Chad Ford graded teams from the West’s offseasons and OKC received the highest marks: “The Thunder are the darlings of NBA analysts this summer. Virtually all of us have them ranked as the second-best team in the West and John Hollinger and I ranked them No. 3 in our latest edition of the Future Power Rankings. With the way Kevin Durant lit up the competition in the FIBA World Championship, you can make a strong argument that he, not LeBron or Kobe, is the best player in the NBA. The multiyear extension Durant quietly agreed to this summer earns the Thunder an A all by itself. The Thunder have been patient every summer and this one was no different. The team waited for opportunities, used its cap space to take on other teams’ trash and collect assets, and refused to deviate from the course. Its only significant player addition, Aldrich, was a solid choice, but he is unlikely to have a big impact in his first season. If there was a downside to the Thunder’s summer, it was the hit their front office took when Cho left OKC to take over as the GM of the Blazers. Few fans knew who Cho was, but he was a behind-the-scenes workhorse in Oklahoma City and one of the best minds in the NBA. I’m sure Sam Presti can manage without him, but losing him will sting a bit.”
Scott Carefoot of The Basketball Jones says KD could save the NBA: “Kevin Durant could be that reason, that player who transcends the usual appeal of the sport and attracts new fans simply because they enjoy watching greatness untainted by scandal, selfishness and egomania. Who knows if fame and success will change him like it has for so many others in his place? As someone who cares about the future of this league, I hope Durant understands that his legacy could be defined not just by how many MVPs and championships he wins, but how he composes himself along the way. Stay humble, young man, stay humble.”
From the Seattle PI: Kevin Durant is to Seattle what Len Bias is to Boston, except the pain of Durant’s departure is worse? I get the guy’s overall point, but I’m not sure he made it in the best way.
Matt Moore writing for FanHouse on more Oden and Durant: “Good? Absolutely. If you saw him, you knew it. Personal experiences are never something to be used as evidence in a vacuum, but that doesn’t mean they hold no weight. Watching Durant drop a nuclear payload on my alma mater back in 2007, obliterating them with 34 points on a range of shots so wide that for a while I thought Texas had two guys named Durant — I was sold. Done. Gotta draft that kid. That’s the guy you want. He’s “special.” But this? If you’d have put a gun to my head that night and asked me, “Will this kid be arguably the best player in the NBA in three years?” I would have asked you to put the gun down, because, well, I don’t want to get shot. But prompted for an answer there’s no way I would have assented to such a lofty caliber for his eventual playing status. Those wimpy wrists? That momma-boy’s face? The sheepish personality? This was no lion, driven to cheat at card games with the parents of friends (a classic Jordan tale). And he was no viper, likely to make demands of teams that hadn’t even drafted him yet (the Kobe special).”
Chris Mannix of SI predicts the 2012 Olympic roster and while KD is obvious, he also includes Westbrook: “The USA coaches loved Westbrook’s ability to change a game with his speed and athleticism. He’s an ideal fit at either guard spot on the second unit.”
Chris Perkins of HoopsWorld: “But it’s possible Durant, especially after his performance while leading the United States to the gold medal in the FIBA World Championship, has elevated himself past that next level of players, the group that includes Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, Denver Nuggets small forward Carmelo Anthony, New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, and players of that ilk. Maybe Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer last season, makes up the second tier of players all by himself, and everybody else is now a third-tier or lower player. And maybe USA Basketball recognizes as much.” Um, I don’t think there’s any doubt Durant is above those players. The question now is whether he’s above the first tier guys.