Saturday, January 30, 2010
NBA's Future Forecast: Looks like Thunder
Back in the day, which was a Wednesday by the way, me and my roommates used to discuss for hours upon hours upon more hours about the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Hell, we even threw in some Tennis and Soccer when the occasion presented itself. One thing we always focused on was the future of certain teams and certain players we loved to watch and loved to debate about. I remember endless nights where my roommates Fraz, Fitz, Ricky, and I constantly debated who would go where in free agency, what teams had enough to make a run in the end, and even which celeb athletes would wind up in the oddest situations in the celebrity limelight (See.Kardashian-Odom, Khloe).
Back when I was up at school, we had endless discussions about Kevin Durant, and whether or not he would be the superstar that Fitz and I thought he would be. We heard all the criticisms: He's too skinny, he can't rebound in the NBA, will his jump shot translate when he only shot 30% from three in college? and even the ridiculous notion that some analysts had him being nothing more than a bench player in the league someday. I wonder how those idiots feel now.
I don't mean to toot my own horn. Actually yes I do, what am I talking about....but I knew this would happen with Kevin Durant. Mr. Durant is enjoying an MVP-like season of the likes in which we haven't seen a youngster do since....Jordan? In his last 30 games, Durant has scored 30 points in TWENTY of those games including a stretch of 8 games in a row of 30 or more points. Not only is he scoring, he is doing it efficiently. He's averaging 49% shooting, 38% from three point line, and 88% from the free throw line. Oh, and about him rebounding in the NBA...he's averaging 7.5 a game from the small forward position. Did I mention he JUST turned 21 in September. Oh My God. We could be witnessing the next greatest player in that line of players who changed the game: Magic/Bird/Jordan/Lebron/Durant.
I finagled with the idea of writing a Durant vs. Lebron blog months ago before the season even started because in my honest opinion, I feel like Durant is going to have a more successful career then Lebron will. Think about it logically...
Durant is in Oklahoma City. Not exactly the limelight. Lebron will always be compared to Jordan and he won't be good enough until he wins 6 rings, whereas no one is expecting anything from Durant. There is much less pressure on Durant to win and win now. Lebron is always going to play with scrub-ass (yeah I just made that up) players in his supporting cast because they have a GM with his head somewhere where it shouldn't be. Danny Ferry makes moves like, "Hey let's sign Shaq for 10 million a year when he'll clog the lane and take up space from Lebron, considering our whole offense has two plays in which Lebron just goes 1 on 1 the whole time." Or you hear Mike Brown on the sidelines (wait a second, no you don't because he doesn't actually do anything) screaming at his supporting cast that HE assembled. God forbid they saved the Shaq cap space and signed, I don't know, Jamal Crawford who is averaging 16 a game off the bench for Atlanta.
Let's continue with Durant's dream situation that he's in. He has a GM in Sam Presti that knows how to push all the right buttons at the right time. He doesn't panic and go spend 75 million on Charlie Villanueva or Ben Gordon, drafts the right players like Jeff Green, James Harden, and Russel Westbrook, and he actually understands quality role players that he can get for cheap in order to fill gaps and contribute quietly: Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic. They have a nucleus that consists of the starting five of Westbrook (most underrated PG in the NBA), Thabo Sefolosha (solid defender, role player), Durant (ahead of his time superstar), Jeff Green (Al-Horford clone but a little skinnier), and Nenad Krstic (underrated Big man), with bench players including James Harden (star in-the-making), Eric Maynor (great backup PG), and Nick Collison (solid rebounder).
Just look at that roster. Combine that with the fact that the Thunder are STILL 13 million UNDER the salary cap. I just got the chills. Can you tell I'm obsessed with this team? Let's take that 13 million and add 3 million to it for expiring contracts and roster moves at the end of the year, and the Oklahoma City Thunder have 16 million to throw around at that coveted free agent class. My lord, could you imagine if they landed Amare Stoudemire, or (gulp) Chris Bosh. Let's break this down into 4 scenarios which all could realistically happen...
Scenario 1: Thunder add Chris Bosh and a lower level guard like, let's say, Rip Hamilton. This gives you a starting five of: Westbrook, Hamilton, Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Bosh. Bench: Harden, Sefolosha, Krstic, Maynor. The Thunder lose a little bit of defense in their starting 5 but gain a knock down shooter in Hamilton and a low post presence that they don't currently have. As well as someone to bang bodies with the Duncans, Bynums, and Yao's of the Western Conference.
Scenario 2: Thunder add Carlos Boozer and Raja Bell. Starting Five: Westbrook, Bell, Durant, Green, Boozer. Bench: Harden, Sefolosha, Krstic. Not as flashy of a move as everyone would expect, but that's how OKC works. Strictly a defense move and a low post presence move.
Scenario 3: Thunder add Tyson Chandler. S-5: Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Chandler. Finally gives the Thunder a legitimate center to defend the West centers and rebound the ball. Allowing Durant to get out on fastbreaks and easier buckets in transition.
Scenario 4: I hope your ready....Thunder add Chris Bosh and Jamal Crawford. Oh Jesus. Starting 5: Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Bosh. Bench: Jamal Crawford, Harden, and Krstic. This would be the ideal situation for the Thunder. They get Bosh, the interior presence they need. Meanwhile they're getting the hottest bench player in the league, and someone who is currently averaging 16 a game. This gives them a scorer off the bench to grow along with Harden and to handle the scoring while Durant is out or out of the play.
I'm absolutely giddy over the future of this team. I don't have a favorite team in the NBA, but the Thunder might have to be them. This team with one or two simple acquisitions could be on top of the league for the next decade. Will we be looking back on the decade in 2020 and debating whether or not OKC was the team of the decade? Will Durant be the next one to bust the door in on the NBA like Jordan did in the late 80s and early 90s? Whatever happens, I'm forecasting the future of the NBA with plenty of Thunder.