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Thunder: Legit Title Contenders?

The trade deadline passed us and plenty of moves went down in the process. Teams made moves left and right. Hasheem Thabeet is a Houston Rocket, and Semih Urden is a Cleveland Cavalier. Oh yeah, and some guy by the name of Deron Williams went to the Nets. One of the most surprising moves, that no one saw coming, was the move that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The trade came at the winding minutes of the deadline. The trade consisted of Perk going to OKC along with Nate Robinson for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a 2012 first round pick. This caused a big shock wave across the league. No one saw this coming and no one knew why it happened. Perk was viewed as the Celtics best interior defender along with Kevin Garnett. He was also thought of as the Celtics best counter punch against the Lakers size. Now that he is gone some people wonder if the Celtics are even the favorite in the East anymore.

The HUGE winners of this deal have to be the Thunder. They finally got the size they desperately needed. Not to be overlooked is also the acquisition of Nazr Mohammed. Nazr was acquired in a deal that sent D.J. White to Charlotte along with Morris Peterson. He is another big body that will help the Thunder. Certainly a busy trade deadline for this team. These moves now have people thinking the Thunder as legitimate title contenders. I for one come to agree with these people. The reason I say this is the simple fact that this team just got better.

You have Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins as your core three players. Then you add Serge Ibaka and James Harden coming off the bench. Plus some good role players in Nick Collison, Nate Robinson (when he’s not erratic), Nazr Mohammed and Thabo Sefolosha. This team looks like it could be built for a deep playoff run.

Though the Thunder have fallen off a bit, in terms of their defensive performance this year. They can still get better on that side of the floor with their new acquisitions.  In the playoffs they will face some teams with good inside players. Which is where Perk comes in. He is one of, if not the best post defenders in the game today. He gives you a great defensive counter-punch to the opposing team’s best inside player. This was the big advantage that the Lakers had over the Thunder in last year’s playoff series. The Laker bigs just overpowered the Thunder bigs in that series. Now that the Thunder have acquired some bulk in the frontcourt they have a MUCH better chance of beating the Lakers in a 7 game series.

Another reason I think the Thunder are a legitimate title contender is the play of Russel Westbrook. Great point guards are very important for any team that wants to compete for a title. Russel has been nothing short of spectacular this year. He made the all-star team this year,well deserved of course, for the first time in his career. He has posted 22 ppg 8.4 apg and 4.9 rpg this season. He has made a lethal duo alongside Kevin Durant. His play is going to be very important come playoff time, especially against the likes of other guards such as Chris Paul and Tony Parker.Lets not forget the fact that they also have one of the best players in the game today in Kevin Durant.

The big thing that does hurt this team is the lack of playoff experience. This is their biggest disadvantage against the other teams such as the Lakers, Spurs and even the Mavs. They can overcome this but it will be difficult. I put this team 6th in my top title contenders. They are right behind the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, and Heat. Remember this team is young but I think they are ready to take the next step.

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Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.