Monday , Dec , 21 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Oklahoma City Thunder: more than Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook

It’s easy, but wrong. Most give Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook all the credit for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success. This is understandable. These young talents have played a major part in the club competing for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. They’re more than ‘The Core Four’, though. In fact, the Thunder have surprised, in part, because of the impressive play of those around Durant, Green, Harden, and Westbrook …

Oklahoma City Thunder: more than Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Russell WestbrookIt’s easy, but wrong.

Most give Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook all the credit for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success. This is understandable. These young talents have played a major part in the club competing for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.

They’re more than ‘The Core Four’, though. In fact, the Thunder have surprised, in part, because of the impressive play of those around Durant, Green, Harden, and Westbrook.   

Give GM Sam Presti credit. The former San Antonio Spurs’ whiz kid and current mastermind behind Oklahoma City’s rebuilding project has rescued several players from the scrap heap and made sure they fit in coach Scott Brooks‘ system.

They got their starting center on the cheap. A year ago, Serbian Nenad Krstic wanted to leave the European pro ranks and continue his comeback from a knee injury in the NBA, so Presti, sensing a bargain, stepped-up with a three year deal for mid-level exception money.

This signing made sense for many reasons. Krstic was just 25 years old, had impressive moments during his four-year stint with the New Jersey Nets, and at roughly $5 million per season was an affordable risk.

And Krstic has impressed, averaging nearly nine points and five rebounds per game. Best of all, his pick-and-pop game spreads the floor and contrasts nicely with blue-collar posts Etan Thomas, another shrewd Presti acquisition, and Nick Collison.

But Thabo Sefolosha, a blossoming lockdown defender, might be their best under-the-radar addition. Freed from unrealistic expectations with the Chicago Bulls, the Euro has found his way with Oklahoma City in a shutdown role. Presti, always the opportunist, noticed the swing’s potential and signed him long-term to a reasonable four-year, $13.5 million contract.

Lately, Shaun Livingston is getting minutes as a back-up point guard. The former lottery pick is no longer an explosive talents because of injuries, but he’s moving the ball, rebounding, and allowing Westbrook to get rest. And Livingston’s play is just another example of the Thunder getting contributions from unlikely sources.

It’s easy to see the impact of ‘The Core Four’ in Oklahoma City. It’s also easy to see the impact of supporting pieces acquired by Presti’s value shopping.   

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