When Thunder general manager Sam Presti traded Damien Wilkins to Minnesota as part of the Etan Thomas deal in late July, it left Nick Collison as the only player remaining from the roster he inherited in 2007.
At the time, that small detail was worth noting because it signaled how quickly Presti has put his stamp on the franchise in his efforts to rebuild the Thunder into a perennial winner.
But now that we sit two days away from the preseason opener — and three weeks away from the regular season — the real significance of that deal has taken shape with the roster now set.
Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are now the team’s unquestioned leaders. They trail only Collison as the franchise’s most tenured players — at the tender age of 21 and 23, respectively.
"I feel old,” joked Green, 23, at media day while peering out his teammates, nearly half of them younger than he is.
A blockbuster addition would have taken some pressure off of Durant and Green. But by refusing to break the bank on a big-name free agent, Presti is hastening their learning curves yet again this season and banking on them now more than ever.
"There’s two schools of thought,” Collison said. "There’s a school of thought where you learn from veterans and it takes awhile to pick things up because you’re not playing as much. And there’s the other school that is the way we’ve gone where you put them out there and you let them play through things and learn a lot that way.”
This route means Durant, Green and 20-year-old, second-year point guard Russell Westbrook now have complete control of the franchise. It means they will form the team’s identity and have the power to make players fall in line, for better or for worse.