2010 NBA Season: New Expectations for Thunder's Key Players
Coming in to the 2009 NBA season, the Thunder had relatively low expectations. Not a lot of people would have thought the Thunder would have won 35 games, let alone 50.
Russell Westbrook was under some fire about whether or not he is a true point guard. We weren't considered to be deep at all at the guard spot and had no decent big man, unless you're a fan of Nenad Krstic.
This year, things couldn't be more different.
Kevin Durant comes off the season being the youngest person in league history to be the scoring champion. Westbrook can now be devastating and we now have discovered a monster named Serge Ibaka.
Eric Maynor is considered one of the best back up guards in the league being a fantastic facilitator. Even Nick Collison led the league last season in charges taken which was a fantastic surprise.
So what about the 2010 season? What can we expect from the starting line up to the key players off the bench? I've got you covered. Take a look.
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Kevin Durant will enter this season with a chip on his shoulder. Last year was his coming out party for the few people who didn't know about him.
Last year, Durant did an excellent job on improving his movement away from the ball. During the second half of the season, teams were almost solely dedicated to stop just Durant. Because of this, he had to work harder off the ball to find some open space, which he was extremely successful at.
This year, I believe Durant will have a break out year defensively. He showed potential at what he can do last season in the playoffs against Kobe Bryant.
I don't necessarily think he'll score as many points as he did last season because I think he's going to try and step up as a leader more and try and get his teammates in the best position to be successful.
This year, Russell Westbrook will come into the season as one of the best point guards in the league, something that none of us would have guessed before the start of last season.
He can slash with just about anyone in the league and has shown his explosiveness off the ball.
He started to get consistent with a mid-range jumper during the last half of the season last year and will hopefully try and master that craft. He had a fantastic move last season where he would act like he was going to go to the basket and would stop on a dime at the free throw line and pull up.
His biggest weakness last year was his trey-ball. I think I could count on one hand how many times he even attempted to shoot it. If he can even get into a position where he can hit it wide open, his game will improve so much more because defenders will have to play up on him.
Jeff Green has been the biggest question mark of this off season and I don't really understand why. He won so many games for the Thunder last season off extremely clutch offensive plays (see Atlanta game), or blocking a shot in the last few seconds to secure a win.
The one thing he did last season was act a little timid when he had the ball. When he was aggressive and drove to the basket, defenders got out of his way. He can be a beast offensively when he's consistent with his mid-range shot and will put his head down and drive to the basket.
I don't see why he wouldn't take all the negative comments and motivate him to work as hard as ever this off-season to shake off all the critics.
Thabo Sefolosha was an elite defender last season and will look to continue the same this season.
He had the main assignment against teams top scorers and did an efficient job at doing so. He held D-Wade and Kobe down for a few games and had clutch steals all through out the season.
This off-season, I want nothing more from Sefolosha then to shoot 1,000 3-pointers every day.
If he can add a consistent three-pointer to his game, he could be considered one of the elite shooting guards with how good his defensive game is. He has said numerous times he has been working extremely hard on improving his offensive game.
Me and Krstic have a love/hate relationship. When he's aggressive in games early, he's pretty successful. When he waits until the second half to get going, you'll usually be pretty disappointed with what you're seeing.
He started to get pretty physical down low towards the last part of the season by just using his length to block a few shots.
If it were up to me, I would have had Krstic get into at least 10 street fights this off season and make him mean and physical. Hey, it worked for Kevin Garnett, why not Krstic?
Serge Ibaka was one of the best surprises for the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. He's just a wild animal looking to jump as high as he can and block as many shots as possible.
He's only been playing basketball for 5 years now and is still a very raw player. If he can get a consistent eight-foot jumper and finish around the basket, many people have thought he could start.
He's actually bigger then a lot of people think. He's taller than last year's physical guy, Etan Thomas. Plus, he's bigger than current starter Nenad Krstic.
Eric Maynor is a guy you can't help but like. He comes in and runs the offense as well as you can ask from a rookie back up point guard.
This season, it has been reported from a few different places that he's working just about as hard as anyone in the league this off season. I wouldn't be surprised at all if him and Westbrook share the floor quite a bit with the ball in Maynor's hands.
Cole Aldrich is somebody I expect a decent defensive season from. He's a rookie who isn't used to how physical the league can be.
However, his defensive abilities are the reason why we grabbed him so you never know with rookies. Hopefully he can stay consistent with his short-range hook shot and contribute as well as Ibaka did last year.
James Harden had a pretty solid year last season. He did a pretty solid job defending solid scorers in big games.
He had a few games where he was amazing with the ball, not just shooting the three. He's just so mature for his age it's hard to name a time where he just made a bone-head play.
Coming into this next off-season, I expect Harden to polish his three-pointer, while working to improve his already pretty solid defensive game.
Nick Collison is a lot of people's favorite player on the Thunder. He's the gritty player who will do just about anything to help his team win. Clearly that's the case since he led the league in charges taken.
This season I expect a little more offensive game from Collison. I know that he really wanted to work on it because a lot of defenders will play off of him leaving him open around the free-throw line.
Plus, I expect him to help polish fellow Jayhawk Cole Aldrich's game. Their personalities are just alike and I'm sure will have a "big brother, little brother" type relationship with Collison teaching him the in's and out's of playing down low.