Two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to eye their first NBA Championship. What’s standing in their way? Well, for one, the Miami Heat and the so-called ‘Big Three’ of Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
With Miami coming off back-to-back titles, they are clearly the team to beat in the NBA. However, Oklahoma City could turn some heads this year while the rest of the league is focused on taking down the Heat.
Durant is coming off a season in which he averaged more than 28 points per game, an average that rose during the postseason, when he tallied over 30 per contest. He also added almost eight board per game and almost five assists – but this was not enough to push the Thunder back to the NBA Finals last year.
So what can Durant do to make that next jump? Not a thing. This is up to the rest of the squad that left Durant high and dry last season during the postseason. After trading away James Harden, the Thunder were left with Russell Westbrook and Durant handling the scoring load. However, with Westbrook sidelined by an injury, Durant was left to fend for himself and came up short.
The Thunder’s big man, Kendrick Perkins, is currently caught in the middle of legal troubles stemming from an incident outside a Houston nightclub earlier this summer, in which Perkins is accused of assaulting a woman and her brother.
Perkins is more a defensive force than anything else for Oklahoma City, but his role is certainly invaluable to the team’s success. Serge Ibaka, the team’s starting power forward, has shown flashes of brilliance, but has failed to consistently step up as a needed third scoring option. During the 2012-13 campaign, he took a step forward, averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Oklahoma City desperately needs a new shooting guard to help spread the floor and complement Durant and Westbrook, offensively. Currently. Thabo Sefolosha mans the two spot for the Thunder and this former Chicago Bulls washout – simply put – is not the quality of player that Westbrook was.
Until another player besides Westbrook and Durant step up to handle the scoring load, it appears that this very talented team is one piece away from making a run at a return to the NBA Finals.