Led by Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder Begin To Roar

Curtis Finchum@CRose24Correspondent IJanuary 21, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 18:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder lays in a basket against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on January 18, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the midway point of the NBA season approaches, the league has had its share of  surprises and disappointments. The league has seen the loss of a superstar in a scandal (Gilbert Arenas), the story-tell miracle (Sundiata Gains), and the rise of a titan (Atlanta Hawks). 

However, another surprise has occurred, the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder were chosen to be once again a bottom dweller in the league, but they have been a solid squad thus far.

The Thunder's roster is one of the youngest in the league (23.2 years) and it has a complete lack of playoff experience. But what they do have is a superstar on the rise. 

Kevin Durant has blossomed this season into one of the leagues most explosive players, and it's not just because of his offensive ability. He has also shown improvement on defensive and rebounding. 

Durant has become a legit competitor for the MVP award because of all his vast improvements. However, he hasn't done it alone; he's had some help along the way. 

Compliments to his game and rising stars of their own, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green have both risen to the challenge and have helped turned the Thunder into a playoff caliber team. 

Credit should also be given to the Thunder's management. GM Scot Presti has made all of the right moves to build this team, including avoiding the more glamorous draft picks and selecting Westbrook and rookie James Harden. 

Presti not only solidified his starting talent, but he built up the bench around it with rookie Eric Maynor and lock down defender Thabo Sefolosha. 

This team is build for future success, but they have the ability to make a statement here and now. Should the Thunder make the playoffs, it could be the beginning of a dominant era in the Western Conference. 

No, they aren't the Spurs, Lakers, or Nuggets, but nonetheless the Thunder are on the rise. Led by Durant, Westbrook, and Green, they can only get better. 

The sky is the limit for the Thunder and even though they ride the thin shoulders of Durant, his passion will do more than rock the state of Oklahoma. Durant's passionate big play yell will soon be heard throughout the NBA and the world. 

As the Thunder storm into the conversation of the league's elite, don't forget, these guys are outplaying the veterans, and they're only kids.