Early this season, most of the national attention surrounding the Thunder ranged from criticism for relocating from Seattle to ridicule for a 3-29 start.
But with Kevin Durant putting on a show during All-Star weekend, and Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook showing progress, the Thunder is creating a buzz around the league. The Oklahoman contacted a dozen national NBA writers and broadcasters. The consensus was Durant is a franchise caliber player and Oklahoma City is a team on the rise. "Durant looks like he’s going to be a top 10 player in the league, maybe a top five depending on his defense,” said Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated. "As the economy gets worse the next year or two, and more teams look to dump salaries, the Thunder may be positioned to clean up.” The nation certainly is taking notice. The Thunder will be on national TV only once this season. With Durant drawing more attention, expect more appearances next season. Many more. Sean Deveney, NBA writer for Sporting News, thinks so highly of Durant he plans to visit Oklahoma City next month. Deveney said he usually focuses on playoff teams this time of year but "Durant is that good.” "This team is on a Portland/New Orleans plan,” Deveney said. "Start bad. Get THE key piece in place (Brandon Roy in Portland, Chris Paul in New Orleans and now Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City). Then you put the right pieces around him. "The Thunder were especially lucky because they got Jeff Green in the same draft as Durant and made an inspired pick in taking Westbrook. You have two key pieces right there.” Durant, last year’s Rookie of the Year, dazzled in the rookie-sophomore game. His 46-point outing had many debating whether he should have been in the All-Star Game. "Kevin Durant is the fastest rising star in the NBA,” said Chris Colston of USA Today. "Nobody has improved more than him this season. He still needs to fill out his frame, but whoa, he’s talented. And he’s solid off the court, too. A dream combination.” Most analysts say it’s unrealistic the Thunder can be a viable playoff contender next season in the highly competitive Western Conference.