It’s been a week since the devastating news to native Oklahomans, as well as Thunder fans across the globe. Thunder fans have been blessed since the franchise has moved to Oklahoma City. In their time here they have made the playoffs more than a majority of the time. Besides their first season in 2008-2009, and the previous 2014-2015 season, in which Durant missed a majority of the squad’s matches, the Thunder have made the playoffs 6-out-of-the8-years they’ve been there. In that time they were able to showcase the Thunder franchise as a premier team in the league. Just because Kevin Durant has abandoned ship that doesn’t mean the fans should feel the same, especially, in regards to the Thunder’s playoff chances.
Russell Westbrook will be most vital to the Thunder’s success. It is still up in the air if he will be with the team in the long-run, but if he does not specify his intentions with the team, Sam Presti will have no problems sending him off and could potentially add even greater strength and stability for years to come.
It is something we have become accustomed to time over time. We saw it with the James Harden trade(which people were completely against), but the Thunder were unable to work out an extension with James Harden. So, Oklahoma City traded the Sixth Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets which broke up a young core of the Western Conference champions. The Thunder picked up guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick. Oklahoma City also sent center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston. People are always quick to judge this trade, but Steven Adams has proved to be well worth the ‘risky’ decision Presti made. He has a long career ahead of himself, and he plays with the heart of a champion which is what James Harden has always seemed to lack, and has shown over the seasons since his departure.
The list goes on, stealing Enes Kanter from the Jazz while shipping off Reggie Jackson to Detorit. Don’t get me wrong, the players they got rid of were all-stars in their own right, but what many people fail to realize is that Presti is attempting to build a championship system, and it seemed as if he lined up all the pieces for this upcoming season. He finally brought a third solid isolation option for the Thunder to take the pressure off of Durant and Westbrook. Dion Waiters was a good third option for them through the playoffs, but he ultimately, ended up proving that his game is very spectacular full with much inconsistency.
This was one of the first ocassions, in which, Sam Presti allowed himself to get burned by a player, and allow him to walk out the door with nothing in return. I can assure you Westbrook will not have the same luxury that Kevin did, and be able to sift over all his free agency offers. If Westbrook does not agree to an extension by the deadline he will most likely be shipped off as well.
If Russell were to leave there is no doubt that they could get a good value of return of talent to pat their bench and to d-league teams. The Thunder will be a team that will be amongst the transition of rebuilding, while maintaining a 4-7 seed for the coming years. If Westbrook stays for this whole next season there will be no question that they’ll be in the playoffs, if everyone remains healthy. Westbrook has so much untapped potential especially if he can learn to control his tazmanian devil-like play style. Not only is he the most explosive and athletic player in the game, he is also the most erratic. If he can trim down the amount of doltish shots, and high concentration of turnovers, he could pave the way to become one of the greatest-the-game has seen.
Back to the original contention, the Thunder will have no problem making the playoffs this year if they can stay healthy and they keep Westbrook on board. However, if they can not keep him locked to the squad, the Thunder are going to have a fun couple years of being, a franchise that is balancing fighting for playoff contention, with bringing in key players/potential superstars. Presti is no way allowing Westbrook to leave OKC with the same privilege that KD had. Either he is going to sign an extension or other law-binding agreement to ensure that Westbrook stays many years, or else he is as good as gone, hopefully with a nice foundation to build a title contender for years to come.