I have been following the Thunder since their inception. I am a resident in the great Northwest and had a front row seat to the departure of the Sonics and their big move to Oklahoma. I had lived in Puget Sound for about 10 years before they moved, so I got to know the Sonics pretty well. Even though I speculated they would be moving to Oklahoma I was still very excited when they hired Sam Presti. With him having his roots in the Spurs system I had a feeling he would be constructing the team in the right way.
So far he hasn’t disappointed. Drafting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden. Accumulating picks, dumping bad contracts. Trading a talented Jeff Green for All-Star Scowler – Kendrick Perkins was a thing a beauty. Presti and the Thunder have formed quite a strong team.
As this has been unfolding I have been curious on how they would keep this nucleus together as their pay checks were rising. In the summer of 2010 they inked Durant to an extension. This week the Thunder found a way to work out an extension for Westbrook. These two extensions seem like no brainers. Durant is a top five player in my mind. He makes the game look easy. His size, range and ability are something to behold. He is still on the up swing to where his talent will take him. Westbrook is the next logical move. For all of the flack he takes from the fans and media for his turnovers or taking too many shots with Durant still on the floor, he more than makes up for those with his grit, athletic ability, and knack for big plays. He too, is still on the upward slope of his abilities. I see him reducing his turnovers in years to come and learning how to spread the ball around when the time comes.
These next few years though is where we get to see Presti earn his keep. He did an incredible job retooling the Thunder around Durant and Westbrook, but how will he keep this team in the hunt each year for a championship. Which players will he keep on the roster and which ones will he let go? He has not been afraid to pull of a difficult trade. Jeff Green was a core part of the team when they first moved to OKC, and yet he was traded to strengthen the team. I would imagine they are going to try to secure an interior scoring presence. I believe they will try to sign Ibaka and Harden to smaller deals.
Sam Presti, this Northwest resident was sad to see your team leave. With your slight of hand and deft touch you have built a contender. We are all holding our breath for your next move.