2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant should have a
few more shots at that elusive title.
(image from the AP)

Even for a team that has two Team USA members (one of them is the scoring champ AGAIN), the Sixth Man of the Year, and the NBA’s leading blocker, one cannot blame the OKC Thunder for feeling a little down.

They, after all, lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the consensus most hated basketball team in the world. And how, too.

It’s a feeling that’ll be hard to escape from, even if the litany of teams they beat to get to this point is quite unparalleled.

It’s made extra-difficult because there were a few games in their series with the Miami Heat that could’ve easily gone the other way had the Thunder made a couple more free throws or had they taken care of the ball a little better.

Or had Kendrick Perkins played less, despite how he might advocate for the contrary.

Still, having said all those things, and with everything turning out the way they did, the 2011-2012 season will be remembered as another milestone year for this young and promising core.

They got bounced by the Lakers two postseasons ago, they got bounced by the Mavs last postseason. They beat both teams AND the indefatigable San Antonio Spurs this postseason, promising the dawn of a youthful dynasty-in-the-making.

OKC returned to a hero's welcome, and there sure is
plenty more where that came from.
(image from the AP)
That’s not all smoke and mirrors.

The Thunder are great. Sam Presti has built an awesome group of talented players who can go play at the level they did this year, and a bit higher, for the next five seasons – AT LEAST.

The question now, however, is the same question that faces every other team that is not the NBA Champion – what can be done to improve? What or who should be retained, and what or who should be changed/unloaded?

Some might not be wrong in saying, “Why change anything? Why fix what’s not broken?”

Well, because there’s always something to fix. No team is “not broken,” especially a team that blew its homecourt edge and lost by a MILE in the championship-clinching game.

Something must be changed, lest the Thunder fall into the plateau of unfulfilled promises also known as mediocrity.

And speaking of plateauing and mediocrity…

Both James Harden and Serge Ibaka, at least in my opinion and how it looked on a flat screen, underperformed in the Finals relative to how they were so effective in their the regular season and their Western Conference run. Harden never scored below 11 points in OKC’s first three Playoff series this year, and then he scored 5 in Game 1, 8 in Game 3, and 9 in Game 4 against Miami. He shot 44.4% from the field in the regular season, but it dropped to just 37.5% against the Heat, including shooting just 29% from beyond the arc in Games 1-4 (he did himself a favor by shooting 3 of 8 in Game 5). He was supposed to be the third wheel Miami had to deal with, but he got outplayed by Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller.

We can say something similar about Serge Ibaka. Ibaka normed 9.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and a whopping 3.7 rejections per game in the regular season. He was hovering around the same level in OKC’s first three series, but he also fell flat against what was perceived to be a generally weaker Miami frontline. Ibaka averaged just 7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and just 2 blocks per outing in the Finals. The guy supposed to reprise Dikembe Mutombo looked more like Samuel Dalembert. Thisis not to say Ibaka (or Dalembert for that matter) was terrible. He was just not as defensively dominant as he was supposed to be.

And why talk about these two guys so much? Because they are the two keys to whether OKC can sustain its furious form for the foreseeable future. Both will be restricted free agents in the 2013 offseason, and it’s pretty academic to assume they’ll get courted by other teams. Whether OKC can, or wants, to match whatever offer is put on the table is still in the realm of uncertainty. Better yet, OKC can push both to sign extensions THIS offseason to nip the problem in the bud.

If that happens, though, then Presti will have to contend with a team in the luxury tax territory. This might not be as bad of a problem, however, if OKC continues deep runs in the Playoffs. Barring any fortuitous events, OKC should be able to afford paying luxury tax with the help of postseason gate receipts and added merchandise revenue.

So things should be spick-and-span, right?

There is one wrinkle in all of these seemingly panned out issues – even if the Thunder continue to run roughshod with a solid core, who is the coach who can get them over the hump and deliver a championship to title-hungry Oklahoma City?

Presti seems to stand by Scott Brooks, despite all the hits he’s taken in the Finals. Some other floaters are Van Gundy (which one?) and, whoa, Phil Jackson (Yoda himself).

What that leaves us is the certainty that the Thunder will be good, along with the lingering uncertainty of whether they will ever be great.

Will Scott Brooks be back, or will the
Thunder turn to somebody else?
(image from the AP)

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5 Comment

Quite possible that the Thunder needed to taste and feel defeat first in the finals before prevailing in the future.. Hopefully not in the immediate future.. Hehe im sure the thunder and heat will meet again


Hey what about a post about the champs?


haha OKC will still be strong next season nga Rollz. Miami, too. I predict a lot of free agents will want to sign with the Heat. And with Boston probably getting blown up, Derrick Rose's recovery uncertain, and Orlando floundering... it seems only the Knicks, the Pacers and the Sixers might be the only legit threats for Miami next season.


Oklahoma City Thunder is my favorite team and I can't miss the playoff this season but I'm able to find OKC Thunder tickets anywhere! My friend helped me get tickets from GoodSeatTickets! Thanks a lot for the tickets!