HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Remarkable is the only word we can think of to describe the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the past 14 months.
Now we don’t mind pointing out that we were ahead of the curve in predicting big things for the Thunder this season, just check our midsummer rankings and see if we weren’t dead on in our assessment of this crew when we ranked them behind the Lakers in the Western Conference food chain.
Fine, if you don’t wanna go back and see what we said in July we’ll do the work for you:
2 — Oklahoma City
Last season: 50-32
The Skinny: You think this is too big of a jump for a team was the 8th seed last season, don’t you? Well, too bad. If you’re not ready to drink the Thunder Kool-Aid we’ll handle it for you. As long as Kevin Durant is healthy and Russell Westbrook continues to evolve into one of the league’s elite point guards, the Thunder will be a force. Last season’s breakthrough season was just the appetizer. Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha are quality players at their positions, on both ends of the floor, and Nenad Krstic has Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and rookie Cole Aldrich helping him out down low. James Harden had a solid rookie season and could challenge for a more prominent role this season. But even if he doesn’t push for a starting spot he’s already a huge part of a Thunder second unit that has been upgraded tremendously from where it was this time a year ago. Eric Maynor could start of plenty of teams at point guard and Daequan Cook gives them a distance shooter with fantastic size and solid experience, having played with Wade in Miami the past three seasons. Of course, everything here starts with Durant, who signed a five-year extension this summer. The Thunder will be among the West’s elite for as long as he is in uniform.
The one thing we left out of the mix is a fan base that rivals any in the NBA.
Seriously, the Thunder will enjoy a home court advantage this season that few teams on the professional level will ever have the luxury of experiencing. (Be sure to weigh in on the Prime Minister-inspired poll at the bottom of this post.)
We’re talking about a basketball love affair that is going on in Oklahoma City right now, with both sides equally head over heels for the other. It’s been spotlighted by several publications, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated did a masterful job of capturing it in his magazine’s NBA preview.
But no one understands this bond like the folks that live it.