It is impossible to not think of the 2012 Thunder when seeing James Harden reuniting with Kevin Durant on the court. After all, the two had fantastic memories together. The Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, made the NBA Finals in 2012.
Durant was only 23 years old and Harden was 22 years old at the time, but they had the talent to get it done alongside 23-year old Russell Westbrook. While they couldn't quite knock off a prime LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the Thunder were truly a force to appreciate.
The current Brooklyn Nets resemble the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team, except for a few important pieces. Here is how it can happen.
Kendrick Perkins Come Out Of Retirement
Kendrick Perkins was never a star player, but he is certainly a key component to the 2012 Thunder squad that made the Finals. Perkins was 27 years old at the time and averaged 5.1 PPG and 6.6 RPG for the squad. Even if his numbers look pedestrian on paper, Perkins was the main paint enforcer in the paint for the young Thunder. His size and presence in the post were critical to a team featuring a slender scorer like Kevin Durant.
Perkins retired in 2018, after completing a season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and has since taken over an analysts role for ESPN. But if the Brooklyn Nets want to re-create the legendary 2012 Thunder team, getting Perkins to suit up for the Nets this season is the first step. The Nets need more depth and size in the middle after losing Jarrett Allen, so they could do a lot worse than adding a former NBA champion like Kendrick Perkins for veteran leadership.
Kyrie Irving Swapped For Russell Westbrook
By far the best way to recreate the 2012 Thunder's squad is trading Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook averaged 23.6 PPG for the Thunder in 2012 and that number jumped to PPG in the Finals. Since then, Westbrook has won the MVP Award in 2017 and also won 2 scoring titles. Westbrook is the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double and has yet to play in an NBA Finals since he formed a dominant trio with Durant and Harden in 2012.
Irving is a sensational player but he seems to be done with this season. Swapping Irving for Westbrook gives the Nets a triple-double threat every night and a player who will do all the little things that Jarrett Allen did. Westbrook will hustle for loose balls and fight in the paint for rebounds. Westbrook is a capable playmaker, a better one than Irving, and he will have no problem handling the ball with Durant and Harden. With Perkins and Westbrook playing with Durant and Harden again, the 2012 Thunder will be recreated except this time with 3 MVP players.