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Remember the Thunder? The reigning Western Conference champions almost got lost in the shuffle this summer, with the Lakers' acquisition of two future Hall of Famers. Rest assured that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & Co. won't forget being forgotten: If anything, being overlooked during the off-season will be motivational fuel for a return to the Finals.
Not that Oklahoma City should need it; a sense of urgency already hangs over the team. Unless general manager Sam Presti—who signed forward Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million extension in August—can also extend guard James Harden before the Oct. 31 deadline, the uncertain future of the reigning Sixth Man Award winner will color the Thunder's season. Harden will most likely get a max offer from at least one team as a restricted free agent, and OKC isn't in a position to match it and ignore the luxury tax like, well, the Lakers. But that's a worry for next July.
COACH: Scott Brooks (5th season with Thunder)
2011--12 RECORD: 47--19 (1st in Northwest)
OFFENSE: 103.1 ppg (3rd)
DEFENSE: 96.9 ppg (17th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 28.2 ppg (4th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
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