On Paper, the Thunder Are Contenders, But AAU Teams Don't Work in the NBA

You could argue that the Thunder have the 2nd most talented roster in the NBA after the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs added depth, but are old; the Rockets are up there; the 76ers could be there soon; the Timberwolves are close, but too young.

The Thunder have a top 5 point guard in reigning MVP Russell Westbrook; a top five small forward in Paul George; Top 30 player in Carmelo Anthony.

On paper, they’ll be contenders. But does anyone actually buy them as a legit threat to win the title?

Their main issue last year: 3-point shooting. They were dead last in the NBA at 32 percent. Also, Westbrook would go to the bench and the team would fall apart.

Those two issues seem to have been addressed. Carmelo shot 35 percent from deep last season; a few years ago it was 40 percent, and a few years before that, 42 percent. PG-13 shot 39-percent on 3-pointers last year.

But do you have faith in coach Billy Donovan creating a system that will get three isolation players to thrive? And more importantly, will Donovan have the gravitas to control a locker room featuring three me-first stars, all of whom will gripe at some point this season about shots and winning?

I’d like to remind you of how Serge Ibaka complained about playing with Westbrook, and then left; Kevin Durant, too.

It smells like a 49-win team in the West. I know that’s only a 2-win upgrade from last year, but the West got significantly better. The Rockets and Timberwolves upgraded their rosters; the Lakers and Suns did, too. The Clippers and Jazz will slide a bit.

And 49 wins could be good for 4th in the West.

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