The Oklahoma City Thunder’s appearance in the NBA Finals denotes the first team other than the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, or San Antonio Spurs to represent the Western Conference since the Utah Jazz’s back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998. Led by three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and a nucleus of young explosive talent, the Thunder looks poised to stake their claim as the best team in the Western Conference for years to come.
The Thunder are lead by 23-year-old Kevin Durant, 23-year-old Russell Westbrook, and 22-year-old James Harden. The DC-bred three-time scoring champ Durant has quickly cemented himself amongst the NBA’s elite, while Russell Westbrook has used his size and athletic advantages to catapult himself into the conversation of best point guards in the NBA. Sixth Man of the Year Harden gives the Thunder a legitimate scorer and defender off the bench who can play the point or the two position.
OKC has put on a show in these playoffs, using their youth, athleticism and overall explosiveness to overpower teams en route to their first NBA finals. Make no mistake, while the Oklahoma City Thunder has made things looks particularly easy these playoffs, these young guns have indeed earned their stripes.
In order to get to the Finals the Thunder had to defeat the three teams that have had a stranglehold on the Western Conference for the last decade and a half. They dominated the defending champion Mavericks, sending them home in four. They made Kobe Bryant and the Lakers look lethargic and old, defeating them in five.
How fitting was it that the Spurs, the team that the Thunder brass has modeled its organization after, gave the team its toughest challenge on the way to the Finals. The Spurs came out on the attack, putting OKC in a 2-0 hole. The fiery young bunch took the Spurs best shot and bounced back in emphatic fashion, running off four straight victories.
So have the Thunder finally arrived? Or will King James finally claim his throne? For what its worth, I’m riding with KD.