With Kevin Durant and Nucleus of Young Stars, Thunder Will Only Get Better


August 7, 2010

With Kevin Durant and Nucleus of Young Stars, Thunder Will Only Get Better On July 8, while LeBron James was busy planning his nationally televised "Decision" and unveiling his future in South Beach to millions of (somewhat agitated) viewers, Kevin Durant was busy making a choice of his own. He chose to stay in Oklahoma City, signing a five-year contract extension, and he did it without fanfare or melodrama. And he did it because there's a solid nucleus around him — the six stars of Durant's supporting cast are all under 27, and they've got nowhere to go but up. The future is bright in OKC.

2009-10 Record: 50-32 (fourth in Northwest Division, eighth in Western Conference, lost to Lakers in first round)

Celtics' record vs. Thunder:
66-51 all time, 1-1 last season

Familiar faces:
Jeff Green (originally drafted by Celtics, traded for Ray Allen), Kevin Ollie (UConn alum)

Key additions:
Cole Aldrich (draft), Ryan Reid (draft), Tibor Pleiss (draft), Magnum Rolle (draft), Latavious Williams (draft), Morris Peterson (traded from Hornets), Daequan Cook (traded from Heat)

Key losses: Really none. The Thunder are armed and dangerous for next season.

Burning question: Is Durant an MVP?

Not many human beings who walk this earth are capable of conquering the world at age 21. But Kevin Durant is superhuman.

Durant already has a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star selection and a scoring title under his belt. And he's only going to get better.

Kobe Bryant is getting older. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be forced to share the basketball next season, fighting for minutes, touches, shots and signature moments. Dwight Howard is dominant, but not the offensive force that he could be.

On paper, Durant looks like the most viable candidate for Most Valuable Player in 2011. He's got the talent, the potential for growth and the right teammates around him.

Durant signed a five-year extension this summer because he loves being in Oklahoma City. He loves the organization, he loves the fans, and most importantly, he loves the guys he plays with every night. Durant makes the Thunder better, and vice versa. The Thunder have helped make him into arguably the best in the game.

Next spring, we'll see how far he's come. We may even see him holding up a trophy.

2010-11 outlook: The Thunder have it made. They have such a young, talented nucleus in place that they're loaded for the next decade — but they're also ready to win right now. Durant is too good and too competitive to settle for first-round playoff exits forever. He's going to be ready to take that leap soon, and he'll carry his teammates along for the ride. If Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden can prove they're ready to be winners too, great things will happen in Oklahoma City.

Did you know? At age 21, Durant became the youngest player ever to win an NBA scoring title last season. Durant stole the distinction from Max Zaslofsky, who was 22 when he led the league in scoring in 1947-48 with the Chicago Stags.

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