2011 NBA Playoffs: What the Thunder Needs To Win a Championship
It's obvious that the Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the league's best teams. Their roster is gushing with talent. They have stocked up on high draft picks and over time they have developed an unbelievably talented nucleus. They are one of the few teams that has actually been able to emerge from the depths of the conference through the draft. It's definitely a tough thing to do, but the Thunder have been successful.
The Thunder are currently attempting to advance to the Western Conference Finals, but they have a tough task ahead in trying to beat the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have definitely been a surprise thus far in the playoffs, and they will clearly be a tough test as they already stole one game in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City have two of the most talented, dynamic offensive players in league. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are both just 22 years old, and it looks like OKC is going to be good for a long time now. But in this time of growth and development for the Thunder, there is a problem. They still need one more piece.
Yes, OKC is one of the best teams in the league, but at this point they are not built to win a championship. If you look at their frontcourt, you see two solid players. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Both of them are high quality players, but neither of them is a reliable scorer in the paint. You look at the bench, and it doesn't really get much better. Nazr Mohammed and Nick Collison are equally pathetic in the paint.
Are the Thunder a legitimate title contender?
The Thunder are great in the post defensively, but their starters at power forward and center combine for about 16 points a game. You can't win a championship when your starters at those positions only give you 16 points a game. In Game 2 against Memphis, the Thunder scored 111 points. Their big men were only responsible for 17 of those points. That will come back to bite them later in the playoffs.
The problem is that the Thunder are good enough to the point where they are likely going to be picking in the 20s every year. At that point in the draft, you might be able to get a decent scorer around the basket, but they probably aren't going to get a guy that can really dominate down low for 30 minutes a game.
The Thunder have also been reluctant to spend in free agency to improve their team as well. At this point it would seem as if we have no idea how the Thunder are going to do to upgrade their frontcourt, but we do know that their lack of versatility will hurt them as they get deeper into the playoffs.
If we examine the top four teams in each conference, we see that each of them has a dominant, All-Star caliber big man except the Thunder. The Bulls have Boozer, the Celtics have Garnett, the Heat have Bosh, the Magic have Howard, the Spurs have Duncan, the Lakers have Pau, the Mavs have Dirk and then there's the Thunder. They have Ibaka.
The Thunder are a good team with a bright future, don't get me wrong, but without a good low post scorer to validate their offense, they will never get to the Finals, much less win them. They have a good foundation and a growing national fanbase, but the Thunder just aren't ready yet. They need just a few more pieces before we can start to think about them as a serious title contender. One more really good pick and they are just a short time away from being among the NBA elite.
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