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And The Thunder Roll...

Last year, I advocated that the OKC Thunder ditch Jeff Green at their first opportunity.

My thinking on Green a year ago:

Nice player, only 23 years old, but do we really want Durant’s enforcer averaging 6.0 rebounds a game on the season? Durant is outrebounding him substantially and that’s not a load he should be shouldering. The Thunder need more AC Green and less Jeff.

My minority opinion is that the Thunder should dangle the attractive young player and see what the market will offer instead of commit to a major contract this offseason, particularly if it precludes the Thunder from resigning guys like Harden or Ibaka down the road. He’s a good player. I’m just not sure if he’s the right player.

Thunder GM Sam Presti was thinking along the same lines. Now Green is a Celtic (where they're complaining that he doesn't rebound - who could have guessed!?) and the package of players Sam brought to the OKC Thunder have turned them into a postseason force to be reckoned with. Last night's pasting of the Lakers in Los Angeles was only the latest triumph for the Thunder, who have gone 18-4 since March 2nd and are now 54-26 overall, one game out of second place behind the Lakers and Mavericks.

By contrast, the Celtics are 14-11 since acquiring Green, fading from 1st to 3rd in the East.

The new look Thunder are best thought of as 8 satellites - 4 big and 4 small - orbiting around two stars, Westbrook and Durant.

They feature a four man rotation at 4 and 5: Collison, Perkins, Mohammed, Ibaka. Everyone is 6-10 and they all weigh between 245 and 275. Not quite Krstic and Green in terms of physical identity is it? The first three are physical, smart veterans who enjoy taking people down in the lane and doing the dirty work and Ibaka is a physical freak shot blocker who runs like a gazelle. Rebounding is now a team strength, they defend the post, and the ability to apportion 96 game minutes amongst 4 capable bigs makes them fairly unique in the league. You can't beat the Lakers by getting longer, but you can by getting stronger.

The supporting smalls are perfectly suited to their roles. James Harden drops 20 on you if you overplay Durant and Westbrook (averaging 16 per game since trade), Sefolosha is their defensive stopper on the perimeter, SG Daequan Cook has proven to be a pleasant surprise with some scoring punch, and Eric Maynor is an effective backup PG.

You now have a team that can run, bang, with a legit bench, with multiple scoring options that are actually complementary to the Thunder's elite duo.

The rest of the league is aware of this. Watch the last two games of the season. The West's postseason jockeying will be centered largely on how not to draw the Thunder. George Karl of the Nuggets has already said he wants no part of the Thunder in Round 1 and it's clear that the Lakers know that this team may hold their kryptonite in Round 2.