With the decade coming to a close and 2020 coming near, the first official decade for the Oklahoma City Thunder reaches an end. The 2010s were a bittersweet time for the franchise as they saw a Finals appearance, four Western Conference Finals trips and two separate MVPs. The Thunder were one of the most successful NBA franchises this decade as they were loaded with star after star. Unfortunately, none of those teams ever won the grand prize of an NBA championship for multiple reasons. The WTLC staff decided to have a small little project where we vote for who the all decade starting lineup would be for the Thunder and each writer wrote up about their favorite role player as well. It’s a traditional NBA starting lineup of 2 Guards and 3 Forwards/Centers with an explanation from each writer why they voted for that player.
2008-2019 (11 seasons/ 812 games): 23.0 PPG/ 8.4 APG/ 7.0 RPG/ 43.4 FG%/ 30.8 3FG%/ 80.1 FT%
Accolades: 8x All Star, 8x All-NBA, 2016-17 MVP, Averaged a TD 3x
Clemente: This was a pretty easy choice. Westbrook is going to go down as the one of the greatest players in NBA history and as the most beloved athletes in Oklahoma history. When people debate who the greatest point guard was from this era, Westbrook’s name will be brought up. I mean what’s there to say about Russ that hasn’t been said already? Fans here will always love Russ for showing loyalty by signing two extensions here after Durant left, he could’ve easily requested a trade and everybody would’ve understood why. Instead, he stuck it out for three more seasons here and gave basketball fans a season to always remember by accomplishing what many people deemed as impossible. Not once, not twice, but three times. Westbrook is going to get his iconic #0 retired here and will always be seen as an Oklahoma sports hero.
J.D. Tailor: My favorite player to watch honestly. The energy and aggression with which he played the game was astonishing on a nightly basis. I do not think I had ever seen a boring Westbrook game. He could also put up serious numbers and destroy rims seemingly at will, it was pure entertainment.
Reid: Is there any question? He’s all we had. To date, he is the Thunder franchise. He is the spirit, he is the stats, he is how we lived, and he is how we died. There are numerous essays on Russ. He was everything.
2010-2012 (3 seasons/ 220 games): 12.7 PPG/ 2.5 APG/ 3.4 RPG/ 44.4 FG%/ 37.0 3FG%/ 83.5 FT%
Accolades: 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year, All-Rookie
Clemente: Despite only being here for three seasons, Harden grabbed the second guard spot here. From a face value, his stats and accolades aren’t that impressive. But for me, this pick had more to do with what could’ve been instead of what was with Harden’s time here. Harden was part of the young Big Three trio that helped the Thunder reach the 2012 NBA Finals. He was the Thunder’s best player in the 2012 WCF series against the Spurs. Sure, Harden struggled in the Finals but he played a huge role as to why they were even there to begin with. Harden was infamously traded that offseason to the Houston Rockets, who he has played for ever since. Harden staying in OKC will go down as one of the greatest what if’s in sports history as a team that was seen as an inevitable dynasty never reach the Finals again after trading away their third star. As we all know now, Harden will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history.
J.D. Tailor: The Thunder’s Sixth Man of the Year but his ability to score and get white hot for quarters at time is truly impressive. His technical abilities are pretty impressive as he blends feints, euro-steps and fakes into a dribbling style which can be hard to predict. He gets separation and converts on looks time after time.
2007-2016 (9 seasons/ 641 games): 27.4 PPG/ 3.7 APG/ 7.0 RPG/ 48.3 FG%/ 38.0 3FG%/ 88.2 FT%)
Accolades: 7x All Star, 6x All-NBA, 4x Scoring Title, 2013-14 MVP
Clemente: Regardless of how you feel about Durant’s departure, there’s no denying the fact that Durant is the greatest player in Thunder history and one of the greatest players in NBA history. You could easily make the case that Durant is the greatest scorer this century. In his career season, Durant led the 2014 Thunder to 59 wins behind a career high 32.0 PPG on 63.5 TS%. This was the same season where Westbrook only played 46 games due to multiple meniscus surgeries. Durant was the franchise player for all those championship contending teams and it’s not a coincidence that the franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since his departure. The relationship is rocky but Durant deserves to get his #35 retired here.
J.D. Tailor: One of the best scorers I have seen in terms of making shot-making look so effortless. Nothing ever looked difficult for KD on a basketball court and he was the tip of the spear for the Thunder attack. It is pretty rare that players get points quietly but that’s how Durant operated, he would have thirty points on efficient scoring without anybody really realizing.
