The past year has been a critical one for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team has reached new heights, gained some new faces and encountered new doubts.
These events have shaped the team that plays before us today. For better or worse, this is the team that will represent Oklahoma City in the NBA playoffs in a few weeks.
While fans may not be thrilled about every aspect of this team, none of them can deny that the past year’s events would have been difficult to navigate for any franchise. The fact that the team has made it through this well is a miracle in and of itself.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s five-game defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals set the tone for the last year more than any other event could have. All of the doubts the team has suffered from and the resiliency it has shown stem from this defeat.
The Thunder are a young team with young superstars. The fact that they were able to get to the Finals that early in their careers is impressive. The fact that they were able to rebound from such a crushing defeat is even more impressive.
The Oklahoma City Thunder had two important players they needed to deal with before the 2012-13 season began. Fortunately, they were successful with at least one of them.
Serge Ibaka was obviously an important building block for the team’s future, and getting a new contract obviously spurred him on to new heights. The power forward is having a career year, and everything is looking up for him at age 23.
Whether you liked or hated this trade, you cannot deny its importance in terms of impact this season. Trading James Harden might have been colossally bad, but so far, the team has fared well with his replacement.
Kevin Martin is definitely a different type of player, although he has provided a somewhat similar spark off the bench. Unfortunately, Martin’s arrival also added more future doubt for the team since he could leave in free agency after the season just like Harden. The draft picks and young players that came along with him made the trade worth it.
There was a chance that some might have thought the Oklahoma City Thunder would be better off against the Miami Heat with Kevin Martin instead of James Harden. After all, Martin is a more experienced player and Harden had laid a big egg in the Finals against Miami a few months earlier.
This game proved otherwise. The Thunder once again found themselves not ready to compete with Miami on the big stage. This loss, combined with another to the Heat on Valentine’s Day, feels like it has planted a firm psychological edge for the Heat in the Thunder’s collective mind.
Many would not include this event on this list, but it was a resounding win. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s 12-point win over the San Antonio Spurs put them firmly in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the West, and that is far more important than any of them are willing to admit.
While a recent, unexpected loss to the New York Knicks has lessened the impact of this win over the Spurs, the Thunder still have a great shot at making a push to No. 1 in the West. If they can do that, it will be the next big turning point in a season that has been chock-full of them.