Last night Kevin Durant made his first ever return to Oklahoma City. The Warriors controlled much of the game and came out with a 130-114 win. Durant scored 34 points on 57 percent shooting. He also got into some altercations with his former teammates. Okay, got that out of the way so now let’s move on.
Life after Kevin Durant continues for Oklahoma City. The team is in a unique position that is rarely seen. They lost a top player in the league and they now have another gunning for the MVP. That man, Russell Westbrook, has led the Thunder to a 31-24 record which is good enough for seventh place in the Western Conference.
Here is where the problem comes in, the Thunder need to find a way to build around Russell Westbrook without putting their future at stake. While it seems unlikely right now, there is still a chance that Westbrook leaves OKC. So what can the Thunder do? They have to prove Westbrook that they are building a young talented team that will reach the top of their games in time for Westbrook to lead them to success.
The Thunder are currently one of the youngest teams in the league and they have tons of potential, but potential does not win championships. OKC needs to put championship pieces together quickly. Russell Westbrook can only wait so long. He should not be expected to put up 20-plus triple-doubles a season for the rest of his career.
How do the Thunder get started doing that? Well it will probably begin to show itself in the next few weeks as the trade deadline approaches. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has a long history of pulling of great deals at the deadline. The Thunder have expiring contracts of Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow and Andre Roberson. One, if not all, of those players is bound to be headed out of town. Presti will have to work his magic again to get a player to space the floor for Westbrook.
That move will not be the end though, a big part of that being because there’s no way the team can make one move and be in title contention. More will have to happen this offseason and it will have to be something big, but not so much that it destroys the team’s future.
There is a ton of uncertainty in Oklahoma City and it will have to be balanced out with the need to win now. The Thunder built a team around Kevin Durant and now must build it around Russell Westbrook. It is a tricky slope to go down, but it is one that Sam Presti must travel. Westbrook and his legacy are on the line.