Kevin Durant and the Thunder are still the favorites in the West.

Updated: November 12, 2013
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The Oklahoma City Thunder should still be the favorites out West, for now, at least. The Thunder are quietly having a very good season currently sitting at 5-1. While it’s still early in the season, people don’t seem to be giving them enough respect. Ever since the playoff loss in the second round at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies last season, Oklahoma City has rarely been mentioned as a genuine contender to dethrone the mighty Miami Heat. Which in my opinion is wrong for anyone, including myself, to think. The Thunder are still the best in the Western conference until proven otherwise. 

Perhaps one of the reasons for the early season lack of respect for the Thunder was the injury to point guard Russell Westbrook; which telling by his monster highlights so far this season he should be fine. His injury kept him out of the second series against Memphis last year, and the loss of the All-Star point guard’s presence was definitely felt by everyone on the Thunder.

Of course, losing a superstar is hard on any team. Perhaps no one felt Westbrook’s loss more than fellow All-Star and teammate Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is the most efficient and dominant scorer in the league right now. Even with Durant playing at his best, the Thunder lost the series to the Grizzlies, and Durant couldn’t do enough alone to overcome the somewhat clueless offenses called by head coach Scott Brooks.

It’s difficult to blame Coach Brooks or KD for the defeat to Memphis, because before his injury, Westbrook had played in every Thunder game in Scott’s coaching tenure. Trying to run an offense without your regular point-guard is never easy, especially in the playoffs. So Brooks gets a pass there.

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There were analysts who felt it necessary to call-out Kevin Durant during the off-season because of the Thunder’s early exit from the playoffs. Their criticism of KD was that he couldn’t lead his team to a championship. One of the analysts criticizing Durant is a man I despise, Skip Bayless. Bayless bashed Durant this past summer on ESPN for what he perceived to be a lack of mental toughness on the part of the OKC superstar. Bayless felt Durant was not good enough alone to lead his team on an extended playoff run. Skip even went as far to say Kevin Durant isn’t a “Superstar” anymore, and is just a “Star” in his eyes.

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Many people are forgetting that when Durant had Westbrook for the playoffs in prior seasons, he made it all the way to the Finals. And Skip Bayless is forgetting the fact that Durant led the Thunder in 2012 to a series win against the San Antonio after the Thunder were down in the series 0-2. Let me tell you, this guy just turned 25, and his game has improved year after year. If it weren’t for LeBron James, who might be the second best player in the history of The Association, Kevin Durant would be the best in the business.

So leaving the 2012-2013 season behind and focusing on the present, the Thunder remain the team to beat in the West. San Antonio is also a true contender as well, but the Spurs might not have enough gas left to keep up with the Thunder come playoff time.

The Los Angeles Clippers are the best offensive team in the league, but until Doc can get them to play defense, the Clippers will remain a great regular season team and not a real playoff threat. The Houston Rockets don’t look like they have enough pieces to compete with the best of the West. The Memphis Grizzlies are who they are and will wait until May to make noise. Which leaves the Thunder as the favorites for the Western Conference, and until someone proves me wrong, they will remain that way.

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