The James Harden-less Oklahoma City Thunder are still expected to be a pretty darn good basketball team in 2012-13. With the season tipping off this week, SB Nation unveiled its Power Rankings, and indeed the Thunder are near the top. OKC is No. 3 behind the defending champion Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, as Seth Rosenthal writes, Harden is going to be hard to replace:
"These rankings are being written at a time when we're all still losing our minds over Saturday night's whammy of a James Harden trade. AHHHHHHH!!!! But anyway, Kevin Martin's a fine player and Jeremy Lamb could be terrific, but it'll take something unexpected from those two or a major step forward from a guy like Eric Maynor for OKC to come even close to replacing Harden's all-purpose virtuosity on offense. This season, that is."
NBC's Pro Basketball Talk also has the Thunder third behind the same top two:
"Even with James Harden seven hours south (by car) in Houston, Oklahoma City is a threat. Exactly how big a threat this year will be determined in part by if Kevin Martin can bounce back to his form from before last season. Eric Maynor has to do more with the second team."
ESPN.com's Marc Stein dropped the Thunder to No. 5, saying the chemistry is affected by the loss of the reigning Sixth Man of the Year:
"The Thunder certainly got a lot back for Harden, but something they surrendered in Saturday night's blockbuster trade that wasn't mentioned in the press release is a chunk of chemistry/continuity edge they had over L.A. Which is why OKC just dipped two spots."