Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Just one week before the first game of last season, it was announced that James Harden would be leaving Oklahoma City and heading to Houston. The loss of the reigning Sixth Man of the Year seemed like a huge setback for a young team with championship ambitions. However, the Thunder refused to accept that premise, and they went on to win 60 games, claiming the first seed in the Western Conference.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was not how easily the Thunder rolled to the number one seed, but who it was that stepped up in Harden’s absence: Serge Ibaka. Everyone knew the shot blocker extraordinaire could play defense, but Ibaka developed a legit 17-foot jump shot and had the best offensive season of his career, averaging 13.2 points per game while shooting 57 percent from the field.
Durant continues to improve – which seems impossible – finishing the season shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line, an accomplishment only five other players have achieved since the three-point line was introduced in the 1979-80 season.
Had Westbrook not torn his meniscus in the second game of the playoffs, it is conceivable that the Thunder could have made it back to the Finals for a rematch against Miami. The scary thing is that all three of these guys are under the age of 25. If they continue to improve, it is easy to see them being the dominate “Big Three” in the NBA in a few short years.