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Time has come for Thunder to trust its young players

The Thunder has built its organization off the San Antonio model, from ownership to attitude to player development. No comes the off-season when that model is put to the test.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 5, 2013

The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals, which start Thursday night on Biscayne Bay.

Their rosters were constructed in completely different ways.

The Heat largely found its talent playing on other teams. Not just SuperFriends LeBron and Chris Bosh. But Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, the Birdman. All proclaimed their NBA worth before hitting South Beach.

Pat Riley put together a great team by making proven pieces fit together.

The Spurs did no such thing. The Spurs put together a worthy contender by meshing unproven pieces.

You know where this is going. The Thunder has built its organization off the San Antonio model, from ownership to attitude to player development.

Now comes the off-season when that model is put to the test. It's time for the Thunder to rely on its player development and talent evaluation and culture building.

Time for the Thunder to trust its young players.

“We have to bring everybody along,” said Reggie Jackson, one of those Thunder youngsters. “Just be the best team from guy one through 15. That's kind of how we get things done here.”

That's how the Spurs get things done.

The Spurs' roster is amazing in its construction. Only two Spurs were lottery picks (by San Antonio or anyone else). Duncan was first overall in 1997. Tracy McGrady, who never plays, was picked ninth in the same year.

Only two Spurs were acquired by trade — Matt Bonner seven years ago for

Rasho Nesterovic and just-drafted Kawhi Leonard two years ago for George Hill.

Six Spurs were signed as free agents, but five were mid-season signings, which means they were rescued from the scrap heap. The other was Gary Neal, who was an undrafted rookie.

Plus, the Spurs hit on low draft picks like Tiago Splitter (28th overall in 2007) and Cory Joseph (29th in 2011).

The Spurs know what kind of players and people they are looking for. One man's trash is another man's treasure.

So Danny Green, waived by the post-LeBron Cavaliers in October 2010, becomes a starter on one of the NBA's best teams. Boris Diaw, waived by the lowly Bobcats in March 2012, becomes a San Antone mainstay.

Same thing has to happen in OKC, if the Thunder is to ever capture the NBA flag.

The Thunder has to hit on a Jackson, which it looks like is happening. Has to hit on a Jeremy Lamb. Has to hit on a Hasheem Thabeet.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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