The emergence of the Golden State Warriors has made the Oklahoma City Thunder vanish from the top of the NBA Western Conference spotlight faster than lightening. One second Kevin Durant is, hands down, the second best player in the league, with a young roster any general manager would die for, and the next second he is just an afterthought. Well this is a mistake. The Thunder did not go anywhere. They are just waiting for a chance to erupt.
Oklahoma City (37-13) is only four games behind the Spurs and eight games behind the reigning champion, Golden State Warriors; yet somehow they have not received any publicity. The only three teams that have been considered contenders this season are Cleveland, San Antonio and Golden State. The Thunder are the odd man out, the ugly duckling, or my favorite, the middle child.
Did everyone forget that the Thunder has two of the top-5 best players in the NBA in Durant and Westbrook? Durant is averaging 27 ppg., 8 rpg. and 4.5 apg. His partner in crime Westbrook has nine triple doubles this year, 18 in the past two seasons. That is the most in the NBA during that time span. The former UCLA Bruin is also contributing 24 ppg., 7 rpg. and 10 apg. on a nightly basis.
So why are the Thunder receiving no respect from the media when it comes to publicity? It is because the Warriors and the Spurs have taken the league by storm. They seem to have perfect systems. Both teams have 5-7 players that can burn you on any single night for 20 points. Teams like the Thunder and even the Cavaliers do not have that same luxury. The Thunder’s third leading scorer is Serge Ibaka (12.9 ppg). This is ironic because Ibaka can be a somewhat of a liability on the offensive end.
The Thunder will surprise a lot of people this season with their two super stars. Anything is possible in a seven-game series. They can change the game like nobody else on the planet. If the Thunder were in the Eastern Conference they would be only one game out of first place, soaking in the media glory. But is that really the goal? Does Billy Donovan really want his team to have all that pressure and attention right now? What does it really accomplish? Basketball is just a game when it comes down to it. The media attention has no impact on what will actually happen come May and June.
Teams should be worried about the Thunder. Durant and Westbrook are finally healthy and appear to be on the same page. They both have the ability of going off like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry do every night.
Golden State may have started out like lightening, but Oklahoma City may have the final roar like Thunder. Watch out.