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When Damian Lillard waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder after drilling a 37-foot three pointer in Paul George’s face to end the first round series in five games, no one knew that Lillard’s gesture was foreshadowing the franchise’s near future. It was over for the Thunder in more ways than one.
The move sent shockwaves through the league as it all but solidified that the team was headed towards a total rebuild, as Paul is expected to be traded or bought out in the coming days or weeks.
Since the 2008-2009 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference as they’ve only missed the playoffs twice in 11 seasons. That run also including an NBA Finals appearance in 2012.
But for all that the Thunder were able to accomplish as one of the smaller market teams in the league, the feeling that so much more should have been accomplished is one that is not only fair but also true.
Here is a breakdown of how the Thunder faired in each of the last 11 seasons, highlighted by the talent that was on each roster.
Record – 23-59, finished 13th.
Key roster members – Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Shaun Livingston, Russell Westbrook
Record – 50-32, finished eighth. Lost in the first round.
Key roster members – Collison, Durant, Green, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Westbrook
Record – 55-27, finished fourth. Lost in the conference finals.
Key roster members – Collison, Durant, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Westbrook
Record – 47-19, finished second. Lost in the NBA Finals.
Key roster members – Collison, Durant, Derek Fisher, Harden, Ibaka, Perkins, Westbrook
Record – 60-22, finished first. Lost in conference semifinals.
Key roster members – Collison, Durant, Fisher, Ibaka, Perkins, Westbrook
Record – 59-23, finished second. Lost in conference finals.
Key roster members – Steven Adams, Caron Butler, Collison, Durant (MVP), Fisher, Ibaka, Perkins, Westbrook
Record – 45-37, finished ninth.
Key roster members – Adams, Collison, Durant, Ibaka, Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Westbrook
Record – 55-27, finished third. Blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the conference finals.
Key roster members – Adams, Collison, Durant, Ibaka, Kanter, Waiters, Westbrook
Record – 47-35, finished sixth. Lost in the first round.
Key roster members – Adams, Collison, Kanter, Victor Oladipo, Westbrook (MVP)
Record – 48-34, finished fourth. Lost in the first round.
Key roster members – Adams, Carmelo Anthony, Collison, Paul George, Westbrook
Record – 49-33, finished sixth. Lost in the first round.
Key roster members – Adams, George, Westbrook
In just 11 seasons, three players that were once members of the Thunder have won MVP in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. And when you add in the likes of Anthony, George, Oladipo, and Ibaka, the riches get even more unbelievable.
Anthony is one of the greatest to ever play the game. George is one of the best players of this generation. Oladipo is a two-time all-star and won most improved player after leaving OKC. While Ibaka has made the all-defensive team three times in his career and just won a championship with the Toronto Raptors.
All that talent, and nothing to show for.
Over the years, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has been considered by many as one of the best executives in the league, given all the talent that he was able to collect in a place like Oklahoma City.
But with great power comes great responsibility.
And no matter if it was with Scott Brooks or Billy Donovan who was doing the coaching, it was Presti who picked the coach and put together the roster. Making him the common denominator.
So if the Thunder are truly going to clean house and start over, they should probably be on the hunt for a new general manager as well.