When the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, they were a rare combination of new, exciting, and soon-to-be very good. Most new or relocated teams can’t say that.
For the last 11 years, they’ve been fairly easy to root for; even after the title window closed, in 2016, the team did an admirable job of fighting off a rebuild over the last three years.
Now, in 2019, the final piece of the dynasty that never happened is headed to Houston, and OKC will enter this season in tear down mode for the first time in its Midwestern history.
And that’s ... kind of terrifying, because it’s easy to love a team when it’s good and young and new and fun. It’s much harder when Andre Roberson is your second best player in a region where college football was always No. 1, anyway.
There is some hope, for sure. Just look at the asset list OKC has stockpiled since trading Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Rockets:
2020 first-rounders: OKC, Denver
2021: OKC, Miami, pick swap with Houston
2022: OKC, L.A.
2023: OKC, Miami, pick swap with L.A.
2024: OKC, L.A., Miami
2025: OKC, pick swap with Houston or L.A.
2026: OKC, L.A., Houston
But, as far as hope goes, it doesn’t get any better than in 2010, when the Thunder had Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
After a loss in the NBA Finals in 2012, a really dumb trade to save a few bucks that same year, a few poorly-timed injuries in 2013 and 2015, and a blown 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals in 2016, there isn’t much to show for the greatest young core in NBA history.
And now that all those players are gone, we’re going to learn more about OKC as a pro sports market than we ever could have in, say, 2014.
Will the NBA still be there in 10 years?
We have no idea, of course. But things can go south quickly in the NBA -- (sorry, Vancouver) -- especially when the league is getting pressure from ESPN to beef up its 30 for 30 narrative.
Kidding. But, while we're at it, here are some predictions on what the OKC doc will be called:
Bust town Rolling Thunder Stolen Thunder Thunder strikes The wild, wild Midwest Oklahoma pity
And, finally, a Grapes of Wrath pun that we can’t quiiiite put our fingers on.
[READ: It’s no fun to get stuck between superstars]
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