The Oklahoma City Thunder have the most talented young roster in the NBA. Their speed, size and ability from the starters all the way down the bench is why they are one of the favorites to take home a title this year.
Of course they have All Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but it is other players that make this team truly special. Serge Ibaka and James Harden have been an incredible boost for the Thunder for the past couple years and been a huge part of their success.
Harden deserves the Sixth Man award this year for all he has contributed. Since so much attention goes to Westbrook and Durant, if Harden is having a good game, he is capable of going off, like he did against Phoenix last week, scoring a career-high 40 points. He will end up being one of the most valuable players on the team throughout the playoffs (if Metta World Peace didn’t knock all his screws loose).
Ibaka is just as valuable. He gives the Thunder size and athleticism down low. He is the whole package of a big man: scoring, defense and rebounding. He is capable of putting up ridiculous stat lines and he is a force in the paint.
If the Thunder are going to create a dynasty, they will need to keep those two around for as long as they can, as well as their two all-stars. But that could be difficult.
Harden and Ibaka are both up for extensions this summer, but if they do not sign, they will be restricted free agents next summer, and a lot of teams will offer up some big bucks. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti says the organization is going to do what they can to sign them.
“We’re looking forward to having those conversations,” Presti said. “Those guys are guys we drafted and have developed internally. We see them as guys who are important to sustaining our team.”
It will most likely come down to team loyalty. With Westbrook and Durant both having huge contracts, the Thunder will not be able to offer as much money to Harden and Ibaka as some other teams could. Do they want the cash or would they rather stick with their team and go for a long string of titles?