At this point, if you’re a Thunder fan you can look at the current state of affairs two ways – glass half full or glass half empty with a hole in the bottom and leaking fast.
If you’re an optimist (like me):
A. This is a young team. The average age is 24.7 years old and the average age of the starting five is 22.4. It’s centered around three young players where the oldest is 22. Give that nucleus time to develop and you’ve got a strong team.
B. Oklahoma City has multiple expiring contracts. So while this current team is a miserable 2-24, it isn’t likely this same group will be back next year. And this offseason, there will be some major cap room to play with. After the season, the Thunder will only have about $20 million in committed salary.
C. Just because someone is bad one year doesn’t mean they will be bad again next year. Look at the Heat from a year ago. They had 15 wins (15!) and now with a healthy team and Dwayne Wade back they already have 12. The Hornets had a measly 18 in 2004 before drafting Chris Paul and then won 36 and last year had the second best record in the West. The 1992-93 Mavericks, who challenged for the worst record ever, didn’t stay that bad forever. They went 11-71 that year, then 13-69 and then 36-46. Now look at them. Sports work in cycles. While some are up and some are down. Then they swap.
D. Basketball is the easiest sport to turn around. It can literally take one player to fix a team. The 1996-97 Spurs are the example with Tim Duncan. Before taking Duncan No. 1, San Antonio went 20-62, but then after taking Duncan, the Spurs went 56-26. Whether it’s Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio or a good free agent, this can be flipped around really quickly.
E. Nobody thought this team was going to contend this year. Sam Presti (supposedly) has a plan and he’s trying to build a contender from scratch. Maybe OKC is trying to follow the Spurs’ model a little too closely. As mentioned, the 1996-97 Spurs went 20-62 with two different coaches. The first was Bob Hill (who has some ties to the Thunder franchise) who went 3-15 before being canned and replaced by then general manager Gregg Popovich – which was Pop’s first head coaching experience; just like Scott Brooks. Who knows – this time next year we could be talking about playoff matchups and how amazing OKC’s turnaround was and how incredible this city and its fans are. It could happen. You know, the Tampa Bay Rays did go to the World Series this year…
If you’re a pessimist:
A. Look at the obvious 2-24 record. The 11 straight losses at home. The highest losing margin in the league. The same problems plaguing the team. The youth and inexperience. The frustrated coaches, players and fans. Lots of reason to be discouraged.
B. What if the young players don’t pan out? What if Durant is just a 20 point a game guy that never has “star” power and never can take over a game? What if Jeff Green stays inconsistent and never does better than 14 a game? What if Russell Westbrook was the wrong choice and never understands how to control himself and how to take smart shots and make good decisions? What if OKC doesn’t even get the No. 1 pick next year? Even if it does, what if that pick doesn’t impact the team? Can OKC stand another horrible season like this?
C. Expiring contracts. What if the wrong moves are made again? The Thunder could end up with a new team but with new contracts and the same misery. If history is any indicator, there’s really not much reason to trust management so far.
D. Some say no free agent will want to play in Oklahoma City. Some say no rookie will sign to play here. What if that’s true? I don’t think people have such short memories to remember how much everyone talked about how wonderful OKC was three years ago when the Hornets were around, but who knows?
E. The economy. A few of the Thunder’s owners have taken some hits in the market and some wonder if they will have the money to dish out to prize free agents. Though Oklahoma City has been called “the most recession proof city in the United States” by Yahoo, that doesn’t mean the PBC won’t be cutting back as well.
So which group do you fall in? I’m definitely in the optimist group because this is the first year in a new city with a young team. A few changes, a wise draft pick, smart offseason moves and the evolution of the young trio and this team can be much better.