I want to start off by saying that in no way shape or form am I a Thunder fan. I’m a tried and true diehard Brooklyn Nets fan who after years of being laughed out of every room is finally tasting success. Sucess that the Thunder have achieved for roughly 11 years but as they say all good things must come to an end and this appears to be the case. That being said as a Nets fan I know what it’s like to go through a rebuild and how tough it can be. So I’ve compiled a list of tactics I used to get through it and hopefully it’ll help you too. Here is my rebuild survival guide.
- All About The Mindset
For my Nets, our rebuild came on the heels of a failed 38 win super team with no assets and bad contracts not to mention awful management. Things looked bleak. However, I can’t say the same for the Thunder. General Manager Sam Presti did a heck of a job acquiring the picks he did in tearing down the roster positioning the Thunder well in a rebuild journey. As a fan take solace in knowing 1. The well isn’t dry and 2. Presti has proven time and time again that he’s able to pull things off that most people don’t think he can. Don’t think of it as the end but a new beginning.
2. Have Faith
Losing James Harden hurt. Losing Kevin Durant hurt. Losing Paul George and Russell Westbrook hurt. Each time Presti has been able to make moves to reshape the roster and keep the team competitive. Now he’s tasked with building again. Have faith that he can effectively do it. Trust me it will get tough but give him a chance.
3. Take The Good With The Bad
There will be a lot of bad especially early on. The key is to not get too down on it. In the case of the Thunder barring trades there will be a lot of youth and with youth comes patience. There will be highs were a winning streak will occur or promising talent will start to reach their potential. Cherish those moments in the early years because…
4. Record Shouldn’t Matter
Hear me out. As weird as it sounds in a rebuild or build especially in the early years it should be player development that is key. Take my Nets for example. They won 41 games over a two-year timeframe yet outside of watching Boston take their picks fans were encouraged. Why? We didn’t focus on the record. If you know the numbers in the win column might be a little lite don’t focus on it. Instead, focus on growth. Does Terrance Ferguson take another step forward? How does Hamidou Diallo do in an expanded role? Who came out of nowhere to surprise? The latter leads me to my next point.
5. Don’t Overlook The Small Signings
Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris were two names that meant nothing to me when they signed. Fast forward a couple of years later and both are a key part of the rotation. Harris was cut by the Magic after being traded from the Cavs the year they won the championship. Dinwiddie was a second-round pick of the Pistons who bounced around the G League before signing a couple of 10-day contracts with the Nets. Guys like Juwan Evans, Abdul Nader, and Deonte Burton have similar stories. All are hungry and all could seize and thrive in a bigger role given the opportunity. All could play a role in years to come. Growth of guys like that is fun to watch.
6. Don’t Count Out The Count Outs
You could’ve called last year’s Nets a team full of castoffs. None outside of DeAngelo Russell was held in any kind of regard. But a team full of castoffs can do wonders when they play hard and believe in themselves. This year’s Thunder team will have a lot to prove. Already they are being written off and have a mixture of veterans and youth similar to the Nets. Don’t be surprised if they come out with something to prove. The Nets won by playing hard for 48 minutes. If the new-look Thunder can do that don’t be surprised to see some upsets pulled.
7. Celebrate The Small Wins
You won a half? Great. You went toe to toe with the Warriors for 3 1/2 quarters? Fantastic. Ferguson is on a five-game streak of 20 or more points? Crack a smile. What I’m getting at is while there might not be a lot of wins in the win column small wins occur more often then you think and are key in a rebuild. Playing that close to that caliber of a team can instill team confidence. Ferguson scoring 20 in five straight might be a sign of offensive improvement. All things that can help down the road. Remember it’s about the future, not the present.
This is HUGE. Especially given the number of picks the Thunder have it would be tempting to expect a couple of day one stars depending on how the lottery shakes out. I caution against that. Some rookies take longer than others so please be patient. The ones that start off strong don’t always maintain success. Remember Michael Carter-Williams? As an example, I remember Nets General Manager Sean Marks first draft where he picked Caris LeVert in the first round despite nagging foot injuries and Isiah Whitehead in the second. Everybody including myself was happier about Whitehead solely because he was supposed to have a quicker impact. Look who ended up being the better player.
9. Steadily Raise Expectations
Start small and work your way up. Year one of Marks we expected 20-25 wins. We got 20. Year two we wanted 30-32 wins. Got 28. Last year we wanted 40 wins and a playoff push. We got 42 and sixth seed. Raise expectations as the team raises in talent. If you feel 40 wins should be the goal based on the roster shoot for it. Keeping realistic expectations will go a long way in marking growth and keeping things in perspective.
10. Trust The Process
Finally the most important tip I can give. You might not understand every move. You might not like some moves. You might not like the progress at which the rebuild is coming along and that’s fine it’s natural. But please understand Rome wasn’t built in a day. Presti and the Thunder got lucky to land Durant, Westbrook, and Harden in the lottery may be the best lottery trio ever. Odds of landing a trio like that are slim. Not every pick will be a contributor from the jump. Not every pick or move will live up to expectations but that’s part of the process. Expect roster turnover, constant change, and movement until the right core is in place. It will be tough. It won’t be fun at times.
Let me tell you the reward when it finally comes together is magical. Watching guys grow up in front of your eyes, all the pieces and moves to get to that point, all the players who contributed before will have a special place in your heart because you’ll appreciate the part they played. I’ll say this no matter what happens with the Nets, if they win a championship or not the 2018-19 team will always be my favorite because it was the result of years of drafting, diligent roster moves, and development that finally paid off. The road was long and winding but at the end of the day, it was worth it.
The Thunder have had a great run but it’s time to start fresh and make a new one. The road may be long, winding and bumpy but when it reaches its conclusion you’ll look back and be grateful for the ride. For the appreciation it gives you. Satisfaction. The joy. The pride of being able to say you’ve lived and survived the destruction and rebirth of a franchise and man does it feel good.