Finished 23-59, fifth in Northwest Division, 13th in Western Conference
James Harden via draft, B.J. Mullens via draft, Serge Ibaka via draft, Kevin Ollie via free agency, Etan Thomas via trade, Robert Vaden via trade
Earl Watson via waivers
The jerseys are ugly, but the way this team plays sure isn't. Despite ending their first season in Oklahoma City finishing 36 games under .500, the team has the talent and potential to become one of the next powerhouses of the NBA world.
With the number of young players on this team, they are being led by a potential future MVP in Kevin Durant. "Durantula," who is only going into his third year, averaged 25 points per game, which was good for sixth in the league. He averaged six rebounds and three assists as well.
He was thrown into the Thunder lineup as the leader of the team at only 18 years old and has assumed the role like any other strong willed leader in the NBA.
He showed flashes of brilliance all season including his 46-point performance in the rookie-sophomore game, which broke the previous record of 36. It proved his dominance over his draft class and the rookies, and proved he's ready to compete with the elite of the NBA. At only 20 years old, Durant is the future face of the NBA.
It's not all about Durant, though, when it comes to the Thunder. Players like Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook are trying to will this team as a legitimate contending team. Green was brought in to the Thunder when Ray Allen was traded away, and right now Green is holding his own as the team's starting power forward.
Green was second on the team in scoring at a little under 17 points per game, while also grabbing seven rebounds in the process. Green is an explosive high-flyer who also has a stable jump shot and has the potential to remain in the Thunder lineup alongside Durant for years to come.
The Thunder's draft pick last year, Russell Westbrook, had a huge impact on the team last year as the team's starting point guard. Becoming a new point guard on any team is difficult by itself, but to do it on a team where a 20-year-old is the leader, it's surprising to even do as good as Westbrook did last year.
Taken as the No. 4 pick, Russell averaged 15 points, five assists, and five rebounds, and earned the first triple-double of his career. He was a little turnover prone, averaging over three per game, but he was able to create shots for his teammates. With more experience in this league he will see his turnover average go down significantly.
In this past draft, the Thunder grabbed another young starter to add to its lineup in Arizona State shooting guard James Harden. Harden averaged 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists in his last year at the college level. He's got one of the best shots of his draft class, and is versatile at doing everything on the floor as indicated by his high numbers in every statistical category.
Harden does face a number of problems going into the NBA, though, as he is very turnover prone and averaged three per game last year. His ball-handling skills aren't of high quality either which could cause problems if he wants to be able to create his own shots, like he did at Arizona State.
The Thunder also managed to trade for 7'0" center out of Ohio State, BJ Mullens. Mullens was listed as the No. 2 center in the draft, but had his draft stock slip after recruits believed him to be a weak defensive player, while not being able to have a decent shot either.
Despite this, it could be just what the Thunder need. OKC has no post presence whatsoever and last year had Nenad Krstic as their starting center. Mullens has the size to become a potential starter, but has a lot to improve on.
Like stated before, the Thunder see problems in the post as the team has little to no presence in the middle. They tried to trade Tyson Chandler last year which could have solved that problem completely, but unfortunately the trade fell through and the Thunder were left with the same problem as before, except with more questions to be answered.
Currently Krstic is listed as the team's center, but he is not reliable or strong enough to compete with other centers. He averaged 10 points and five rebounds last year, but missed half the season due to injuries. Nick Collison became the team's starting center, but is still not a suitable option at the spot as he is only 6'9".
The Thunder did try to improve their problems at the center spot by bringing in veteran Etan Thomas. Thomas has usually been a second or third string option on the Washington Wizards and never had a chance to prove himself in the starting lineup, but chances are there's a reason for that.
With the questions that arise at the center spot, there are also questions with the team as a whole. Does the team still need a few years to develop, and if so, for how long? They have the talent and the potential to become a Western Conference beast, but they're going to need Durant to become a team leader emotionally and physically if they want success in this league.
The bench also brings problems as well due to the fact there are no reliable scoring options. The Thunder are going to need Shaun Livingston most of all to step up. Livingston was taken with the No. 4 pick five years ago, but due to injuries ravaging his career, it never got off the ground like people hoped for.
He only played eight games for the Thunder last year and averaged eight points and three rebounds. Oklahoma City will need all they can get from their bench if they want any chance of succeeding in the NBA.
The Thunder are one of the most exciting up-and-coming teams to watch and most of the NBA wants to see them develop into the power house they're supposed to be. With the core of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Jeff Green, with James Harden waiting at the wings to become a superstar, Oklahoma City is seeing anything but thunderstorms ahead.
It's bright and clear for takeoff.
Projected Starting Lineup
This is Pt. 19 of a 30-day series of 2009-10 season previews of each NBA team. My profile will contain every other team that has been previewed before.
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