In addition to players who are expected to emerge, the overall youth of the Thunder also gives Presti confidence this team will be better. Nine players are 25 or younger. Presti called them “pre-prime players,” guys who will improve naturally with time. They're supplemented by six players 26 or older, veterans who can fulfill specific roles on the court and be mentors off it.
“Part of our confidence comes from the work ethics, the unique blend of age and experience that these guys have together, and it's rare to have the continuity that we've been able to achieve. We value that,” Presti said. “Will that translate into a high level of success this year? We don't know. But we feel confident about our team and our approach.”
Part of the team's continuity includes its coaching staff. Although lead assistant coach Maurice Cheeks left for the head coaching job in Detroit, and took fellow assistant Maz Trakh with him, Scott Brooks is entering his fifth full season. He's the league's fourth longest tenured coach with one team, trailing Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle. And like his players, Brooks also is expected to continue to improve. With 54 playoff games under his belt as a coach, Brooks, 48, ranks seventh among active coaches in that category. It's Brooks' job to put together these new puzzle pieces but his five-year foundation is being viewed as an advantage.
“Our job, over the course of 82 games, is to figure out how everybody fits together and how that group is best maximized,” Presti said. “And hopefully, we'll be playing our best basketball at the end of the year. I've got tremendous confidence in Scott and the coaching staff to figure that out.”
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