Thunder general manager Sam Presti’s goal isn’t to make the playoffs next season but to be a serious playoff contender in two or three years.
Patience is tough for fans. A 3-29 start last season was agonizing. The Thunder’s 2009 draft wasn’t sexy, but it was another step in Presti’s master plan. James Harden, the No. 3 pick, should contribute immediately, probably crack the starting lineup at some point similar to Russell Westbrook last season. Coaches and scouts describe Harden as being similar to the three young core players — a gym rat with a solid all-around game. He’s best known for his shooting but gets to the line consistently, led the Pac 10 in steals and is a team player willing to do whatever it takes to win. B.J. Mullens is a project. He couldn’t even start his freshman year at Ohio State. No way he starts as an NBA rookie. Mullens took plays off. But he’s athletic. There aren’t many athletic 7-foot centers available. The plan is for Mullens to blossom in year three, which would be Kevin Durant’s and Jeff Green’s fifth season and Westbrook’s fourth season. Throw in Serge Ibaka and OKC could have two decent big men by the time making a serious playoff run is realistic.