With a decisive win over the LA Lakers last night, Franchise feels obligated to discuss his love affair for the Oklahoma City Thunder, their GM Sam Presti, and why in many ways, this franchise is the anti-Raptors...
Admittedly, since the Toronto Raptors limped out of post-season contention, I haven't watched much of the NBA's second season.
There just aren't a lot of interesting subplots, especially in the East, which have me glued to the set.
The Bucks and Bulls, despite wins, all look over-matched, as do the Bobcats and Heat. And while Brandon Roy's return has made the Phoenix-Portland series suddenly quite interesting, Denver looks to be in trouble, and for some reason I just haven't been able to get into San Antonio-Dallas either.
However there is one series I've been watching religiously - the defending champion Lakers versus the up-and-coming Thunder.
I've had my eye on the Thunder for quite some time, back even to their time as the Sonics in Seattle. I was never a huge fan of Jeff Green from his time in Georgetown, but I thought Kevin Durant was the right pick over Greg Oden, whether Portland or "Seattle" got their hands on him via the draft.
And from the signing of Nenad Krstic to the drafting of Serge Ibaka, this team hasn't looked back, culminating in a thrashing of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last night, evening their series.
As a Raptors' fan, I admittedly look at this Thunder team in envy and wonder. This team is loaded with young talent that fits the style of play that now thrives in this league, and has done an excellent job managing its finances to this point in order to keep its options open for the future.
In fact, in many ways, the Zombie Sonics, as Sportsguy refers to them, are the exact opposite of our beloved Raptors.
Yes they got lucky and landed a top 2 pick in a year when two potential franchise-changing players were in the draft. However management has also gone to great lengths to surround Kevin Durant with the right type of talent, and emphasized things like speed, athleticism and defence...
...again...the opposite of what Bryan Colangelo has done in his tenure.
The result has been one of the greatest one year turn-arounds for an NBA team that I can remember, and a club that looks ready to rule the West for years to come if it can keep its Durant-Westbrook-Green-Ibaka-Harden core together.
And let's not even get into the idea of Bosh joining that core.
The architect of all this Thunder goodness is Sam Presti. In many ways he's the anti-BC, a GM who had to put in some time in various "inglorious" roles before getting a break with the Spurs. In fact a friend of mine, New York Times columnist Jonathan Abrams, does a great job detailing his amazing ascension in this recent article.
Presti has stockpiled picks (they landed Ibaka thanks to taking Kurt Thomas' bloated contract off the hands of the Suns and still have another first round pick in this upcoming draft as well from that deal), emphasized fit (while Tyreke Evans or Steph Curry have made bigger rookie splashes, Harden has been dynamite as a B to Durant and Westbrook's A's), taken advantage of cap-wary teams to steal nice young prospects (Maynor's theft from the Jazz) and relied on various metrics and statistical analysis to ensure a well-rounded ball club. Perhaps trading Roddy Beaubois for BJ Mullens will come back to haunt Presti a bit (although he did secure a secound-rounder from that deal as well) but by and large Sam and his team have connected each time at bat en route to building an extremely solid base for years to come, and one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the L.
Which brings me back to the Raptors for a second.
By contrast, Bryan Colangelo has looked for the home-run ball these past three years.
I'd argue that most of his success in Toronto has come from hitting singles, doubles and bunts, connecting on solid pieces like Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa and Jamario Moon. It's been the home-run attempts via Jermaine O'Neal, Shawn Marion and Hedo Turkoglu that have gotten this team into the most trouble.
That's why with the draft on the horizon, I'm hoping that BC takes some cues from Presti and the Thunder and gets back to his Legomaster ways.
Bosh or no Bosh, this club needs a lot of holes filled and I'd much prefer small, deliberate and decisive moves, than more knee-jerk reactions further digging this club deeper into the NBA abyss.