Why I'm ecstatic that OKC Thunder is in the NBA Finals

I mentioned this in my last entry from a couple of days ago, but now that it is official from Wednesday's win, I will briefly talk about why I'm stoked that the Oklahoma City Thunder is in the NBA Finals.

For obvious reasons, they are an exciting team playing fundamental team basketball. Add that to the fact, that they have one of the best players in the game today in Kevin Durant. If you have no horse currently in the playoff race, you would probably jump on the OKC bandwagon, just based on how this team was built from the ground up, the correct way, and is now, and looks to be, a force in the NBA for years to come.

For many who don't know, this team was practically built from scratch. When the Supersonics moved from Seattle to OKC, this team was in serious rebuild mode. They got lucky and was grateful to land Kevin Durant with the 2nd pick (apparently, not being able to bench 185 lbs, regardless of how good of a basketball player you are, will knock you down a spot), and this team traded or dumped a lot of veterans, and got a lot of young talent. During the years that followed, they drafted significant pieces such as Russel Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka, and this young team grew together. A few trades and free agents later (such as Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefalosha), and this team got into contention, with playoff berths, series wins, losses (such as a tough one to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011). After all this, they are in striking distance from an NBA championship. Their General Manager Sam Presti did an excellent job building this team. He's definitely a candidate for sports executive of the last decade, in my opinion.

Also, it's always exciting to see a small market team to be in serious contention. (Too bad the Sacramento Kings during the Chris Webber years never got past this point, but I digress). The last time a "small market" team was this close to winning a championship, was the Utah Jazz, in 97 and 98. But, with Michael Jordan on the other side, it was kind of a hard sell that they were a "favorite" and would actually win, no matter how great they were, and despite having Stockton and Malone. But, in my opinion, this OKC team is different, because it looks to be that they will obviously be the clear favorite, no matter who comes out of the East. They've practically dominated the whole playoffs (with the exception of losing the first 2 games of the San Antonio series), and they've done it by beating the most dominant Western Conference teams in the last decade. It's funny, because since that Utah team in 98, the only teams who have made the NBA Finals since then were the 3 teams that they've beaten (Dallas, LA Lakers, and San Antonio).

But, another reason why I'm excited to see a small market team in the Finals, is because it shows and gives hope, that you don't have to be in a huge market to build a team right. With the era of free agency nowadays, it still shows that an organization that is built with strong team fundamentals, will still likely have an upper hand huge over a team over talented (yet over-hyped and over-priced) individuals. Now can you imagine the story lines if the Miami Heat ends up being the Thunder's opponent? With the way the NBA and David Stern seems to find a way for its best matchups of happening, I find it highly likely it will happen.

However, the most significant reason why I am highly excited the OKC Thunder is in the finals, is because the Washington Wizards are currently following this blueprint of building a team. I think I remembered Ted Leonsis saying himself, shortly after drafting John Wall in 2010, that they specifically are following a similar blueprint as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Build the team from the ground up by drafting the right young guys as cornerstones, suck for a few years (by design) if need be, and grow as a team. Since they blew up the team during the 2010 season by getting rid of their solid (some distracting) veterans, like Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Antawn Jamison (just to name a few), they seemed to be heading in that direction. The Wizards should get another solid player from the draft this year, which could be a start of the team taking that next step. But that's another blog entry altogether.

I am excited to see what the OKC Thunder will do in the Finals. Like I said, I don't think they will lose in the Finals, no matter who is coming out of the East, even if it's the Miami Heat "dream team", but even if they don't win it this year, this team will be in contention for many years to come if they keep that core together.

No matter who OKC will be playing in the finals, it should be a fun matchup to watch. I am really looking forward to it, and will definitely be watching as much of it as I can. I'll likely occasionally blog about it too.


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