2017-2019 (2 seasons/ 156 games): 25.0 PPG/ 3.7 APG/ 6.9 RPG/ 43.4 FG%/ 39.2 3FG%/ 83.2 FT%
Accolades: 2x All Star, 2x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive,
Clemente: Paul George’s time here was short but memorable. The Thunder traded for George during the 2017 offseason as an attempt to recapture their championship aspirations a season after Durant left. George was supposed to be Westbrook’s Robin but the roles reversed in George’s second season here. George had a career season last year and finished third in MVP voting, his season was plagued with shoulder injuries that he played through in the final three months of the season. It was clear he was struggling with the injury. It’s unfortunate that the Thunder never got out of the First Round in the Russ & PG era that will be remembered for untapped potential and inconsistent frustrations. But that shouldn’t stop fans from appreciating and valuing how great of a player George is. George requested a trade this past offseason to play with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers. The trade sent shock waves throughout league but it could be a blessing in disguise for OKC. The Thunder received a treasure chest of first round draft picks, young franchise cornerstone Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a hot commodity in Danilo Gallinari. The trade might’ve stung and hurt in the moment, but I have a pretty good feeling that we’ll look back at it in a positive light.
J.D. Tailor: PG’s two-way ability was huge for the Thunder last season as Russell struggled to get his game right on. That was not the only thing about George’s game, he was brilliant in terms of moving off-ball and knocking down open shots. He is arguably the most complete two-way player as he was a versatile all-rounder who could do a bit of everything on offence, you need a stop, George is the man, you need a clutch three, it’s PG13 answering the call.
Reid: I’m gonna call Paul George a SG for this exercise. To date, he is probably the smoothest player I’ve watched in an OKC uniform. I have nothing but respect for PG. He came here, gave it everything and realized it was for not, then left. That’s okay, that’s doesn’t make him bad, it makes him goal-oriented.
2009-2016 (7 seasons/ 524 games): 11.6 PPG/ 7.4 RPG/ 2.5 BPG/ 52.3 FG%/ 35.5 3FG%/ 74.5 FT%
Accolades: 3x All-Defensive, 2x Blocking Champion
Clemente: This was the toughest choice to make between Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams but I ended up choosing Ibaka because he played a bigger role when the Thunder were contenders. When I think of Ibaka, I think of a good starter who could’ve been a star. I was super high on Ibaka early on, I thought once he develops a post game then he would elevate OKC. Instead Ibaka got farther away from the basket and became a stretch big his last couple of seasons with the Thunder. Ibaka was arguably the best shot blocker in the league early on in his career but as his blocking skills diminished, his shooting skills improved. Ibaka is a great example of a player who is willing to adapt to the league. He knew that shooting bigs were becoming more valuable and to his credit, he started working on his three pointer. Ibaka averaged 3.2 3FGs a game in 2015 after averaging less than one three point shot a game up to that point in his career. You can also trace back all these first round picks that OKC has right now back to the Ibaka trade that landed Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, who both got traded to Indiana for Paul George.
J.D. Tailor: The hardest decision for me as I love Steven Adams and I think he brings some serious grit to a team that probably needs some defense. However, I have to go for Serge Ibaka in that five man role which he currently occupies for the Raptors. He is a consummate interior defender who can space the floor all the way to the three-point arc on fairly good efficiency.
2013-Now (7 seasons/ 493 games): 9.7 PPG/ 1.1 APG/ 7.5 RPG/ 59.0 FG%/ 55.0 FT%
Reid: He is profoundly underrated. He is a willing and skilled playmaker, he can finish, he sets hard screens, he defends at a high level, and he is a pillar of the Thunder ethos.
2016-2019 (3 seasons/ 144 games): 9.2 PPG/ 3.9 RPG/ 1.1 BPG/ 50.3 FG%/ 36.8 3FG%/ 67.5 FT%
Reid: I will die for Jerami Grant. He can guard all 5 positions and still give 10 points a game, 5 of which are highlight reel worthy. I love him.
Favorite Role Player
Clemente: I’m going to cheat and put Steven Adams on here even though he really wasn’t a role player because he’s too good to be left off my list. Adams has been with the Thunder since 2013 and is currently tied with Andre Roberson for longest tenured Thunder player. Adams took the starting job over Kendrick Perkins in his second NBA season and has had it ever since. Adams is a classic throwback to centers: big, strong, team player, rebounding machine, and a hard screen setter. Adams is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA, four of his seven seasons averaging over 3 ORPG. Adams is also personality of the decade for OKC with his charm and charisma.
J.D. Tailor: I have always liked Andre Roberson’s commitment to defense and the way that he elevated defense from being afterthought to being a starring attraction. As someone who values great defense, it was always a pleasure to watch Andre slow down some of the premier scorers in the league. As a player, Roberson was inherently flawed as he could not shoot a lick and opponents would hack him incessantly at the end of games but he made up for these weaknesses by being an intelligent cutter and able distributor. He was also a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate in his prime years, his advanced numbers consistently put in him in the top tier of NBA defenders. I just hope that one day Robes can make it back to the league and we can see him locking fools up again.