2009-10 Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview
For the past three seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder (23- 59) have dwelled in the cellar of the Northwest Division. Despite the team’s 23-win season last year, things are looking up for this franchise. The Thunder started 2008- 2009 going 3- 29. But as the season continued, the team showed marked improvement. They went 20- 30 for the rest of the year. One contributing factor to the team’s better play over the course of the final 50 games was the firing of head coach and ultra-disciplinarian P.J. Carlesimo. They hired assistant coach Scott Brooks. Brooks not only knows the game but he’s young and able to connect with players. He also brings with him a history for overachieving. For what he lacked in talent, he made up with hard work and forged an 11-year NBA career. That hard work ethic and his love of the game seemed to wear off on the guys. A major problem for the club last year was a lack of outside shooting. That meant that opponents could crowd the paint and challenge the inside game. The Thunder defense was much better than the “O.” They had the highest rate of steals in the NBA, however the “D” got low ratings for creating turnovers in other ways.
At small forward Kevin Durant (25.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.30 SPG) showed solid improvement. Durant, a scoring machine, hit 48% from the field and 42% of his threes. At the power spot, Jeff Green (16.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.04 SPG) is another young player who is displaying amazing potential and putting up great stats. Center Nenad Krstic (9.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.07 BPG) can shoot and has some post up in him. Add in backup forward/center Nick Collison (8.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.9 APG) and forward D.J. White (8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.9 APG) and you’ve got some decent depth upfront.
At the point, Russell Westbrook (15.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.34 SPG) is a fine athlete with super jumping ability and good, quick hands. The two spot will be shared by Thabo Sefolosha (5.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 APG), in his fourth NBA season, and rookie James Harden. Sefolosha offers fine “D” skills and the ability to slash and cut to the hoop. He’s been working on his long range shooting. Harden, a rookie who looks ready to play NBA hoop, can pass, score and defend. Kyle Weaver (5.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.8 APG) is versatile enough to play either guard spot.
The Thunder have a lot of room in terms of the salary cap, and they are nicely positioned to make some good deals and to nurture a team that will become a force in the NBA West. That’s because they’ve managed their contracts well, possess a wealth of young, talented players and have been patient in developing the team. If they can pull off some big trades and free agent signings, they’ll be poised to contend. The toughest dilemma for this club is its interior play. Although the perimeter guys are strong, there’s no true in-the-paint presence for this club.
Winning 10 to 15 more games looks like a possibility. A fourth-place division and 10th place conference finish are in order. However, if a deal or two is made and a few guys have breakthrough years, Oklahoma City could end up in the post season.