Thunder Links – December 20, 2011

About 3 p.m. central time, we’ll be giving away two tickets to tonight’s game. So, stay tuned to our twitter account.

FS Arizona says OKC will roll in the NW Division. The OKC Thunder are understandably everyone’s favorite pick to win the Western Conference this season and I don’t see any reason to buck that trend. The Thunder bring back the same team that went to the WCF last year and will have a full season with Kendrick Perkins. The young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka should be able to handle the tough schedule as well as any team in the league. (cont…)

CBS Sports NW preview. Best team: Oklahoma City Thunder The young, deep Thunder arguably bring the fewest questions to the table of any NBA team to start the 2011-2012 season. Are they in shape? All-Star forward Kevin Durant and key reserve guard James Harden stayed the busiest during the lockout, going on whirlwind streetball and charity game tours but guard Russell Westbrook kept busy and fit while taking classes at UCLA and big man Serge Ibaka played for Real Madrid. (cont…)

Jason Kidd is playing tonight. “This is different because when you talk about 82 games you try to get off to a good start and then somewhere there’s kind of a drop off and you kind of have to pick it back up and come after All-Star break you’re trying to position yourself for the playoffs,” Kidd said. “So, this season you’re going to be positioning yourself right from the start. Those first five, six games you’ve got to be able to get off to a good start. you don’t want to climb out of a hole with 66 games.” (cont…)

Brewhoop considers OKC a top 5 watchable team. Young, talented and dangerous sounds like a description of my 16-month old daughter, but it works just as well to sum up Kevin Durant’s Thunder squad. It’s hard no to like the small market darlings of the NBA, and this might finally be the year they make their big move in the West (which is more wide open than ever). When I’m not admiring James Harden’s glorious beard, (cont…)

The Marshalltown previews its contenders. If ever there was a team that could benefit from the shortened season and the condensed 66 game schedule, it would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. A shortened preseason means players have less time to gel and will lead to sloppy mistakes, however this shouldn’t affect the Thunder as their players have already been together for some time and understand each other’s game, while a schedule packed with back to back games won’t hamper a squad when its four best players are 23 years old or younger. Despite having such a young team, the Thunder have already gained valuable playoff experience, making the post-season for the last two years and reaching the conference finals last year. (cont…)

If OKC Doesn’t lock up Westbrook, he’ll be a top 5 free agent in 2012. Westbrook, like [kevin] Love, should be locked up before the extension window ends. But the Thunder are clearly Kevin Durant’s team, and Oklahoma City could consider going all the way to restricted free agency to see whether they can get Westbrook at less than the max. It’d be a risk, as he’d almost assuredly get the max as an RFA anyway, but it hardly seems like a sure thing that Westbrook will be all locked up before July 1. (cont…)

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