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News » Thunder future sparkles

Thunder future sparkles

Thunder future sparkles
The team of Oklahoma City's NBA past will pay a visit to the team of Oklahoma City's NBA present tonight.

Hornets vs. Thunder.

"What could have been?" vs. "What will be?"

As the Hornets return to our fair city to face the Thunder, it's impossible to avoid such questions. No doubt Oklahoma City lost something good when the Hornets moved back to New Orleans, but it also gained something good when the Thunder came to town.

Did it get something better?

Let's talk strictly Basketball here. In the short term, we know the Hornets are the better team. They were a whisker away from the Western Conference Finals a year ago, and even though they've lacked consistency this season, they have a squad that is superior to the Thunder in just about every way.

But what about the long term?

Which franchise has a brighter future?

The answer seemed like a no-brainer when the Hornets came to town earlier this season. They routed the Thunder in lay-up drill masquerading as an NBA game, and the faithful left the Ford Center with a sinking feeling - the Thunder would never be that good.

That night, it was impossible to imagine the Thunder ever playing as well as the Hornets, ever being a team that could be a serious playoff contender.

Now, it is.

Ironically, that loss to the Hornets is part of the reason why. It set off a chain reaction that altered the Thunder's course. The embarrassment of the rout led to the firing of P.J. Carlesim, which led to the promotion of Scott Brooks, which led to the slow but steady improvement of this young squad.

Sure, the Hornets might roll the Thunder tonight. They have more talent, more experience and more savvy. But gaze into the future, and you can see the opposite being true in a few years.

The Thunder's core players are extremely young but ridiculously good. That's a promising combination.

What's more, they are getting better.

Look at Kevin Durant. The guy is one of the top scorers in the league, but he continues to improve other areas of his game. His rebounding, for example, has skyrocketed.

His average through the end of November: 4.1 rpg.

His average since: 7.9 rpg.

Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook have shown similar signs of improvement. Those three players are the nucleus now and in the future, and you can see them continuing to grow.

The Hornets lack that kind of future potential.

Chris Paul is fantastic, maybe even a talent for the ages. He's the kind of guy you want to build around, but if you look at the Hornets roster, you'll find few other players who can grow with him.

New Orleans has a roster that is built to win right now with players at the top of their game and their payscale. If the franchise ever wants to take a big step forward, it will need to either implode the roster or make some big-time acquisitions.

Considering the franchise's on-going financial struggles - news out of New Orleans last week is that Louisiana owes the Hornets millions in inducements and revenues - a roster overhaul seems unlikely.

The Thunder, on the other hand, is well under the salary cap and has money to spend. The money could be used to keep Durant and Co. or make key acquisitions.

And let's not forget the Thunder's bevy of high draft picks.

What seemed ridiculous when the Thunder and the Hornets last played Oklahoma City is now clear - the team of Oklahoma City's NBA present has a much brighter future than the team of Oklahoma's NBA past.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 19, 2009


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