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News » Playoffs? It's a possibility

Playoffs? It's a possibility

Playoffs? It's a possibility
When Scott Brooks was told this piece would be about the playoffs, the Thunder coach immediately interrupted any ensuing line of questioning and responded with his best Jim Mora.

"Playoffs?" Brooks shrieked.

And just like the former NFL coach, Brooks wasn't kidding.

Talking about playoffs following a 23-win season might be premature for the Thunder . But that's exactly what star forward Kevin Durant has been doing this summer, saying the postseason needs to be Oklahoma City's goal in 2009-10.

"Anything less than the playoffs is a failure for us," Durant said on June 30 while in town for his youth Basketball camp.

Durant's words should be viewed more as motivational rather than a mandatory edict the Thunder must meet. Every player in the league will say the goal is the postseason.

But just how realistic is that objective for Oklahoma City?

The Thunder has a handful of factors that could boost its chances.

The 20-30 record over last season's final 50 games. The stability players and coaches now enjoy as opposed to shifting from Seattle a year ago this time. The continuity it has with Brooks center Nenad Krstic and swingman Thabo Sefolosha all returning for a full season. The Thunder played only 17 games last season with its projected opening night starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Durant, Sefolosha and Krstic.

Oklahoma City added more talent this summer in No. 3 overall pick James Harden. Draft picks Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens also could prove to be everything Mo Sene and Robert Swift weren't.

Nineteen of the Thunder's losses came by four points or less, the third-most defeats in the league by that margin, trailing only Indiana and San Antonio. That total figures to fall slightly as the young core gains more experience next season.

But Oklahoma City is also in the cutthroat Western Conference, where 46 wins didn't make the cut for Phoenix last season and 48 didn't do it for Golden State in 2007-08. You can probably already pencil in seven teams into the Western Conference playoffs - the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, San Antonio, Portland, Utah, Dallas and New Orleans.

That leaves one spot. It's possible but not probable it'll be snatched by the Thunder .

Only a handful of teams have gone from a 20-something win total to the playoffs the following year. And most of those clubs climbed the standings behind extraordinary circumstances.

Boston went from 24 wins in 2006-07 to 66 wins and the NBA title only after adding All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. New Jersey won 26 games in 2000-01 and made it to the NBA Finals a year later after a 52-win season. But the Nets traded Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd, acquired Richard Jefferson through the 2001 draft and saw the return of Kerry Kittles, who missed the entire 2000-01 season to injury.

Chicago went from 23 wins in 2003-04 to 47 victories and a fourth seed in 2004-05. But the Bulls added two top-seven picks in Ben Gordon and Luol Deng and signed Andres Nocioni from overseas.

Memphis once climbed the ladder without an extreme makeover. The Grizzlies won 28 games in 2002-03 but notched 50 victories and a sixth seed the next season. Memphis only added free agent forward James Posey and traded for Bonzi Wells. And similar to the Thunder , the Grizzlies had a coach in Hubie Brown who was in his first full season as coach after taking over for Sidney Lowe eight games into the previous season.

The difference between the Thunder and that season's Grizzlies is experience. The average age of Brown's 10-man rotation in Memphis was 26 years old. The average age of a similar 10-man rotation for the Thunder would be 23.4 years old on opening night.

"I didn't guarantee we were going to the playoffs," Durant said Sunday in Las Vegas. "But that's in our mindset and that's where we're looking to go. I think we have the talent to. Hopefully it falls that way."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: July 22, 2009


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