In the ’80s, it was all about the “Showtime” Lakers. Then it was MJ’s Bulls that ruled the ’90s, and the Lakers and Spurs took turns dominating the last 10 years. With a new year and a new decade on the horizon, it begs the question:
Who will be the team of the next decade?
The easy answer would be whatever team LeBron is on, or whatever team D-Wade is on. But it’s hard to say that when you don’t even know which teams (or team) that will be.
One franchise that has dynasty potential if they can keep their main core intact is the Oklahoma City Thunder. With a talented young core consisting of superstar-in-the-making, Kevin Durant, along with Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden, the Thunder have the pieces in place to take over this league. In just their second year in Oklahoma City, the ex-Seattle Supersonics are already putting their new city on the NBA map. After last night’s win at Washington, the Thunder are 17-14 and just one game out of the final playoff spot in the West. At this same point last season, the Thunder were just 3-28. You can see how much improvement they’ve made in just a year.
At just 21 years old, Durant has raised his game and his stats in each of his three seasons as a pro. This season, KD is putting up 28.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 3 apg (all career highs). There’s no doubt that he’ll be an All-Star this season and will be a Top-5 player in the League within the next two or three years. Westbrook (16.4 ppg, 6.9 apg) has built on his great rookie season. He’s extremely athletic and his point guard skills continue to improve. His assist numbers have gone up by almost two whole assists per contest, and he dished out a career-high 15 dimes in a game against Philadelphia earlier this month.
Green is one of those versatile players that can play and guard multiple positions. Similar to what Lamar Odom is to Kobe, Green is a good sidekick to Durant. Like I mentioned in an article the other day, Harden is a guy who has so much potential. He’s a good shooter and makes smart plays on the both sides of the court. Once he gets more comfortable with his team and the offense, I could see him growing into the team’s second scoring option. Then you add Oklahoma City’s other young talent like Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, Thabo Sefolosha and Byron Mullens, and you have a some pretty good role players.
Fittingly, coach Scott Brooks is also young and getting the crunch-time reps now that will pay off in the future. This is his first head coaching job and he’s done a phenomenal job this season. If Brooks keeps it up, he’ll definitely get Coach of the Year consideration. Even though the odds of a coach lasting with one team for a very long time aren’t exactly promising in today’s NBA, the 44-year-old Brooks could be the exception: Remember that the mastermind behind the Thunder, GM Sam Presti, grew up in the San Antonio Spurs’ organization where he saw the positive results of long-term stability with coach Gregg Popovich.
But even with all that youth, talent and promise on the roster, you can’t guarantee that they will blossom into a championship team, let alone become a dynasty. There are so many factors that could derail that plan, like injuries, bad contracts, and bad trades. People were saying the same thing about the ’96-97 Timberwolves when they had Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta. (In case you forgot, Googs was the leading scorer on that squad.) Two years later, Marbury had been traded, Googs was gone, and KG wouldn’t see a championship until he’d left town for Boston.
Then they said that the ’01-02 Clippers with Darius Miles, Lamar Odom, Quentin Richardson, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette would be the team of the decade. Obviously, that didn’t pan out.
Very soon, contract extensions and players seeking greener pastures will become an issue for the Thunder. But if they’re doing this much in their early 20s, imagine how they’ll look three or four years down the line. If they can keep their main core together and add some more solid role players along the way, I don’t see any reason why the Thunder can’t win multiple chips.