The Oklahoma City Thunder NBA franchise is on a swift and deliberate rebuilding campaign after a full season without their former All-Star forward Kevin Durant.
Durant, 28, spent the previous season enjoying greener pastures as a member of the Golden State Warriors. As a Warrior, the former NBA scoring champion got a chance to join a super team that just enjoyed a record-breaking 73-win season the year before. Durant also got the chance to earn his first championship ring and NBA Finals MVP. Though the Thunder may not have gotten to the promised land last season, the 47-win team did have a member of the ball club make some sweeping history.
All-Star Thunder guard Russell Westbrook broke the legendary Oscar Robertson's single-season record for triple-doubles. The 41 triple-doubles Robertson recorded as a member of the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) was a record that stood in the books for 55 years until a possessed Westbrook happened last season. The freakishly athletic 6'3" floor general recorded 42 triple doubles and averaged just over 31 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, and 10.4 assists per game.
Unfortunately, the historically outstanding season Westbrook had in 2016-17 was not enough to help his team go deep into the postseason. The Thunder were booted from the first round of the 2017 playoffs in a lopsided series at the hands of the Houston Rockets and James Harden, a former member of their team. Harden put on a dominant performance in that series and made a case for winning the league MVP Award. The 4-1 series rout was the earliest postseason exit by the Thunder since 2010.
However, in the off-season, the Thunder front office members have not been twiddling their thumbs helping the team lick its wounds. According to an early July 2017 article published by Sports Illustrated Magazine, the Thunder closed a trade deal with the Indiana Pacers to acquire All-Star forward Paul George. The 6'9" George proved himself to be a solid scorer and team leader in Indiana. He is naturally a wing player but he showed versatility by playing some power forward for the Pacers as well.
Over this weekend, more trade news made headlines after ESPN reported that a blockbuster deal was made between the New York Knicks and the Thunder, which sent All-Star forward and Olympic Gold Medalist Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City. The Thunder gave up center Enes Kanter, forward Doug McDermott, and a second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft in order to get Anthony. In a new "win now" NBA era that is all about building super teams, the Thunder have a "Big Three" core they can bank on.
As history has shown, the 2010-11 Miami Heat super team got three major superstars to pave the way on offense and defense and it proved to be a challenge when the team made it to the NBA Finals. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh were part of the Heat super team that ran into a buzz saw called the Dallas Mavericks. With the great Dirk Nowitzki leading the offense and the 7'1" Tyson Chandler leading the defense, the Heat looked bewildered against the unified Maverick force.
These kinds of challenges are what Westbrook, George, and Anthony will have to face when the regular season begins later this fall. The Western Conference is filled with unified teams that are great on offense and defense. What will the Thunder starting lineup look like and what role will Anthony play with whatever five-man product head coach Billy Donovan puts on the floor? George has played the power forward position before but he did so reluctantly. He is naturally a small forward.
Anthony is also a small forward who has played power forward at times. However, he is a liability on defense. Anthony is an exemplary scorer but he has to take a lot of shots to get a decent amount of points every night. Anthony is also not known as a great passer. However, he creates matchup nightmares on offense when he is playing in a "small ball" lineup. Westbrook has finally proven himself to be a true point guard and is probably the best in the game at his position as an all-around player.
It will be very interesting to see how he threads the needle on the floor with two new All-Star guys who can do what Harden and Durant once did alongside him scoring wise. Whether or not this new team can be as good or better than the Thunder team that won the 2012 Western Conference Championship remains to be seen. Bench scoring is also needed for a team to contend for titles. In any case, the Thunder's front office members and coaching staff still have some work to do.
About the Creator
Mr. Trammell is an award-winning digital media producer, freelance journalist, and author. Formerly, he wrote national radio content for the Michael Baisden Show. He also served as Senior Editor at the Your Black World online news network.