The Thunder’s Dilemma: Finding Patience in a Rebuild

The Thunder’s Dilemma: Finding Patience in a Rebuild

Organizations with a positive synergy between ownership and the front office are the
ones that find the best balance and keep their franchises operating smoothly. Oklahoma City is
absolutely one of the examples of a franchise operating with a clear vision and cultural
framework.

While patience, especially during a rebuild, can start to clash with desires for
competing now, patience is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. The Thunder want to be
perennial Western Conference Finals contenders again, hoping to finally push through and win
an NBA Title. That level of sustained success requires a patient and thorough process, not a
“quick fix” solution.

A rebuild was coming; the writing has been on the wall for OKC ever since Paul George
was traded to the Clippers in that blockbuster trade. Thunder icon Russell Westbrook was shortly
traded to the Rockets, which officially ended the First Thunder Era. Chris Paul, who came over
in the Westbrook trade, helped keep OKC afloat for a year, before he was sent to Phoenix last offseason. With established superstars Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George all
gone, the rebuild was officially on.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was a key part of the Paul George trade, became
OKC’s unquestioned leader this past season. When he was healthy and playing, the team was
truly competitive, not a bottom of the barrel lottery squad, (top-five pick worthy). If not for his foot injury, which required him to sit out for most of the season, there’s a good chance OKC
would have been picking in late lottery, rather than top six.

As he proved last year, a healthy SGA is “too good to tank,” and players of his caliber
generally want to be part of a team on an upward trajectory, not stuck in NBA purgatory. With
SGA now locked in for six years via a $172 Million contract extension, the clock has officially
started ticking for OKC to get back to championship contention.

Rebuilds take time, with even the best of circumstances, but the urge to compete is always there. For OKC and its fans, this “patience vs. compete now” dilemma will loom over the next few years. At some point, the
front office will have to decide to go all in, and crank things up a notch. In the meantime, one
can only urge patience, as the team starts its climb back to Contender status.

Patience is important when building a team. Hasty moves made under pressure can
have devastating consequences, leaving ripple effects that can last for a decade. Professional
sports history is filled with examples of poor decisions made when a team threw diligence out
the window, and it came back to royally bite them.

No organization is perfect, all have made some mistakes they wish that they could take back, but what separates the great organizations from the poor ones are learning from mistakes. Thunder leadership has a good track record here.

While in sports the ultimate goal is to win championships, that isn’t the focus for every
season. OKC is on an upward trajectory, but are clearly not where they need to be to win a Title. More development from key players and the leveraging of assets will be needed to reach where OKC wants to go. These things take time.

For now, find joy in watching Shai, Dort, Giddey and the other players grow and develop, earning their battle scars
in the League. OKC built a contending team once — they deserve the time and patience to do it again.

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