Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have blossomed into perennial All-Stars and All-NBA performers who both can single-handedly win a game on any given night. Throw in James Harden, and the Thunder has the highest scoring trio in the league. In Serge Ibaka and Perkins, the Thunder has the league's leading shot blocker and the player who is widely considered the league's best low-post man defender.
Oklahoma City has incredible depth, too, going two and three deep at every position. There is so much talent in the stable that if a trade is made, the thorny issue of where the incoming piece would even play might arise.
There's versatility as well, which allows for interchangeable parts that foster flexibility in playing styles. In last year's postseason, the Thunder showed the significance of such flexibility when it had to gear up for a fast-paced series against Denver, a more physical battle against Memphis and, finally, a more strategic series against Dallas.
That experience is now expected to propel the Thunder even farther this year.
“Most championships come down to a play or two in a game or two where if they go your way it's your year. If they don't, they don't,” said Houston coach Kevin McHale. “But (the Thunder) put themselves in position, I can tell you that much. They're going to be a hard team in the playoffs.”
If no deal is made Thursday, we then know what Presti believes to be the answer of his team's most pressing question. In the event that happens, the onus would then be on Brooks and the players to shore up the problem areas.
And there are plenty.
The Thunder still is in the process of forming the right habits. In other words, OKC is continually building up a bunch of small things like boxing out, setting solid screens, having good spacing offensively, communicating defensively, rotating, taking care of the ball, making the extra pass and playing with consistent effort and focus. All are traits of teams like San Antonio and Utah and Detroit and the L.A. Lakers that have recently enjoyed a string of success.
“Last year's ability to have success down the stretch in the playoffs and coming together this year where they're growing a little bit more has them set up for a lot of great runs,” said McHale. “Great runs don't always necessarily end up in championships. But they should have a shot at it.”
The Thunder clearly has signed on to have a great run. The necessary sacrifices have been made time and time again, and another possibly will have been made once Thursday's deadline passes.
But what's better? A great run, or one great shot at it?
“It depends on how old you are,” McHale said. “If you're 35, it's one great chance, baby. If you're 22, give me a whole bunch.”