OKC Thunder: How the Hyped Team Has Become the New Trail Blazers

Alex TichenorCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder on the court against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 95-92. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Remember when the Portland Trail Blazers were being hailed as a dynastic team with young super star Brandon Roy as the centerpiece, Lamarcus Aldridge as an All-Star sidekick, one of the most hyped draft picks of the decade in Greg Oden as the defensive stalwart down low and tons of young talent they could develop?

The Blazers have won 50 games in back to back seasons for the first time since 2001. They held homecourt advantage in the playoffs in 2009. But, they lost both playoffs series in six games (to teams that took the eventual champions to seven games).

The blueprint was there for Portland to be a dynastic team, but things do not always go according to plan. Lamarcus Aldridge hasn't even made an All-Star team yet. Greg Oden has been infected with the Portland lottery pick injury virus. The surrounding young talent has not blossomed like expected (particularly Rudy Fernandez, who seems to be on his way out of Portland sooner rather than later). Last year, the whole team was bitten by a historically bad injury bug (losing Oden and Pryzbilla to season ending knee injuries, Roy missing or being not fully healthy for almost the entire second half of the year). Now they are recovering from a messy divorce with fan favorite general manager Kevin Pritchard, who was fired for still unclear reasons.

Now Portland is just another good team in the West. A playoff team? Yes, almost unquestionably, but they wouldn't be considered a contender by most people, which is where they should be if everything had gone according to plan.

There's definitely still hope in Portland and around the league that Portland can be a contender in the near future. If Oden can stay on the court, Roy can avoid ticky tack injuries, and young guys like Batum and Bayless can reach anything close to their full potential, and Portland is can still be a major player in the West.

But all it is, is hope. Nothing is certain.

Enter the Oklahoma City Thunder. They're coming off of a 50 win season; they're first winning season since being abducted from Seattle and relocated in Oklahoma.

They have the league's reigning scoring champ who doubles as one of it's brightest stars, Kevin Durant (Who could be with the aforementioned Blazers if they hadn't taken Oden instead with the number one overall pick that year. In the words of Homer Simpson, "DOH!").

The have a rising star point guard in Russell Westbrook and have surrounded those guys with a multitude of very good young role players who have potential still to be unmasked.

Does this sound familiar at all?

All of the hype surround the Thunder is based on one certainty (that Durant will be an MVP caliber player for the next decade) and the rest is solely on potential.

Russell Westbrook has to become a perennial All-Star ('09-'10 stats: 16 ppg, 8 apg, 5 rpg), which isn't necessarily a gimme (I do believe he will be an All-Star caliber guy, but not a no doubt about it All-Star guy).

Serge Ibaka needs to morph into one of the league's premier post defenders.

James Harden needs to become a player that the third overall pick should be.

Their chemistry has to remain like the chemistry of the human body, with everything and everybody doing their job just right.

Their GM has to keep making great draft picks and sneaky trades and free agent pickups (probably the most likely to happen, besides Durant being a perennial MVP candidate. Presti might be the best GM in the league).

If any of those variables goes wrong, it's hard to see Oklahoma City spewing champagne on the Larry O'Brien trophy in early July any time soon.

When I was young, I was taught never to assume. Well, you probably know the old saying.

But it's the stone cold truth.

Assuming anything can make you look like a fool. Whether it's assuming it won't rain and getting drenched, or thinking Greg Oden is a cross between Tim Duncan and Bill Russell and then microfracture surgery taking away his entire rookie year. Never assume.

The Blazers were anointed as the next big thing a few years ago. Now the Thunder are being hailed as one of the best teams in the league right now and for the future.

As a Blazer fan, I can tell you to never assume anything. I feel like a pretty big idiot now for really believing that Portland could make a dynastic run (although I still think they can be serious contenders in the West if Oden can remain semi-healthy).

I advise anybody drinking the Thunder flavored Kool-Aid to not make the same mistake as I did.

Never, EVER assume.

It's for your own good.