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News » Thunder is on the rise

Thunder is on the rise

Thunder is on the riseOne media member is penciling in the Thunder to have a 19-game improvement and fall just short of the postseason. Another writer thinks Oklahoma City is in for such a long season Kevin Durant may need therapy.

That's the high and low ends of how national experts think the Thunder will fare this season. Most observers project the Thunder to fall somewhere in the middle, with the win total in 2009-10 coming in somewhere between 30 and 39 victories, according to a survey of 15 NBA writers and broadcasters conducted by The Oklahoman for this year's most improved team and player.

Oklahoma City's rebuilding efforts have drawn rave reviews. But the Los Angeles Clippers, with six votes, are this panel's favorite for most improved team.

"Yes, Blake Griffin is that good," said Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel.

He's not, however, expecting much improvement in the Thunder .

"The Thunder - sorry folks - will win just 26 games, a three-game improvement," Schmitz said. "Kevin Durant may need therapy."

Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports sees Durant as a potential All-Star this season and a player who, along with an improving Russell Westbrook, could have Oklahoma City flirting with the playoffs.

"With Durant and Westbrook leading the way, the Thunder should be about to win 42 games with most of the wins coming at home," Spears said. "I think OKC will compete for a playoff spot this season but likely come shy."

Others panelists think the Thunder will take baby steps toward the playoffs.

"I like the approach Sam Presti is taking with this club," said Chris Colston of USA Today. "I'm not the only one. Rebuilding teams like Sacramento are taking note. I can see a 10-game improvement this year and .500 next year."

The last 10 seasons show a slow climb might be more likely.

It likely will take a 20-game improvement for the Thunder to even snif postseason contention. Nine teams in 10 years have had one-year turnarounds of 20 wins or more and made the playoffs after missing the postseason the previous year.

All nine of those teams (see chart) benefited from improved health or major acquisitions. Oklahoma City, which avoided major injuries last season, is building from within.

"I think they're going to make a nice jump," said AP Basketball writer Brian Mahoney. "Playoffs are still a question mark because there's so many good teams in the West. But I think they'll be playing meaningful games into March."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 7, 2009


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