Can the Thunder win the championship this year?

A lot of questions swirl around this Thunder team, and all are valid queries. With only a week left in the NBA's regular season, you can answer the biggest question with a hearty yes.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 10, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) goes past Denver's Andre Miller (24) , Danilo Gallinari (8), and Ty Lawson (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) goes past Denver's Andre Miller (24) , Danilo Gallinari (8), and Ty Lawson (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Questions swirl around this Thunder team.

Why is Derek Fisher playing so much? Why isn't Ronnie Brewer playing more? Is Russell Westbrook shooting too much? Is Kevin Durant shooting too little? Do the boys in blue have a chemistry problem? Can Scott Brooks lead this bunch to a championship?

Valid queries all.

But there's one question that should always trump all others when considering the state of this franchise.

Is the Thunder a title contender?

With only a week left in the NBA's regular season, you can answer that question with a hearty yes. Despite trading away an all-NBA-caliber player right before the season, Oklahoma City is once again among a handful of teams that could win the title, and for a small market team, that is a big-time accomplishment.

Don't let the fun pass you by, Thunder fans. Don't get so wrapped up in what could go wrong or what might happen next that you forget to enjoy what's going on right in front of you.

What we're witnessing is pretty amazing.

I know there are plenty of you who won't want to hear any of this. You want an NBA title, and that's all that matters.

Hey, who doesn't want a victory parade through the streets of Oklahoma City?

It's easy to think that anything less than a title will be a disappointment this season. After all, the Thunder has improved every season that it has been in existence.

Twenty-three wins in 2008-09.

First round of the playoffs in 2009-10.

Western Conference Finals in 2010-11.

NBA Finals in 2011-12.

The next logical step seems like an NBA title, but things just don't work that way. Success in the league isn't nearly so linear or tidy.

Just ask the Spurs.

San Antonio is the franchise that the Thunder most aspires to be like. And why not? The Spurs are a small-market team that has had big-time success.

But while they have won four NBA titles in the past 14 seasons, there have also been seven times during that run when they've failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs. Three times they've been beaten in the first round, four times in the second round.

Still, there are about 28 NBA franchises that would trade places with the Spurs in a heartbeat.

Why?

They were title contenders all those years, even the ones that ended in the first or second round of the playoffs. They were always in position to win a championship.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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