Last year’s record: 23-59
Head coach: Scott Brooks
Projected Starters: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Kristic
The Thunder are set for the future, with a starting five filled with young talent that must have Scott Brooks thanking the good lord every morning he wakes up. But for the present, they might be too young to figure into the playoff race. Either way, it will be exciting to watch these guys grow up and progress.
Jay – Shaun Livingston. Some people forget, but Livingston was one of the most gifted young point guards in the league before his gruesome injury. At 6’7″, Livingston reminded a lot of folks of Magic Johnson. I don’t know if I would have ever gone that far, but if Livingston can regain some of his youthful athleticism the Thunder will have a hell of a point guard.
Tommy – Jeff Green. He’s definitely not your normal power forward, but Green could present mismatches for almost any power forward in the game. Just imagine Kevin Love trying to handle Green’s quickness…
TJ – Jeff Green is still a bit of a project at the power forward position; however his continued growth is essential to the success for this stellar young team.
Biggest question mark:
Jay – How quickly does this team progress? I think it’s safe to say that, if this team sticks together, they should be a lethal mix in a few years. But can they do it sooner? With all the speed, quickness, and skill the Thunder possess, I wouldn’t be too surprised. But I don’t expect it. Not yet.
Tommy – Does athleticism trump experience? If it did, the Thunder would be one of the top teams in the league. Unfortunately, experience counts for a lot in the NBA. So the Thunder better grow up, quick.
TJ – Can Kevin Durant become the perennial NBA superstar that the media is making him out to be? Do not get me wrong I love KD, but up to this point he is just a long athletic shooter who can really fill it up. I would not be so fast to compare him to the likes of a LeBron James or Dwayne Wade.
Most compelling storyline:
Jay – Kevin Durant’s climb towards NBA superstardom. With Durant, it isn’t a question of when he will become a superstar, it’s a question of when that day will come. It should be illegal to do half the stuff he can do at 6’10″. I can still outbench him, but I probably couldn’t do this…
Tommy – If you ever played AAU basketball, you’re familiar with teams like the Thunder. Long, athletic teams who often don’t quite play with any semblance of fundamentals.
TJ – The job that general manager Sam Presti has done up to this point is outstanding. If he can use the cap room that he has saved for next summer on a dominant big man like Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire, this team will be title contender within the next three years.
Player to watch:
Jay – James Harden. I love this kid. He reminds me a lot of Paul Pierce, the way he plays slowly and methodically but always seems to get where he needs to go. I expect big things out of Harden, and I expect him to have an instant impact. This kid’s game is far more mature than a normal rookie’s. And, somehow, I went through an entire preview of the Thunder without mentioning Russell Westbrook or Jeff Green. That speaks to the amount of talent on this team.
Tommy – Shaun Livingston and his recovery. Once upon a time, he had the vision of Nash with the height of a small forward. Last year, he played more like a journeyman. This year…?
TJ – Two players you should watch on this team are Russell Westbrook and James Harden. This backcourt can become deadly if the chemistry is there. They both offer a wide variety of skills that could translate into the Thunder becoming the most exciting team in basketball next season.
Jay – 39-43
Tommy – 38-44
TJ – 40-42