then stockpiled draft picks and made the most of the selections after acquiring them. He took Kevin Durant second overall, traded for fifth overall pick Jeff Green, "reached” for Russell Westbrook at fourth overall, selected James Harden third overall and landed Serge Ibaka 24th overall. Thabo Sefolosha was acquired from Chicago in exchange for the first-round draft pick the Thunder received in the Johan Petro-Chucky Atkins trade with Denver.
With ample salary cap space, the Thunder can now allow its young core to grow together and reward those who flourish with lucrative contract extensions without worrying about becoming a luxury tax team.
It’s a process that requires patience and persistence that few franchises are capable of employing.
The Kings, 17-65 a year ago and just 18-39 this season, are giving it a go. Sacramento recently traded franchise player Kevin Martin to get out from under his remaining three-year, $36 million contract and build around Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes.
The Wizards began their demolition by parting with former All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to clear cap space and pave the way for young players’ development.
But the unheralded source to the Thunder’s success is a clear-cut commitment to an identity. The same repetitive, almost robotic, responses that Presti and coach Scott Brooks supply have sparked the Thunder’s improvement in the standings.
"The process is just every day to get better and focus on our core values. That is defense and sharing the ball on offense,” Brooks said.
"And we have to continue to figure out ways to improve. You can’t just expect it’s going to happen. You have to keep motivating guys and finding ways to get them excited about each other and about the team. And our guys do a great job of really believing in team.”
Text "OKTHUNDER” to 65360 for your chance to win an Official Adidas No. 35 Kevin Durant Jersey. NewsOK OKC Thunder news text alerts sponsored by Totally Tickets.