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

“We'll always look at everything,” said general manager Sam Presti. “But as we've said before, the thing that's really been our engine for improvement on a year to year basis has been the internal development of our players.”

Same as the convergence of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili gave the Spurs the foundation for titles, the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka makes the Thunder a perennial contender.

But they have to be surrounded with complementary accessories, and no money is left, at least not in OKC economics, for luxury. The Thunder can't make a $6 million mistake.

“We want to supplement them with players that complement them but also are continuing to grow,” Presti said, “as well as players who are stabilizing forces as we look to put the best team on the floor, not only today, but to put ourselves in position where year in and year out, we're within a handful of teams that can compete for a title.”

The Thunder won't always hit a home run on draft night or even looking through a rummage sale. Cole Aldrich didn't develop. Ronnie Brewer never got off the bench. Tibor Pleiss, the German draftee, still hasn't crossed the pond and might never.

The Spurs whiff some, too. James Anderson was a draft bust. T.J. Ford was a risk who didn't pan out. The Spurs waived Steve Novak, who became a valued Knickerbocker.

But the Spurs keep believing in their system and their organization. They know what they're looking for. They focus on what a little-valued player can do, instead of what he can't.

The Thunder has shown signs of that. But with Kevin Martin almost surely gone and Kendrick Perkins facing a reduced role, the Thunder has to find its own Danny Green. Its own Tiago Splitter.

“Our young guys, they haven't played a lot, but they've worked their tails off,” said Scotty Brooks. “And we expect to have another great summer of development. Those guys are a big part of our future.”

Forget the future. The future has morphed into the present. Time for the Thunder to fully endorse the San Antonio Way.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


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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