October 21, 2008
SI's 2008-09 NBA Scouting Reports
Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected Finish: 14th in Western Conference
Kevin Durant led his team -- and all rookies -- in scoring last season, but he must shore up his D to become a superstar.
Greg Nelson/SI
Fast Fact
Last Season

The franchise player's doing just fine, but wins won't come sweeping down the plain

There will be no shortage of references to a certain Rogers andHammerstein musical when the Oklahoma City Thunder, a transplant from Seattle,begins play as a long shot to even improve upon last season's 20-62 record.So let this be one of the first. Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo could call uponthis lyric from Oh, What a Beautiful Morning to describe last year'sSuperSonics defense: All the cattle are standin' like statues/ They don'tturn their heads as they see me ride by. Thus, Carlesimo spent most of thepreseason concentrating on that more bovine end of the floor.

What that means to franchise standard-bearer and reigning Rookie of the YearKevin Durant is hard to say. Carlesimo has been impressed with Durant'sdefensive improvement -- "Kevin doesn't have to prove himself as a scorer," saysthe coach -- but it's hard to imagine the 6-foot-9, 215-pound swingman, whoaveraged 20.3 points in his first season, ever being a stopper. Yet he'llneed to try to become just that if he is to join the fraternity of eliteall-around players in the league.

Point guard Earl Watson thinks that Durant is already there. "[He] has notonly the ability but also the personality to be a superstar," Watson toldThe Daily Oklahoman. The personality interests Carlesimo less thanthe ability, which Durant showed plenty of when he scored 20 points in thefourth quarter to lead Oklahoma City to a 110-104 win over the Rockets onOct. 13.

Still, that was only the second time in the preseason that the Thunderreached triple figures, and the team shot under 40 percent twice. The new fan base hadbest understand that, beyond Durant, there's not much O in Oklahoma. -- Jack McCallum


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