In the microwave society that we live in today, everyone wants their desires fulfilled as soon as possible. They want money instantly. They want happiness instantly. They want success instantly. They also want to see Kevin Durant win an NBA championship this upcoming season. But these things come with time, which is something NBA fans do not understand about the Oklahoma City Thunder and their future.
The key to their future is obviously Durant. They need to find a way to retain him when his contract runs up in two years. This means that the pressure is on for Sam Presti. He has two years to put Durant in the best position to succeed as possible.
Let’s look at the immediate future. With the lead colorway for the KD7 dropping tomorrow, Durant is poised for another big year after averaging 32 points a game and being named MVP. Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka form legitimate second and third options, but their health has been a question mark recently. Oklahoma City does not have a reliable fourth, fifth, and sixth option and that is a problem.
Reggie Jackson showed some promise this year filling in for Westbrook, but he may have created a value that is too high for the Thunder to afford. Jackson is currently exploring the free agent market and could make a lot of money for another franchise. Caron Butler added some nice toughness, but he is a shell of his former self. Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb have shown some promise, but it would be hard to convince Durant to come back solely based on those guys developing.
It comes down to one simple idea: the Thunder needs to add someone who is going to make Durant want to come back. It might not just be one player either. It could be two players or even three. If the reports are true, they certainly are headed in the right direction by pursuing someone like Pau Gasol.
Or here is a radical idea: what if the Thunder got a new coach to entice Durant? Sam Presti came out and backed Scott Brooks after the season ended, but say the Thunder lose in the Western Conference Finals again next year. Is his job so safe? Brooks has been questioned over the years for his strange substitution patterns and late game execution. Although he did not get fired, would it be that outrageous for the Thunder to snag Frank Vogel from the Pacers? Or with LeBron James leaving Miami — would it be crazy for them to hire Erik Spoelstra?
Regardless of whether they make moves or not, what could make more of an impact on Durant’s situation would be what the rest of the league does. Imagine if Chris Bosh joins the Rockets. The Western Conference has multiple threats to Oklahoma City’s window for success. The Spurs are not going anywhere anytime soon with the emergence of Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers, Warriors, Rockets, and Blazers all have promising foundations that could emerge any year. What is going to stop Durant from wanting to go to a lesser Eastern Conference?
Let’s be honest: this window has the potential to close quicker than Jason Kidd’s tenure in Brooklyn. It is too bad too. But we all have to face life’s wrath at some point. The fact of the matter is, good things always come to an end. Look at Tracy McGrady’s basketball career. In 2003, McGrady became the youngest player in NBA history to average 30 points a game since the NBA/ABA merger. And then one day he woke up and realized that he never made it past the first round as the first option. While the Thunder have experienced more success than T-Mac, it would not be a surprise if this core blew up and simply ended up becoming a fun throwback team to play with in NBA 2K30.
Durant has to realized that greatness takes time to acquire. Not every great player has the luck of Magic Johnson, winning a championship in their rookie year. Shoot, Michael Jordan did not get a ring until he was 28 years old. The only expectations KD should worry about are those for himself.
There is also something to be said for wanting to stay with one team his entire career. LeBron faced unbelievable scrutiny for leaving Cleveland. In fact, his detractors still give him a hard time about it, even with the news today that ‘Bron is going back.
At the end of the day, Kevin Durant is holding the window open for how long the Oklahoma City Thunder will be relevant. He can open it wider by re-signing with the Thunder. Or he could close it by jumping ship. Barring injury, one thing is for sure: Kevin Durant will win an NBA championship one day. I can guarantee it. He is too dominant of a player not to. Whether he gets a handful of rings or just one like Dirk Nowitzki has yet to be seen.
As for the Thunder, they have some franchise-altering decisions to make. They can add some veteran pieces around Durant or even hire a new coach. At the end of the day, there is only one thing that will help determine their future: luck. If Serge Ibaka had not gotten hurt before the Western Conference Finals, perhaps this article would not have been written.
If luck is on the Thunder’s side, they could be contending for an NBA championship for the next 10 to 12 years. It is up to Sam Presti to put the Thunder in the best position to get lucky, but that may be all he can do. At this point, the Thunder need luck if they want to go down in history known as a dynasty. Without it, they could end up being just like the Sacramento Kings during the Chris Webber era as one of the best teams to not win a title.
Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucashapiro