As we play out the final days of the 2011-'12 NBA regular season, we take a look at each franchise. Who emerged, what went wrong, what lies ahead. A look at post season chances, long term potential and upgrades possible in this summer's NBA draft. We continue in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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Already the Northwest Division champs, the Thunder battled but came up short and settle for the number two seed in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant continues to perform like an MVP and Russell Westbrook is as explosive as they come in the backcourt. The concussion suffered by James Harden at the hands of Metta World (No) Peace is troubling and could derail Oklahoma City down the line. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are a solid duo in the paint, but the Thunder lack a true low post presence on offense. Derek Fisher will be counted on to provide dept at the point, in place of the injured Eric Maynor. If Harden is sidelined indefinitely, look for Thabo Sefolosha to be asked to play a great role.
The Thunder are $6 million over the cap, but with a dozen locked in for next season, Oklahoma City is only going to get better.
Oklahoma City could use a developmental forward and don't have to look far to find North Texas combo forward Tony Mitchell. If he is gone, which is likely, New Mexico senior forward Drew Gordon would be a nice fit. The Thunder traded away their second round selection in the Lazar Hayward deal.
With solid young talent, most with cap friendly contracts, the Thunder are a long shot to execute their amnesty provision.
The Good: What's not to like? The Thunder had a shot at the number one seed in the Western Conference down to the final week. Kevin Durant is arguably the best player in the Association and has a solid supporting cast. Russell Westbrook is the most athletic point guard in the West and when healthy James Harden is the league's best sixth man. Serge Ibaka continues to provide weak side help and Kendrick Perkins is a perfect compliment. Daequan Cook and Nick Collison lead a deep bench.
The Bad: Will James Harden be cleared for the playoffs? It took a bird brain move from Metta World Peace to jeopardize his status for the post season. It's hard to call, when dealing with a concussion. Can Derek Fisher provide leadership off the bench in place of the injured Eric Maynor? The only thing that can hurt Oklahoma City's chances is injury. Restricted free agency begins to threaten the salary cap in 2013-'14, but every team in the Association wishes that was their only concern.
The Thunder are in great shape for next season with their top twelve players under contract. In 2013-'14 Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor and James Harden become restricted free agents, with team options on three others. This team is a model of how to build a winner.
Why read boxscores when you can find out everything that happened in Howard Bender's nightly Fantasy Baseball Roundup
Kendrick Perkins, Cole Aldrich
Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, Lazar Hayward
Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha
Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher, Royal Ivey
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Tom Blaz is a writer for Fantasy Alarm and co-owner of The Recruiting Eagle a website focusing on Auburn University Athletics.
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