April 12, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35), point guard Russell Westbrook (0), point guard Derek Fisher (6) and small forward Ronnie Brewer (8) share a laugh during a time out in the fourth quarter of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. The Thunder won the game 106-90. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Power Rankings: OKC Thunder still top in West according to ESPN expert

It felt like every up-and-coming team in the Western Conference made a move or two this summer to get better.

Whether it was the Houston Rockets signing Dwight Howard, the Golden State Warriors getting Andre Iguodala or Doc Rivers going to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Western Conference looks like it might be up for grabs next season.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t done much at all aside from letting Kevin Martin go to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder might end up signing Mike Miller here pretty soon or even bringing back Derek Fisher. Both would be moves no where’s near the magnitude that some of these other teams did.

But Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com, still has the Thunder as the top team in the Western Conference next season.

There are questions to be answered in Oklahoma City, specifically how the Thunder will replace Kevin Martin’s scoring punch off the bench. Is Jeremy Lamb ready to step into that role after winning MVP of the Orlando Pro Summer League? Can Reggie Jackson pitch in after starting in place of Russell Westbrook in last season’s playoffs? And might Mike Miller help provide an answer?

Assuming Scott Brooks can figure that out, the Thunder return the rest of a rotation that had the NBA’s best point differential last season (+9.2 PPG), making Oklahoma City the slight favorites in the West.

In fact, his projections are nearly exactly the same as a year ago, except for basically swapping the Rockets and Denver Nuggets.

People are forgetting about the Thunder and the Spurs and that they will probably still be the two best teams in the West next season.

The Thunder will face a new challenge after seeing Martin go and trying to replace him with Jeremy Lamb and more Reggie Jackson. I could totally see it working out and not.

It’s just good to see an NBA expert still respecting the Thunder because it feels like so many people are randomly writing them off, as if Russell Westbrook wasn’t hurt in the playoffs last year.

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Tags: NBA Power Rankings Oklahoma City Thunder

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