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Oklahoma City Thunder Projected 1st In West By ESPN

The Oklahoma City Thunder's off-season hasn't been quite as splashy as the LA Lakers', but it's still enough to keep the Thunder atop the Western Conference, according to the latest projections by

The site has Oklahoma City and LA in a dead-heat for first place in what should be an incredibly competitive conference. Both teams are slated for a 59-23 record, which would give them a winning percentage of 71% in 2012-2013.

The Thunder finished second in the 2011-2012 regular season with an identical 71% winning percentage, but ESPN has the first-place San Antonio Spurs slipping from 76% to 66%.

Most of Oklahoma City's statistical strength comes from an incredibly young core of four All-Star caliber players -- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden -- whose games are still growing.

The tweaks they did make, bringing Eric Maynor back from injury and adding Perry Jones III through the draft, were fairly under the radar, but they could be the difference in the playoffs, where the Lakers are likely to be much improved from the team that lost to the Thunder in five games in 2012.

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