The summer looms like a barren wasteland. The draft is ancient history. Summer league is fading like a mirage in the Nevada desert. The NBA season is but a glimmer in every sports fan's eye. So, how do we pass the time? By over-analyzing the past, of course. After all, it is the greatest predictor of the future. First, the basic facts...
Oklahoma City started the 2008-2009 NBA season a woeful 3-29. They ended the season an optimistic 20-30, which brought their complete record to 23-59. What you may not realize is that the Thunder lost 19 games by 4 points or less. That's 19 games which could've gone the other way. What does that mean? OKC could have possibly finished the season at 42-40.
I know, it's a leap to think that they could have won all 19 of those games, but why not? Really, that's what separates the elite teams in any sport from the rest of the pack...the ability to win the close game. The question remains, have Presti and the Thunder taken the steps necesarry to win those close games? Take the jump to find out...
It's too early to know for sure, but what we do know is we've added a scoring threat at the shooting guard with James Harden. That amounts to someone helping with the scoring load. Sefalosha, while a good defensive player, only averaged 8.5 points last year while with OKC. If Harden averages 12.5 points, that could reasonably nets us 19 more games by making up that four-point difference. His stats from last year, 20.1 PPG on 48.9% shooting would certainly indicate he's capable of making up the difference.
What we also know is Kevin Durant has added 12 pounds of muscle through offseason training with his buddies at the University of Texas. This should not only add some toughness that leads to extra rebounds, but it shows that Durant is comitted to the team and being a leader. Leadership helps win close games. It gives a team focus and confidence on the court. 19 more games.
The questions still unanswered are one, a dominant defensive presence at the center position, and two, continued improvement from starters Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. Westbrook showed his commitment by participating in Summer League.
If Presti can pull off a trade for a defensive minded center, like Marcus Camby, the four point swing could very well come on the defensive end.
In my opinion, the upcoming season could see the Thunder blossom from a lottery team to sniffing at the door to the playoffs.It's all speculation, of course, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.