Method actors

The Thunder have taught everyone how to build a legit NBA contender from cold, hard data

Updated: August 13, 2012, 4:38 PM ET
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN The Magazine

THIS WAS THE ULTIMATE TEARDOWN JOB. When Sam Presti left his gig as the Spurs' assistant GM in 2007 to take over the Sonics, he inherited a team that had been two games over .500 in the previous nine seasons. That's the NBA's version of purgatory -- neither chasing a championship nor lousy enough to rebuild in earnest. There was little talented youth on hand but plenty of bloated salaries. And the Sonics were likely headed to Oklahoma City the following season.

But ...

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