Oklahoma City Thunder Defense is Leading the Western Conference

J. Robert ByromCorrespondent INovember 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 10: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.   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

In the high-flying Western Conference, where 10 teams are averaging over 100 points a game, only one team is holding their opponents under 90. No, not the Spurs; the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.

Young teams are not supposed to win this way, and last year the Thunder proved that. They fit easily into the mold of young talented teams. You live and die by shooting percentages.

This year, the Thunder have gotten off to a respectable start in a way that young teams seldom do: with dominating defense.

Last year, they added guard Thabo Sefolosha for one of their coveted draft picks after the Tyson Chandler deal fell through. While the move had many scratching their heads, Sefolosha's impact was felt immediately. The Thunder had already started to improve, but he showed the young team how much good defensive effort can impact the game and the Thunder have apparently took that lesson to heart.

While it was expected the Thunder would improve on both sides of the ball as they gain experience, the total transformation and dedication to defense was not.

The most impressive increase in defensive intensity has been down on the low post. The finally healthy Nenad Krstic and veteran Etan Thomas are matching the efforts of Sefolosha in the post as well. Jeff Green and Durant have not been afraid to go low and help out when needed.

Many are now picking the Thunder to make the playoffs. They definitely have the talent, but are extremely young. They may still be a year away, but with their defensive effort and great young core, the Thunder's future is as bright as any teams in the NBA. The scariest thing is they still have tons of room to play around before their roster is locked.

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