Chris Sheridan looks at the top non-playing trade assets. And OKC has two of them: “Phoenix’s unprotected pick: This piece of property belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, though it is losing value with each passing day as the Suns have recovered from their mini-slump to win five in a row to rise to fifth place in the West. When you consider that Oklahoma City also has an expendable $7.9 million expiring contract (Etan Thomas) which can be combined with Matt Harpring’s insurance-covered $6.5 million deal, and if you postulate that the Thunder would also be willing to give up their own pick or the Suns’ pick to acquire a stud, they could be sneaky big-time players a week from Thursday.”
Up to six in Fanhouse’s power rankings: “Kevin Durant continues to impress, and trails LeBron James by only a tenth of a point for the league lead in scoring. The Thunder were the story last week, and with a couple more wins in the books and no more games until after the All-Star break, they can enjoy the weekend by looking back on a more-successful-than-expected first half of the season.”
A Bleacher Report writer giving OKC major props: “No one is saying the Thunder will survive a seven game series with the Nuggets or Lakers and then beat the Cavs for a title. The Thunder are ready to enter the playoffs as more than just a “limp into” scenario. If OKC can secure a solid power forward or center, even an aging one for a few seasons, this team may be ready and willing to take that next step of progression into title contenders. As for this season, teams have been warned, the Thunder are more than good.”
The Wall Street Journal has a piece about international players and reading: “Many of the NBA’s 83 foreign-born players say reading was always the main form of entertainment in their home countries. Cleveland’s Mr. Ilgauskas says he grew up with no videogames and a TV that had only two channels. Nenad Krstic of the Oklahoma City Thunder says his basketball coaches in Serbia probably gave him as many books to read as his schoolteachers did when he was a child.”
David Thorpe ranks the top 20 rookies and sophomores. James Harden was 19, Russell Westbrook was five: “He can’t shoot. And he’s not a great finisher at the rim, either. But Westbrook still impacts and controls the game on a few levels and has proven to be a key factor in the Thunder’s surge. Scary thoughts for the rest of the league. When a player is as productive as Westbrook is — despite his youth and underdeveloped skill set — it’s a sign that his intelligence and athleticism are carrying him. As his skills improve, so will his overall impact.”
Durant has teamed up with Young and Reckless: “If Kevin Durant isn’t quite a household name yet, it’s just a matter of time. We hoops diehards know he is smack-dab in the middle of a push to NBA super-stardom. Leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to an improbable 30-21 record (which places them in serious Western Conference postseason conversations) and being ranked second in points per game is impressive enough, but throw in his first All-Star nod and recent Team USA inclusion, and Durant’s fame seems to be revving up. One such measure of Durant’s rising recognition involves Chris “Drama” Pfaff of MTV’s hit show, “Fantasy Factory”. Drama, with his clothing line “Young & Reckless”, has collaborated with Durant to create a limited edition t-shirt in celebration of his NBA All-Star Team selection.”
I feel like someone writes some form of this column every month. Alas, John Rhode says we’re being spoiled: “This is only Year Two of the Thunder, and already we’re spoiled. Not spoiled like the Celtics or the Lakers, but undeniably spoiled given our time investment. Most new franchises wait several years to have their first all-star selection. We went without for just one year. Those same franchises might wait even longer to make the playoffs. Depending on what transpires the final two months of this season, we might be shut out only one season.”
Any Thunder fans going to Dallas? Again, I’ll be there journalizing. If you see someone that looks like he’s totally in over his head, come say hi.