Thunder: Playing what-if on Blake Griffin
Twenty-one months ago, in Secaucus, N.J., the NBA draft lottery eliminated team by team, until only three organizations were standing for the right to draft Blake Griffin.
The Clippers. The Grizzlies. The Thunder.
You know what happened. Griffin is all the rage of the NBA, even if he does toil for the woeful Clippers. The Grizzlies took Hasheem Thabeet, who hasn’t played much, and the Thunder grabbed James Harden, who has been a solid, albeit not spectacular, sixth man for your good guys.
But think back to the anticipation when the lottery show went to commercial break on May 19, 2009. Only three franchises out of 14 still in the running, and Oklahoma City was one of them with a chance to draft its homegrown star.
What if the winning envelope had come up Thunder? What if Griffin had been added to the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook/Jeff Green triumvirate? What would the Thunder team, the Thunder franchise, look like now?
Well, let’s take the organization first. The Thunder would be even more ballyhooed than now. No small feat. Out here on the prairie, what some people call the NBA’s oblivion, the Thunder has made a name for itself with a remarkable success story on the court and at the ticket office. Durant and Westbrook have become bonafide stars, and the spotlight would shine only brighter with Griffin around.
Tickets would be impossible to find — sort of like tickets for tonight’s Griffin homecoming, Clippers vs. Thunder — and sponsorships would be enhanced. As the countdown to that 2009 lottery, the Thunder was prepared for a marketing blitz that on the hometown kid, who grew up in northwest Oklahoma City, went to Oklahoma Christian School and the University of Oklahoma, all within 25 miles of the Ford Center.
But what of the Thunder team? Would the remarkable turnaround of the franchise still have occurred? Would the Thunder still have gone from 23-59 in 2008-09 to the 50-win season a year ago that included scaring the playoff pants off the Lakers? Would the Thunder be the No. 4 team in the Western Conference, as it is now?
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