By Josh Kramer
Most of the attention regarding the Western Conference this off-season has been focused on the newly revamped Los Angeles Lakers. Rightfully so. In adding two-time MVP Steve Nash and the best center in the NBA, it appears Kobe has the pieces in place to nab #6. But who won the Western Conference championship last year though? Who went to the Western Conference finals the year before? Oh yeah, that team out of Oklahoma City. With yesterday’s four-year contract extension of 22-year-old swat team captain Serge Ibaka, the youth movement continues on in OKC.
In this day and age defined by free agency, blockbuster deals, and unhappy players, core groups rarely stay together for an extended period of time. Oklahoma City is looking to defy the odds and build a dynasty out of a group of guys that they drafted, molded, and groomed.
Thunder Draft History:
2007: Kevin Durant (Pick #2)
2009: James Harden (Pick #3)
Sure there are a few exceptions. Guys like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha are key contributors who were acquired in ways other than the draft, but the four best players on the roster were drafted by OKC and matured with the Thunder. There is no better way to develop chemistry both on and off the court and excite a fan base then to draft talent and keep that talent together. Not to mention form a team that demonstrates class in victory and in defeat.
With Durant, Westbrook, Harden (only one year remaining on current contract), and Ibaka in town for the forseeable future, things look good for Thunder fans. The Lakers may be the early favorite, but I wouldn’t sleep on this group that has been through the good and bad times together. Chemistry does not just form over night. It takes time to develop. The rest of the NBA should take note of OKC’s tactics.
The Thunder youth movement is here to stay.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.