In ESPN's infamous "Ultimate Team" standings, Ian Gordon of ESPN the Magazine wrote of the Thunder:
"Sure, the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant relationship has been endlessly dissected in the wake of the Thunder’s loss in the Western Conference finals. But how many teams — and fan bases — wouldn’t take the two 22-year-old stars? Add in 21-year-olds James Harden and Serge Ibaka and the Thunder have the kind of exciting young core that front offices dream about. Thunder GM Sam Presti is committed to building through the draft and not doling out precious cap money to expensive vets. Not like many FA are interested in Oklahoma anyway.
The Thunder’s meteoric rise in the past couple of years, from 57th overall in 2009 to sixth this year, is a direct result of on-court success. The franchise’s first visit to the Western Conference finals since 1996 (they were in Seattle then) allowed the organization to showcase its fan-friendly, frenzied atmosphere at the Oklahoma City Arena. So even on nights when Westbrook is shooting too much and KD is standing around on the wing, below-average ticket costs and rock-bottom beer prices (a $5 pint is a stone-cold bargain at an arena these days) keep Thunder fans rolling in, and satisfied.
The Thunder confidently ranked 12th in "Biggest bang for the buck" and fourth for "Fan relations." This mixture of affordability, coupled with a wild fanbase, is the largest reason this season, fans and critics suspect a deep Thunder run in the postseason.
Starting right is more than important for a young team—it's imperative.
And while many clubs coast into the shortened season, the Thunder's first 10 games of 11-12 are as difficult a stretch as any other on their schedule.