Commentary

How Heat, Bulls and OKC return

Guides for how NBA's new front-runners get better, and back to conference finals

Updated: May 25, 2011, 1:25 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
LeBron James/Derrick Rose/Kevin DurantNBAE/Getty ImagesEach of these guys wants to return to the conference finals next season.

Given the youth of their cores, we can expect to see the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat back here in the conference finals next year, right?

Think again.

According to the brilliant work of ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, we see that young teams that make the conference finals aren't exactly locks to get there again the following year. Here's Pelton's big takeaway:

Of the 10 youngest conference finalists, as many (four) failed to return to the conference finals during the ensuing five years as made multiple trips.

So what do the Thunder, Bulls and Heat need to do to ensure this run isn't a one-hit wonder? Let's outline three areas of long-term improvement for each of the teams:

Oklahoma City Thunder

1. Find an offensive coordinator
As we're finding out with Kevin Durant, it's easier to elevate from a good player to a great player than it is to elevate from a great player to an elite player. He's still just 22 years old, but statistically he took a step backward in 2010-11 when we all thought he'd continue on his meteoric rise.


To read more about how the Thunder can return to the conference finals next season and improve as a team, as well as plans for the Bulls and Heat, become an ESPN Insider today.