When I look at this Oklahoma City Thunder team, I see potential.
You would think a roster boasting Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook would be promising—at least producing about a 30-game win season.
However, this is not the case.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently 3-26 and on the verge of competing with the 1972 Philadelphia 76ers in becoming the worst team in NBA history.
Yet, the starting lineup for the Thunder looks solid on paper.
Kevin Durant is the focal point of this roster—the heart and soul. The second-overall pick in the 2007 Draft is putting up nearly 24 points per game on 46 percent shooting.
He’s on his way to becoming an elite forward in the NBA, and ultimately, a leader.
When trying to diagnose the Thunder’s quandary, I have a few theories.
Theory #1: Youth
It may be an excuse, but this team lacks a floor general—someone who can be a mentor and lead by example. Durant is the closest that this team has, and he’s a second year player.
This team also showcases Russell Westbrook—rookie point guard from UCLA drafted fourth overall in the 2008. He is the guard of the future for this Thunder team, and will hopefully bring some excitement into the Ford Center.
Theory #2: Experience
Experience ties in with youth, but I’ve divided the problem into two issues.
The average age of the Thunder starters is 25.
Russell Westbrook is starting at point guard in his rookie season—an ambitious move, yet he’s making the best of it, averaging 13 points per game.
Despite Westbrook’s superb play, it takes more than scoring to be a point guard in the NBA. No player in this league is able to lead their team in their first year—it’s impossible.
Having a young point guard eliminates a large probability of a team being able to mesh together and create any chemistry.
Theory 3: Poor Frontcourt
If the Thunder decide to make any noise before the trade deadline, they could sure use a Center.
Nick Collison has been a power forward for his entire career. Having Jeff Green at Power Forward does no good for this team, and allows teams with dominant frontcourts to take advantage of the weakness.
Making such a move would allow Green to move to the 2 and Collison to slide up to the 4—letting each player move back into a more natural position.
Regardless of how this Thunder team continues to perform—they’re not the worst team in NBA history.
They’re just a young team that needs some seasoning without veteran leadership.
I see absolutely no reason why this team can’t win at least 15 games this year—quite possibly doubling that number next year, based on experience alone. If you give them a veteran big man, this team could be competitive in the second half of this season, and for years to come.
Experience trumps talent and in a classic tale of Nature vs. Nurture—Nurture wins.