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Oklahoma City Thunder ’09-10 NBA season preview

By 10.19.09
Kevin Durant (photo. Jared McMillen)

Kevin Durant (photo. Jared McMillen)


Last year we debuted the “Highs and Lows” system — previewing the NBA season by predicting the respective ceiling and basement for each team. Same theme, different season…

Added: James Harden, Byron Mullens, Serge Ibaka, Etan Thomas, Robert Vaden, Kevin Ollie

Lost: Desmond Mason, Earl Watson, Damien Wilkins, Robert Swift, Malik Rose, Chucky Atkins

Ceiling: 4th place, Northwest Division
Everybody loves what OKC is doing — even a bitter Sonics fan has to admit they’ve got a nice foundation in place and seem to have found a winning formula based on patience and smart spending … Kevin Durant is the centerpiece, and working with him this summer on Dime #51’s cover story, I found out he actually loves it there and might not bolt as soon as free agency allows. Jeff Green has the skill set and versatility to play the perfect sidekick role; he can play three positions and would be a threat to score 20 points a night if he hits his jumper more consistently. And Russell Westbrook was a beast in the summer league; predicting he’ll have a breakout sophomore year seems old at this point, but the evidence is overwhelming … Outside of the “Big Three,” rookie James Harden has some Paul Pierce in his game, and Thabo Sefalosha is the lynchpin of the defense. Harden is penciled in to start at two-guard for now, but if he struggles, Sefalosha is a solid Plan B. In fact, Durant told me Thabo is the “heart and soul” of the Thunder … The Northwest Division is tough, with the Blazers, Jazz and Nuggets locks for the playoffs, and the Wolves also trying to build a strong young core. It’s not time for OKC to make a playoff run yet, but they’re on the right track.

Basement: Lateral movement
OKC only won 23 games last year, though they became more competitive over the course of the season and pulled off some notable wins against Spurs (twice), Mavs, Blazers and Jazz. Pulling off 30-something wins this year should be easy, but more importantly will be how OKC wins (or loses) their games … Will Durant continue to diversify his game and get better defensively? Will Green be less erratic as a shooter? Will Westbrook hold his own when his division alone includes nightly matchups with Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, Andre Miller and Jonny Flynn? … There are also some issues with depth. Nenad Krstic and Etan Thomas are 1-2 on the depth chart at center, but nothing to get excited about. Westbrook’s backup PG is Shaun Livingston, who’s a constant question mark, and key reserve wing Kyle Weaver is a good defender who needs a lot of work on offense. Rookies Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens could make an impact in the frontcourt, but are more projects than anything right now.

*** *** ***

10/19 — Milwaukee Bucks
10/15 — Portland Trail Blazers
10/14 — Chicago Bulls
10/13 — Golden State Warriors
10/12 — Toronto Raptors
10/9 — Houston Rockets
10/8 — Detroit Pistons
10/7 — Memphis Grizzlies
10/6 — New York Knicks
10/5 — New Orleans Hornets
10/2 — Atlanta Hawks
9/30 — Sacramento Kings
9/29 — New Jersey Nets
9/28 — Denver Nuggets

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TOPICS#KEVIN DURANT
TAGSANDRE MILLERByron MullensCHAUNCEY BILLUPSDERON WILLIAMSDesmond MasonDimeMagEarl WatsonEtan ThomasJAMES HARDENJEFF GREENJonny FlynnKyle WeaverLatest NewsNenad KrsticPAUL PIERCERUSSELL WESTBROOKSERGE IBAKAShaun LivingstonThabo Sefalosha

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