With their decisive victory over the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals for the first time since the franchise moved from Seattle following the 2007-2008 season. The Thunder’s core trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden has an average age of 23, making a few return trips to the Finals appear inevitable. But are the Thunder on the verge of becoming the league’s next dynasty? AFRO Sports Writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley analyze the possibilities.
Green: In Durant, Westbrook and Harden, the Thunder have arguably the league’s best trio at an amazing point in their careers. Durant and Westbrook are each a spry 23 years old while Harden is just 22. The future of this team is unlimited, and the threesome is something the NBA has never seen before. Champions typically consist of a band of late twenty-somethings and veterans in their early thirties, leaving just a small window for most dynasties to achieve success. But this club has the youth and skill to claim a long string of titles .
Riley: The collection of talented youth is impressive but it can also be an obstacle. Westbrook and Durant are already signed to extensions, but how much money will it take to keep Harden and Serge Ibaka, who’s also an integral part of this Thunder team? Young players typically command more in the free agent market, and should Oklahoma win the title this season you can believe that the amount of money thrown at Harden and Ibaka will shoot up tremendously. Harden is scheduled to become a free agent after next season and Ibaka will enter the market the offseason after that. The contractual status of both players will ultimately determine whether or not the Thunder become the NBA’s newest dynasty.
Green: Both Harden and Ibaka are critical pieces, but I trust the team will find a way to keep at least one of them, if not both. The real story here is Durant and Westbrook. They make the Thunder go and, as long as they remain in Oklahoma City, the team will be dynasty worthy.
Riley: You can’t undervalue what Harden and Ibaka bring to this team. And it’s not just them—Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins add tremendous defensive talent. This team isn’t all about Durant and Westbrook, it’s about the roster as a whole. This is a well-crafted roster and I’m not sure just having Durant and Westbrook is enough to prevent the damage done by player defections.
Green: Have you seen Westbrook and Durant play? They’re two of the most unguardable players in the league, and I’m confident they could carry any team regardless of who their teammates are. Harden, Perkins and Ibaka are all critical pieces, but together they’re nothing more than glorified role players, not superstars like the dynamic duo. The new age of free agency doesn’t allow teams to field dynasty teams that run for consecutive years but with two of the best players in the league already in place, we’re seeing the birth of the NBA’s next big thing.