Re-Doing ESPN’s Future Power Rankings (1-5)

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2. Oklahoma City Thunder

April 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with point guard Russell Westbrook (0) after the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The City Thunder defeated the Warriors 116-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This may seem high, but hear me out.

Most of these others get credit here because they’re either not quite championship built, or sitting on the edge of being there.  This team is already competing with the best, but the best thing about OKC’s future  their resident superstars.

Despite hosting two of the NBA’s best players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, their salary won’t top $70 million anytime soon. But if that’s true, those two guys must be up for monster renewals soon, right?  Wrong.  They have the dynamic duo locked up until 2015-16 (that’s when Durant expires; they have Westbrook for another year after). That’s a crazy thought.

What does their salary add up to? $66.1 million this year, $59.3 million next year.  Not a small number, but there’s wiggle room their for some free-agent signings.

Add that to the fact that this a rising team in a promising market, and you have a squad with a ton of upside already, but also a lot of allure for free agents and draft targets as well. Guys will want to play in Oklahoma for a long time.

Their stars are tough too. The last time Durant played a game without Westbrook before his torn meniscus, he was wearing a Seattle jersey.

What about their role players?  Reggie Jackson is cheap. He showed flashes of promise while playing for Westbrook. They have Thabo Sefolosha, the defensive specialist. Kendrick Perkins is locked down for another year. And even Nick Collison makes contributions.

So what we have here is a team that’s already  built to compete at the highest level, but also has some money coming in the next couple of years, along with a fresh, desirable market. Everything about this team says rising, but they’re already near the top.  They’ll be there for a long time.