Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the future of the Thunder.
Some of the biggest offseason hype has gone to the Oklahoma City Thunder after their great regular season in 2010 and exceptional showing in the playoffs.
Just two years ago, in their inaugural year, the Thunder looked like they were headed nowhere. But with the emergence of some of the best young talent in the league, the Thunder were soon the "dark horse" of the NBA and are currently a force to be reckoned with.
After going 23-59 in '09, the Thunder bounced back in epic fashion, almost completely flipping their record and going 50-32. In '10, the Thunder never went on a losing streak longer than three games, which is a hard-earned feat in the West.
With the humble leadership of Durant and the explosiveness of Russell Westbrook, the team gave the Lakers a challenge in the first round, taking them to six games. Their season ended on a put-back basket from Pau Gasol.
The Thunder were two points away from taking the champion LA Lakers to a full seven-game series.
The Thunder let the rest of the NBA know, "we are a force to be reckoned with". And NBA fans alike knew that the West could soon belong to the Thunder.
Many wonder whether this offseason hype is legitimate, or whether it's another NBA-cooked plate of drama.
After watching OKC shred the Western Conference during the offseason, and giving a huge scare to the LA Lakers, I'm ready to pronounce them as one of the top three teams in the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant, the NBA's youngest scoring champ.
The Big Three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green is almost as good as it gets.
The youngest scoring-champ in the history of the NBA; a young, athletic point-guard, with great passing acumen; a versatile power forward that can shoot with range and create mismatches down low.
A motley crue, these three players are the future of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant is quickly becoming on of the best players in the NBA. With stellar scoring (30.1 ppg), rebounding (7.6 rpg and 25 double-doubles), shooting (47.6 percent FG and 1.6 3's), and defensive (1.4 Stls and 1.0 Blks) numbers, he's the epitome of an all-around player.
And Durant just made his stay in OKC permanent with a five-year, $82 million contract. In an offseason of movement, Durant chose to stay, and OKC is rejoicing their unselfish, perennial MVP candidate's Decision '10.
Durant is currently showing the rest of the world his abilities in the FIBA World Championships. Leading a team of young talent and veterans, Durant is solidifying himself as a leader in any system.
Durant's future is unlimited and will be a huge part of OKC's future successes.
I'm happy to see a humble, unselfish player rise above the rest of the league's ego-maniacal talent.
Russell Westbrooks brings intensity back to the point guard position.
Westbrook is one of the most athletic point-guards in the NBA. Also an exceptional passer, Westbrook has made his value known to the Thunder. Russell Westbrook averaged 16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 8.0 apg.
One of the hardest positions to fill in the NBA is the point-guard spot. OKC has found its answer in Russell Westbrook--a young athlete with a bright future.
Westbrook can attack you in many ways. He can slash and get to the rack. His mid-range jumper is getting better. He can pass and set his teammates up. Finally, he can get to the line.
Another great young, all-around player for the Thunder.
We saw Westbrook's explosiveness in the Lakers' series, where necessary adjustments had to made to contain him. Kobe Bryant himself had to take on Fisher's defensive roles just to stop the athletic guard.
The slashing Westbrook just finished his sophomore campaign, and still has a lot of room to improve. Which should send a cold-chill up the other Western Conference teams.
Jeff Green is a key sharpshooting big-man for the Thunder.
Finally, Green is another valuable asset. The sharpshooting big-man is a perfect complement to Durant and Westbrook with his ability to create mismatches.
Averaging a modest 15 ppg and 6 rpg, Green is a reliable third-option for the Thunder.
Green can shoot three-pointers and is a good complement to Durant and Krstic's rebounding. A player than can play low and from the three-point line, Green proves he's a valuable asset for the Thunder.
The Thunder have composed a young trio, that will continue to improve with age.
The potential and unselfishness of this young nucleus is unmatched. As Coach Scott Brooks put it, "These guys are mature for their age. They are all level headed. They are all humble. They understand expectations are going to be raised this season. But they understand we have to focus on what we do and how we do it, and that means sacrificing own personal gains for the team. If we do that, I see us continuing to get better."
Serge Ibaka headlines the Thunder's impressive second-unit.
How many people knew Serge Ibaka before the 2010 Playoffs?
The Thunder have comprised a key supporting cast that is filled with veterans and young talent alike.
Some key players on the Thunder's supporting cast are:
Thabo Sefolosha, a great lock-down defensive player.
Cole Aldrich, a recent acquisition gives them more strength down low. At Kansas, Aldrich put together a 9.8 rebound, 3.5 block per game numbers.
Nick Collison, a young center who has showed that he can rebound on a relatively consistent basis.
Daequan Cook, a good acquisition for the Thunder. The former 3-point shootout champ provides a legitimate threat from deep.
James Harden, last year's first-round pick for the Thunder, still has to come into his own, but averaged a solid 10 ppg for the Thunder. An ongoing experiment, if Harden plays up to his potential, the Thunder have another player to use in their offense.
Serge Ibaka, a young, block specialist for the Thunder. Ibaka showed his worth when he recorded seven blocks in a tough game two against the Lakers. A solid big man off the bench.
Eric Maynor and Kevin Ollie form a great PG tandem to back up Westbrook.
Mo Pete, Etan Thomas, and Nenad Krstic all bring value in the form of veterans with experience, that can all still play.
OKC is sneakily stacked behind their big three.
Scott Brooks, the 2010 NBA Coach of the Year.
Scott Brooks was hired as the interim coach after P.J. Carlesimo was fired.
The 2010 NBA Coach of the Year, Brooks proved he could turn a team of raw talent into a contender in a stacked Western Conference.
A former NBA player, Brooks brings knowledge from a players point-of-view.
Brooks also previously served as the assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets, giving him coaching experience.
Brooks has shown he can lead this young team, and I trust him completely when it comes to the Thunder's future.
My prediction for the Thunder next year? A second-round playoff appearance and an MVP award for Kevin Durant.