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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC's improvement hinges largely on improvement of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka

When Thunder general manager Sam Presti held his annual preseason state-of-the-franchise news conference on Wednesday, he made it clear that he still expects this team to be better. The reason? He expects his players to come back better.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: September 26, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: September 25, 2013

Sam Presti made no big moves during the offseason.

He drafted three promising but largely unheralded players, re-signed Derek Fisher and acquired Ryan Gomes.

No marquee names.

No blockbuster deals.

But when the Thunder general manager held his annual preseason state-of-the-franchise news conference on Wednesday afternoon, he made it clear that he still expects this team to be better, expects this bunch to be improved over last season's 60-win squad.

The reason?

“I expect our guys to come back better,” Presti said.

He was talking about every player, but the reality is that the Thunder's improvement hinges largely on the improvement of the core players, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.

Of course, it will be important for Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins and Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb to be better, but for the Thunder to move closer to becoming a championship team, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka must be better.

I know, I know, we're talking about the guys who are already the best players on the team. Heck, what we saw out of Durant in the playoffs last season after Westbrook got hurt was nothing short of epic.

And here I am saying that he's one of the guys who needs to be better.

But it's the truth.

Growing a championship team is the Thunder way.

“For us, we've always focused on how we grow, how we improve,” Presti said. “We've never been a huge free agency team.”

Still, it was a bit unnerving for Thunder fans to watch as many Western Conference foes made franchise-altering moves this summer. The Thunder was in the hunt for the aging but sharpshooting Mike Miller, who signed with the Grizzlies, and Dorrell Wright, a versatile swingman went to the Blazers. Neither is a worldbeater, but either would've been a nice addition.

Instead, after Miller and Wright landed elsewhere, the Thunder was left with Fisher and Gomes, who played in Germany last season.

The reaction in Thunderland?

Crickets.

The Thunder wasn't going to make a big move in free agency anyway. Can't go over the salary cap and risk landing in the luxury tax.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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