The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the best young teams in the NBA. So when ESPN.com is putting together its list of the best 25 players under the age of 25, the top of that list is full of Thunder players.
Kevin Durant is obviously first on the list. Russell Westbrook is second and Serge Ibaka is seventh. James Harden is fourth on the list right behind Blake Griffin.
Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com looked at the best and worst case scenarios for these players today. This is a statistical projection of the players’ careers, not necessarily incorporating the style of play for each player.
For Durant, his best case comparisons are Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. It doesn’t get much higher than that. Before you go crazy about comparing Durant to MJ and Magic, remember how young Durant is and how much potential he has and how much unknown there is about his future still. Also remember that MJ and Magic didn’t even play full careers. If Durant has a chance to play close to 20 seasons in the league, in that statistical sense he would have a decent chance of catching those guys.
Durant’s worst case comparisons were Michael Finley and Joe Dumars. Okay, there’s no way Durant is turning into one of those guys.
The most likely comparisons for Durant were Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkins. I think he has a good chance of passing both of those players when it’s all said and done.
Westbrook is next. His best case scenarios are Gary Payton or John Stockton. Payton and Stockton are two of the best point guards ever, both who were great defenders as well.
Worst case for Westbrook is John Starks or Mitch Richmond. Those actually don’t sound so bad for Westbrook which just goes to show how great he has been this early in his career if that’s the worst you can project him.
Most likely for Westbrook is Isiah Thomas or Tim Hardaway. Again, this kind of feels generous, especially Thomas.
For Ibaka, his best case is Ben Wallace or Patrick Ewing, who aren’t very similar at all. Ibaka is pretty unknown at this point.
Worst case for Ibaka is Ralph Sampson or Kendrick Perkins and most likely for him is Anthony Mason or Juwan Howard. I think Ibaka can be better than Mason or Howard but definitely won’t be remembered like Ewing.
We have to take a look at what they said about James Harden too. His best case was Clyde Drexler or Paul Pierce. If he ever reaches those levels, the Thunder may be really regretting trading him.
Worst case for Harden is Dale Ellis or Cedric Ceballos and most likely is Grant Hill or Chris Mullin.
Thinking about the potential of this Thunder team is one of the most fun things to think about in the NBA. They are still so young and really do have insane potential if all goes well.