The Thunder were in the Finals last year and boast 2 or 3 of the best young players in the league, not to mention a solid core of support players that are still young enough to grow and bloom with the core. So what's there to worry about?
There are few specific faults you can find in Oklahoma CIty. But I won't lie: I'm a little nervous. Sure, the Thunder smoked the Lakers in the playoffs last spring. But the Lakers swapped Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard and added Steve Nash. The Heat beat the Thunder in the NBA Finals ... and the Heat added Ray Allen. The Thunder added ... Hasheem Thabeet? Note also that Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka each played all 66 games last season, and Harden played 62. And the team still finished No. 2 in the West.
As a Celtics fan, I couldn't help but find this analysis fascinating.
Though the trade of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson was lauded at the time, many have come to reconsider the trade's impact. Green looks to be a significant help for the aging Celtics after heart surgery last season, while Perkins has been constantly saddled with minor injuries and has seen a significant production drop ever since he came to town. Regardless, I'm still in the camp that thinks Perk is a necessary presence in the lane. He might not show up stat-wise, because he doesn't rebound well and can't score on his own. Moreover, the Thunder aren't nearly as good of a passing team as Boston was, so Perk sees less opportunities to score. But off of the stat sheet, he provides a lot of intangible value.
Oh, and what about the Harden situation?
You can see the obvious issue here. Keep Harden at his price ... and the Thunder will owe millions of dollars in luxury-tax payments. Let Harden hit the open market ... and it's a certainty that he gets that maximum contract. Trade him ... and no matter the pieces the Thunder get back, they will not receive equal value at a time when they need to push for a championship. That leaves only one ideal avenue: pay Harden less than a maximum contract. Will that work? It's easy to see why not, but there is precedent.
I was counting on them to take out the Heat, so they let me down. Still, if the Celtics can't advance, I hope the Thunder make up for last year with a title this year.