Mar 8, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT
Not everyone believes the Oklahoma City Thunder have a real chance to win an NBA title. And if you watched the Miami Heat take them apart on Valentines Day, it’s easy to say that the gap between the Heat and Thunder is pretty much still where we left it last June. Which is pretty wide.
TNT’s Charles Barkley is leading the “Oklahoma City has no chance” parade.
Kevin Durant isn’t buying it. Of course, what do you expect him to say? But he said he and his teammates are not listening to the Round Mound of Rebound. Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger spoke with him about it.
“I don’t listen to that guy,” Kevin Durant said, pronouncing those last two words like you would say “Jihad” or “Sequestration…”
“He said that last year,” Durant said. “He said we wouldn’t make it to the Finals — that we were a bunch of jump shooters. But we’re shooting 48 percent as a team. We don’t shoot all 3s and jumpers. We get in the paint. We can do it all.
“So of course he’s gonna say that. You respect sometimes what he says, he’s a funny guy. But we don’t listen to him.”
Apparently he listens to Barkley enough to be bothered by him.
If you think the Thunder have a chance to win it all this season comes down to one thing — do you think the Miami Heat can be beat? If not, well, it doesn’t matter who we discuss as a challenger, does it?
But if you do think someone can beat the Heat then you have to think the Thunder have a shot. The Spurs may be in that mix too, but the Thunder have to be there.
Despite the James Harden trade (and I think they will miss his shot creation come the playoffs) the Thunder are a better team now than they were a year ago. Last season they scored 107.1 points per 100 possessions and gave up and even 100 (for a differential of +7.1). This season their defense is pretty much the same giving up 99.7 points per 100 but they are scoring more, 110.6 (for a differential of 10.9). (Stats via HoopData.)
The fact is Kevin Durant is a better player than he was a year ago, Russell Westbrook is a more mature team leader on the court, and Serge Ibaka has made a big leap. All three of them grew a lot from their Olympic experience last summer. The Thunder are a better team.
Are they good enough to beat the Heat? Watching the Heat lately it’s hard not to join Barkley’s parade, but things could look different by June.