History has proved that playoff success generally takes time and trust, chemistry and continuity.
The Thunder, more than any other team outside of San Antonio, has those things.
In a conference with five new head coaches — four of them sliding into the lead role for the first time — Thunder coach Scott Brooks returns as the third-most tenured coach. Unlike others, Brooks will not need time to implement his philosophies or incorporate new pieces. He also has the benefit of guiding the conference's most talented roster, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way as consensus top 10 players.
This is a Thunder team that remains strong and powerful and confident despite the changes that have taken place all around it. That's because this is a team that understands where it's been and how it's gotten there.
The Thunder didn't command the offseason attention, remember, before it journeyed to the Western Conference Finals in 2011. Nor did OKC steal the summer's headlines before making it to the NBA Finals in 2012. The same approach that worked then is what the Thunder is banking on working now.
And why shouldn't it?
The Thunder has improved its winning percentage in five consecutive seasons despite sticking with its core and resisting the urge to chase prized free agents. Following the loss of James Harden before last season, the Thunder still improved both offensively and defensively.
The Thunder has done it by trusting its system and its people. By stepping to the plate seeking singles every time rather than home runs every so often. The result has been a history of success and a team filled with hard workers that have a proven track record of steady improvement.
Nothing's changed in Oklahoma City.
And that's not nearly as bad as the offseason narrative will lead you to believe.