Are The Oklahoma City Thunder On The Decline?
Before you start wondering if the title was written by mistake, a person who would dare to think that the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant’s and Russell Westbrook’s team, are declining, let’s examine the facts.
After the relocation from Seattle in 2008 and the formation of the team, the Oklahoma City Thunder built a team, a contender to be more accurate, from the ground up. Through the draft and thanks to the exceptional roster handling of the team’s management, the Thunder was able to form a powerful trio of superstars, in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. All three were young, talented and had all the potential lead the team to the top of the NBA, as they grew up and gained experience. Oklahoma City even made moves to add role players and surround their stars, in an effort to chase a ring. Kendrick Perkins was one big addition for the team, at least during that time, the exchange the Thunder gave to the Boston Celtics, in Jeff Green and Nate Robinson, seemed like it was worth it.
With their Big Three, the Thunder was able to quickly make it to the playoffs in Year 2 after the team was formed. That season signaled the beginning of a brand new era for the team. The Thunder emerged as one of the best teams in the West. They even made it to the NBA Finals in 2012, when they were smashed by LeBron James’s Miami Heat. It then became clear that although the Thunder was a powerful team, they didn’t possess what it takes to win it all.
What followed that devastating loss might rationalize the title of this article. The Oklahoma City Thunder failed to re-sign their third best player, superstar James Harden because of financial disagreements. Due to the big contracts of their Big Three, the Thunder would have gone deep into the luxury tax if they retained him. Instead, they decided to trade him to the Houston Rockets and acquire Kevin Martin. Martin was brought to Oklahoma City to fill in the shoes of Harden and take over his sixth-man role. However, it quickly became clear that Harden’s quality and scoring ability would be missed. Martin had a solid season with the Thunder but nothing more than that. Westbrook’s injury in the first round of the playoffs doomed the team’s chances for something better. In addition, it was clearly exposed that the Thunder relied heavily on their two superstars. The rest of the supporting cast didn’t prove out to be able to provide much help for them. Perkins became a headache for the team, due to his offensive inconsistencies, Serge Ibaka plays well, but not well enough to make the difference and the bench of the team is thin.
Now, as the Thunder will enter the 2013-2014 season, things look even worse, as they will not have Kevin Martin in their roster. On top of that, the financial state of the team is not good either, with the big salaries of Perkins and Ibaka being a heavy burden for the team. There is no doubt the Thunder will be contenders next season. But can they reach the NBA Finals again? Do they have what it takes to beat the best teams in the league, like the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat and win a Championship?