The Oklahoma City franchise has officially been named the Thunder and finally the three-year quest of the NBA to get a team to Oklahoma is complete.
Getting a team in Oklahoma City was the No. 1 priority on Commissioner David Stern’s agenda after the New Orleans Hornets moved there because of Hurricane Katrina.
The fans were much more supportive for the Hornets than anyone could have imagined and Stern’s light-bulb started clicking. If the fans can support some NBA team that isn’t even theirs better than the city that it currently belongs to, then Oklahoma City should sell out with its own team.
This team should definitely test that theory.
Eleven of the team’s 15 players have three years of NBA experience or less. However, this team is stocked for the future with high draft picks.
Joe Smith will likely lead the Thunder as their team captain, but the one who is going to lead the team in scoring is second year player Kevin Durant. Needless to say, Oklahoma City should not be expecting a playoff team for a long time, but GM Sam Presti knows what he is doing.
Presti is well known for his terrific scouting job—getting some great international players—although this team is not going to be doing as much international stockpiling as the Spurs.
Instead, he is going to invest in young talent that should give the Thunder a great team five years down the road.
When the former Seattle Sonics traded Ray Allen to the Celtics for Jeff Green, Presti was unofficially beginning the rebuilding project. That’s probably the last thing Oklahoma City fans want to hear, considering how much taxpayer money is going into the team, but when this team becomes more experienced, the Thunder will compete with some of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The team has many similarities to the Hornets, who were one of the worst teams in the league until Chris Paul became one of the NBA’s best point guards. There is little doubt that Kevin Durant will also become a superstar and make the players around him better.
Many fans will see players like Mouhamed Sene and Johan Petro on the bench and wonder why the Thunder would invest so many draft picks on so many unproven big men. There is a strong possibility that neither pan out, but it’s a risk the Thunder can take as Joe Smith, Jeff Green, and Nick Collison are likely going to get the most playing time of Oklahoma City’s big men.
In fact, the Thunder might be one of the tallest teams in the league with six players who are at least 6’10.” While the Thunder stockpiled big men, the guard play looked like it was going nowhere until they drafted Russell Westbrook—the point guard of the future—to pair with Durant to lead the team in scoring.
As a Chicago Bulls fan, I sympathize with the Oklahoma City fans because we once went down some painful years on our way to becoming a playoff team, and it looks like we’ll be going down that road again.
Yet, as frustrating as it is to watch a young team make mistakes, it’s just as exciting to watch your team battling to make a run down 18 in the fourth quarter, trying to at least make the game close.
This has allowed some surprising upsets. For instance, a few years ago, the eighth-seeded Bulls played the No. 1 seed, Miami Heat, who were expected to sweep. The Bulls hung in, taking the series to six games. Miami pulled away, but it at least gave the fans some momentum going into the following season.
I’m sure Oklahoma fans can’t wait for this season to start, but they are going to need to have patience with a team this young. It should be a fun team to watch, but they are going to be in the lottery for a long time.