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READY OR NOT→Ready...: The Thunder isn't built for a championship. Not yet. But the playoffs? Maybe. The Western Conference is getting old fast, creating room for an up-and-comer.

Sometimes, the eighth playoff spot goes to a team that can do one thing well.

The Thunder should be able to score, with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. With young players, field-goal percentage generally goes up and turnovers go down. Expect that to happen this year for the Thunder's young trio.

→... Or not: The Thunder still has no interior defensive presence. In the 30-team NBA, OKC ranked 27th in field-goal percentage defense last year.

Etan Thomas is the only newcomer who figures to make a defensive impact, and Thomas' minutes figure to be limited.

Until the Thunder can defend the basket better, it will continue to struggle.

Measuring young success

The 2008-09 Trail Blazers were the third-youngest team in NBA history, by some reports. Portland averaged 23.9 years of age on opening day.

Using the 14 players expected to make the roster, the 2009-10 Thunder will average 24.4 years on opening day. If 36-year-old journeyman Kevin Ollie, a third-team point guard, is not included, that average drops to 23.5.

So how have the other extreme-youth teams fared in recent NBA seasons?

→2008-09 Blazers: The Blazers, 41-41 the previous year, went 54-28 and were the fourth seed in the Western Conference. They were led by LaMarcus Aldridge (23), Brandon Roy (24) and Rudy Fernandez (23).

→→2005-06 Hawks: The Hawks, 13-69 in the previous year, went 26-56 with a roster led by Joe Johnson (24), Al Harrington (25), Zaza Pachulia (21), Josh Smith (20), Josh Childress (22) and Marvin Williams (19). Then Atlanta went 30-52 and 37-45 before a 47-35 record last season.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 27, 2009


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