In every sport, there is a championship window. This window may stay open 10 years, 15 years, or as soon as 3 years, depending on the players, salary cap and drafts. We saw the Lakers window stay open recently for over 12 years, then emphatically SLAM shut. We saw the Atlanta Braves in Major League Baseball stay open much of the 90’s and 2000’s, then SLAM shut – partially open again, now. We can go on and on. Yankees, Heat, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oklahoma Sooners, USC Trojans, really the list can go on and on. We can add the Oklahoma City Thunder to this list at the current time.
Since 2010, the Thunder has had a “real” chance to win the NBA title. The Thunder have boasted a 4 time scoring champion in Kevin Durant, the 2012 Finals runner-up, and the emergence of Serge Ibaka as a real member of “The Big 3”. All this sounds great, so why the panic?
In 2011, LeBron James stunned the world and “headed to South Beach” to join forces with Dwyane Wade, and later Chris Bosh, to form a “big 3.” We saw how that panned out. Over 4 years, the Heat’s “window” stayed open for 4 years where the Heat brought Miami 2 titles and 2 other finals appearances. Since then, multiple NBA players have joined forces with other stars to form these “mega teams.” Before LeBron, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston forming a “big 3.” That theory also brought a title to Boston. This offseason, Pau Gasol joined Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago forming another “big 3.”
Now, why do I spend so much time prefacing? Because the fear in OKC is that Durant is gone after this contract to go join Wall and Beal in DC, his hometown, forming a big 3 with the Wizards. Let’s say this happens. This means, theoretically, the Thunder have 2 more years of “the window” to win the NBA title. Once Durant is gone, and maybe he won’t be, the title window closes.
This brings me to my next point. The NBA Draft. The last 2 drafts, OKC has owned 2 first round picks. Let’s go back and revisit these two.
2013 NBA Draft:
Round 1, Pick 12: Steven Adams
Round 1, Pick 26: Andre Roberson
Assessment: I really believe Steven Adams will evolve into a 12pt, 10reb type center, which is a luxury in this day in age. Will he be an all-star? Not likely, but possible. Will he be able to be a part of a “big 3”? Again, not likely. Is he a perfect role player? Absolutely. He compliments the scoring of KD, Russell and Serge great, but will never have his number called to put on a scoring display.
Andre Roberson was supposed to replace Thabo Sefolosha, and he’s gotten a LOT better over the past year. Again, could he ever be part of a “big 3”? Probably not. Will he be a great compliment to an already established “big 3”? Possibly. I truly think the jury is still out, but as for now; these guys are role players who would go around KD, Westbrook and Serge.
Overall, the jury is still out. These guys could turn into legit NBA players who are household names.
2014 NBA Draft:
Round 1, Pick 21: Mitch McGary
Round 1, Pick 29: Josh Huestis
Assessment: I’ll keep this short. No one knows how this will turn out, but on paper, you have to think these guys won’t really have a thumbprint on the next 2 years. McGary has a chance to be pretty good. He played really well in Orlando in Summer League. I think Huestis is a complete project at this point, and for a first rounder, you hate to see that, unless it’s an International player with crazy upside.
Since Sam Presti has joined the Thunder as General Manger, he has made 1 mistake. Kendrick Perkins. Other than that, you have to appreciate his work. Getting Durant to drop in his lap behind Greg Oden, picking Russell Westbrook 4th overall, drafing Serge out of the blue, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, etc. So I’ll stick with “In Presti We Trust”.
It’s hard to imagine the Thunder could persuade big name NBA free agents to join OKC, being a small market, and not willing to enter luxury taxes. This being said, the draft and trades are the only feasible way the Thunder can get stars to align in the Chesapeake Energy Arena. So, Thunder fans, hope Adams, Roberson, McGary and Huestis pan out. If not, the window will be sealed shut if KD truly decides to head back home to DC.
In closing, I think the Thunder need to make serious noise in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, before the window will likely close.
If KD and Russell stick around, I reserve the right to delete this article. Until next time, THUNDER UP!