The Thunder rolled the dice letting Kevin Martin go. Much of that gamble was about money. But a chunk of it also spoke to the team's confidence in Lamb, the second-year shooting guard who arrived as part of the James Harden package. Lamb is a sharpshooter with tremendous athleticism. But his youth (21), inexperience (147 career minutes) and spotty defense all raise questions about whether he's ready to step into a championship rotation. If he gets the chance, Lamb should put together plenty of highlights in the regular season. Of course, it's not the regular season that anyone is worried about anymore. Can he do it when it matters most, in the playoffs?
Will the coaching staff take another step with creativity?
Contrary to popular belief, coach Scott Brooks and his staff showed signs of growth last season, shoring up situational game aspects such as the team's sideline out of bounds plays, late game play-calling and execution. They did it while also turning the Thunder into a top five defensive team. But a rigid rotation last year again raised questions, and the continued absence of an offensive system really hurt when Westbrook went down in the playoffs. Those are two obvious areas that, perhaps as much or more than anything else, can help push the Thunder over the top if solved.
What will Kevin do? Lost in all the hoopla that has defined the Thunder's offseason — the ghost of Harden, the loss of Martin, the Western Conference supposedly catching up, the Thunder's reluctance to pay the tax — seems to be one important shred of reality: Kevin Durant is still pretty darn good. After three straight scoring titles, Durant, at 24, assembled a historic season of efficiency last year, proving again that he's getting better every year. Still years away from entering his prime, however, it's anyone's guess what Durant will do next. He still has room to grow as a defender, and building on his evolving post-up game and playmaking could go a long way in turning him into an even greater force. But know this. If Durant returns with those weapons in his backpack, he single-handedly could make these and any other questions about the Thunder's 2013-14 season irrelevant.