Since this entire year/season has seemingly been about entering into uncharted territory, it’s no real surprise that the Thunder organization and fan base find themselves in yet another new quandary regarding the team and front office that every successful team and franchise experiences without exception.
People want your success—and that often means they want the actual parts of your success that made you, well, successful.
So it really shouldn’t come as any surprise to the Thunder or their fans that other teams and front offices in the NBA have now been rumored or even blatantly inquiring about the availability of key components to the Thunder’s 50 win season, per league sources.
This is what happens when you start winning and especially when you start winning without forcing your owners to spend millions upon absurd millions to achieve that goal. If you can perform efficiently and inexpensively, well, then you’re going to be a hot commodity in the National Basketball Association.
Cue Sam Presti, Ron Adams and Maurice Cheeks.
Sam is the obvious choice here as he has been the architect of pretty much the entire Thunder turnaround from a lowly, flirting with the worst start in NBA history project to the surprise darling of the NBA and a shining example of how you tear down and then rebuild your team into a contender.
He constructed a team that will be $15-16 million dollars under the cap when free agency starts, depending upon what moves he makes, and has notched 50 wins with the youngest team in the league and seemingly hit a homerun in the hiring of Scott Brooks and every integral part of the Thunder’s staff.
Did I mention he’s kept the team’s payroll unbelievably economical with savvy trades and excellent acquisitions?
There’s no wonder that he’d be mentioned in rumors for other NBA GM openings. Who wouldn’t want him at this point, right?
But don’t overlook the contributions of Ron Adams and Maurice Cheeks, those coaches that the savvy and much sought after Sam Presti hired.
Ron Adams helped instruct the system and set the tone that defense is what wins games with this young team and his relationship with Thabo Sefolosha, dating back to their time with the Bulls, only solidified the impact Adams had as a coach since the majority of the Thunder’s roster cites Thabo as the spark plug and defensive anchor of the squad.
Just take a guess how many NBA teams would love to go from one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the best pretty much overnight through the acquisition of one assistant head coach and a third string wing player who couldn’t find the floor on the team that drafted him (this little tid-bit yet again reinforces how much Presti is probably the envy of other franchises).
In addition to Adams, Maurice Cheeks has seemingly taken a sophomore point guard who never played the position until he reached the highest level of basketball and a rookie backup point guard who was traded mid-season and turned them into one of the most capable (high assists to relatively low turnovers) and dynamic (can attack, score buckets, hit big shots and get others involved while leading a team of players older and more experience than them) PG duos that I can remember with so little time in the league.
Really, that sense of accomplishment can not be overlooked because, as we all know, the most difficult position to master and adjust to in the NBA is point guard. Don’t let the recent run of amazing and quick-to-learn point guards fool you; there is no greater position to learn in terms of difficulty, understanding and leadership than the little floor general. And Cheeks has helped turn Westbrook into a Top 10 PG and made Eric Maynor a more than capable replacement who is probably good enough to play on most playoff teams as a regular and capable contributor.
And all of this is precisely why it stinks to hear rumors about people coming after significant pieces of your winning puzzle because, well, we’re not quite sure if the locomotive can just keep chugging along at a successful pace if those specific pieces are gone and then replaced with another piece that might or might not be able to get the job done.
But such is the burden of success and it is a reality that we must all become accustomed to seeing/experiencing if the Thunder ever want to reach a place where they are not only one of the best teams in the NBA and consistently making the playoffs, but a championship caliber organization.
Then again, it sure would be nice to get to the second round and beyond before the entire thing gets pilfered, wouldn’t it?