Monday, October 1, 2012

Season Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

A team has never been so close from a title, yet so far away.  The young Oklahoma City Thunder team made their first Finals appearance in the shortened lock out season but failed to overcome the Miami Heat.  Last year, the Thunder won 47 games in the shortened season, good for third in the entire league.  Despite James Harden going missing during the playoffs, the Thunder succeeded compared to most talking heads expectations but If you asked the Thunder, they felted the season was a disappointment.  No NBA champion has succeeded right away; every superstar must suffer losing before understanding what it takes to achieve the ultimate goal.

James Harden

Without question, James Harden performed poorly in the playoffs for the Thunder last year.  Despite his awful play, the Thunder advanced to the Finals but were no match without their third musketeer.   James Harden will eventually make or break their title hopes.  Having improved each of his first three years and a contact extension looming in the background, expect this season to make or break James Hardens future, whether that be a long time 6th man or eventually a high paid superstar.

Perry Jones III

This rookie slipped all the way down to the end of the first round.  Injury concerns scared a lot of the teams drafting before the Thunder.  This was the best news for the Thunder who could use more big wing players, especially in a league that is moving towards the SF position being the best.  Perry will come in with low expectations having being drafted so late but this kid can play.  Long and lanky with the ability to score and rebound is exactly what they need, especially if James Harden disappears during the playoffs this year.

Kendrick Perkins

With the acquisition in Los Angeles, Kendrick Perkins now becomes the most important player if the Lakers and Thunder meet in the playoffs, which most people think will happen in the Western Conference Finals.  As I wrote previously, Kendrick Perkins is the best defender against Dwight Howard. (Superman's Kryptonite)  Perkins will need to slow the big man down and take him out of the game in order for the Thunder to overcome the Lakers to advance to their second NBA Finals.

I didn't mention the leaders of this team, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook for a reason, we know what they can and will do.  I expect the Thunder to make it to the Western Conference Finals again.  Anything less will be seen as a failure by most, and rightfully so.  This young core needs to continue to gain experience in order to achieve the pinnacle of professional basketball.  This team is good enough to tackle 60 wins while earning a top tier seed for the playoff race.  Beating Los Angeles or Miami remains to be seen. 


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