the 2012 Playoffs). With Martin, the Thunder faded horribly; although the fade was exacerbated by the loss of Westbrook.
With Serge Ibaka also signed long-term, the Thunder are comfortably centered around the troika of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka for years to come. One glaring weakness is consistent interior scoring from the pivot. Ibaka has not quite developed a post game, Kendrick Perkins is not the answer, and Nick Collison is on the wrong side of 30, and is generally too slow to be a consistent threat inside – preferring to play defense and hustle. Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb are good wing options down the line, but with the Thunder’s immediate desire to win (while maintaining long-term viability), they are going to have to make decisions regarding Kendrick Perkins. Do they amnesty him? Do they trade him to a team who may value what he brings (limited offense, good defense and rebounding)? Will Hasheem Thabeet ever be worthwhile in the NBA? Do they re-sign unrestricted free agent Kevin Martin?
GM Sam Presti worked magic, and the Thunder are one of the rare 60-win teams that finagle a lottery pick in the draft (Oklahoma City drafts 12th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft). They also have the 29th pick in the draft. They will need it. Their weak spot is clearly interior scoring. The Thunder have every other base covered. They will likely not win a title without go-to scoring in the post, no matter the theatrics provided by Durant and Westbrook.
” It Is Only A Game, Until You Bet It “