The Thunder's sixth NBA season arrives Wednesday night, and just like always, the show stars Kevin Durant and, soon enough, Russell Westbrook.
Seems like they've been here forever. Of course, they haven't been on Planet Earth very long, much less Planet Thunder. Durant turned 25 last month; Westbrook turns 25 next month.
But for a big chunk of their lives, they've been balling for dollars. Superstars are getting younger, I guess you know.
LeBron James was NBA Most Valuable Player at age 24. Derrick Rose was MVP at 22. Durant already is a two-time MVP runner-up.
Patrick Ewing, Robert Parish and Jerry Lucas didn't even debut in the NBA until they were 23. Westbrook was a two-time all-star by age 23 and had to fight through two seasons of skepticism to get there.
So as the Thunder enters a season in which the talents of their dynamic duo will be needed more than ever, the question becomes, how much more can Durant and Westbrook produce? Basketball players' prime age historically has been around 27. But does that apply to stars who are grizzled veterans at 25?
“I've always said between 27 and 33, you're at your best physically, mentally,” said Scotty Brooks. “I think they're definitely approaching it. Both of 'em will be better players. Statistically, it's going to be hard to improve.”
Of course, that's the problem. No Kevin Martin (or James Harden) means the scoring load could fall even more upon the shoulders of Durant and Westbrook, who the last three seasons have combined for 51.3, 51.6 and 49.6 points a game.
Will the Thunder need even more production out of their superstars? That's asking a lot. Planning on Durant and Westbrook to combine for more than 51 points a game seems like a bad plan.
“We've relied on those guys to do a lot individually,” said Nick Collison, the only other charter member of the Thunder remaining. “If they can embrace, if we can embrace, really trying to execute our offense better, they're going to get a lot more things that are going to come a lot more easily.