What's different about OKC?
Oh man. I think it's the best organization in the league. From players to coaches to trainers to everything. The way they go about everything is just so professional. And they care about you as a person -- more than as a basketball player, they care about you as an individual.
I noticed that even though you're out for the season, and it's the middle of the Finals, you had three trainers working you out, cheering you on, helping you rehab.
Oh yeah! Of course, man. Because they care about you more than a basketball game, more than a series. I've been here for three years. You really build relationships with people. With this team, I think, it's more like a family. It's not just you go to work, see that person, and be like oh, see you later. There's more to it here.
After that, would it be hard to play somewhere else?
Who wouldn't want to be here? I think it's a great spot to be. Great guys. Great coaches. Great owner. It's everything. Everything is lovely here. Guys put in the work every day. Guys got the same personalities around here. It's hard to say you want to be anywhere else but here, doing what you love to do, being around people you love to be around.
Yes, the Thunder lucked into some crazy talents like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and competing executives would like you to believe that's all Sam Presti did that matters. But it's only part of the story. This organizational stuff, the stuff that makes it so all of their players (James "you won't find another team like this, I love it here" Harden is proving it right now
) never want to leave ... that's the kind of stuff every team could be doing.
That's about role modeling -- for instance like those three trainers -- working smarter and harder. That's about investing in young players and taking so much time to develop them that the relationships surpass basketball.
Of course, 20-year-olds, and rookies of all ages, can help basketball teams all kinds of ways. Just not as CEO or, indeed, a superstar in the mold of LeBron James, Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose. This draft is dripping with players poised to be fantastic role players, defenders and teammates.
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Royce White, John Henson, Fab Melo, Marquis Teague, Meyers Leonard, Festus Ezeli, Moe Harkless, Jeff Taylor ... know what those guys have in common, besides being highly regarded NBA prospects?
They can't shoot. Not reliably, anyway. Some of them can score well enough. Kidd-Gilchrist was great in transition and posting up in college. White is creative with the ball. Davis can fly. But none strikes fear in opponents pulling up from 18.
Yes this draft also features scorers like Damian Lillard, Dion Waiters, Bradley Beal and Austin Rivers. But for every natural scorer there are five guys who would be better in a system where they have limited responsibilities on offense and great player development. Well-run teams are standing by to snap them up and get the best of them.
It's hard to point to any players in this draft who solves the problem of fixing a broken team. Smart teams tend to solve that problem some other way, while using the draft to unearth high energy young players who can play roles. This is one way that the rich get richer in the NBA.
Maybe looking to the NBA draft for a player who can save your franchise is like ordering sushi at a steakhouse.
Maybe it's just a case of asking the wrong question.
Maybe 20-year-olds who save organizations are so rare that they're almost not worth seeking. Maybe the smarter approach is to create a system that can get the most out of the players who actually are available on draft day.