You could have probably written off the Oklahoma City Thunder for this 2016-17 season. Losing guys like Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka would definitely be seen as a problem and the thoughts of a playoff run could be something that could come in a another season or two. Their big star is Russell Westbrook, who has carved his name into being one of the greats of this modern era of NBA Basketball for the past eight seasons prior to this one.
Despite the number of young players, the Thunder put up a respectable 47-35 record in the Western Conference. Westbrook was mostly their offense, despite several players near or above 1000 points themselves. Their defense was one of the better ones in terms of rebounding and stealing the ball. The numbers on both sides were on the side of being one of the better teams in the league and middle tiered material. Of course, we look at their future now after losing in the first round to the Houston Rockets in five games.
It all starts with what happened five years ago when the Thunder went on that magical run to the NBA Finals only to lose to the Miami Heat. They had Durant, Ibaka, Westbrook, and sixth man that year, James Harden. Their numbers on offense were in the top three and the defense was one of the better ones. We can talk what ifs forever on what could have been a dynasty in the making. You think about it, they could have won a ring together. They could have been one of the young teams others could imitate. With Harden going to Houston and his career really taking off, you have to wonder. That's not to say Oklahoma was horrible. They posted really good records in the regular season. There's always one team that's an obstacle to them and they are sent packing and watching the finals on television.
If I am the Thunder, I am doing whatever is necessary to keep Westbrook with them for the rest of his career as he will enter his tenth season in October/November. With Durant playing for Golden State and Ibake with Toronto, they need someone that can lead the charge and take a bit of punishment until they get people that can get used to their style of play. If they can gel together, they can still keep making playoff appearances. It's just a matter of how much longer fans have to wait and how much frustration will mount if they don't win a championship.
Right now, their biggest priorities are Westbrook and Steven Adams. Keeping them both will be important for years to come. Getting some better players, whether through the NBA Draft or free agency could give them players to compliment them and have bench guys that could carry the load while the stars take a breather. Either way, they are on the clock. Oklahoma can't afford to lose any more players. Otherwise, that first overall pick could be calling for them in the future.
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