By A. Suave Francisco
With that being said, Kevin Durant, an ambassador for the Oklahoma City community is gone...gone to the team that defeated the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals in dramatic fashion.
That's why this hurts OKC so much, although KD leaving period would hurt, it definitely intensifies the blow knowing that he chose Golden State over a team he's helped build for years.
All we can do at this point is somehow forget about this and move towards the future. The fact is, Oklahoma City looks to be back in familiar territory, where they were when Russell was a blossoming star during his first few years in the league. Except now, the Thunder have an MVP-caliber player in Russell Westbrook and a young guy entering his fourth NBA season in Victor Oladipo. The frontcourt still remains one of the best in the league, with Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova.
The outcome of the Thunder roster remains uncertain. Will Russell take the contract extension? If not, the Thunder will look to trade him, according to ESPN. With a lot of unpredictability surrounding this Thunder organization right now, the only direction to look towards is the team we presently have, ignoring all the speculations until they happen.
The best short-term scenario right now would be to go after long-time Dallas star and future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki. That'll put a bandage on this cut and may provide efficient scoring in a better offense than Dallas'. Although he wouldn't be the Dirk we've all grown to love (or hate), he would definitely help this team offensively, now that 28.2 points per game just departed.
Nevertheless, Russell now has a chance to be the player he's always wanted to be. It's been assumed that Russ wants to be 'the man', now he is. If set up correctly, Billy Donovan can change the entire identity of this Thunder team, a team formerly known as a fast-paced offense that relied on Kevin and Russell's prolific scoring ability are now forced to embrace the rest of the team. Hopefully now, there will be more team-ball played, instead of hero-ball.
Looking at the starters and key role players now:
G: Russell Westbrook- 26.0 points, 11.0 rebounds per game.
G: Victor Oladipo- 16 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists.
F: Andre Roberson- 5.6 points, 5.6 rebounds.
F: Enes Kanter- 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds.
C: Steven Adams- 10.1 points, 9.5 rebounds.
G: Dion Waiters- 8.4 points.
F: Domantas Sabonis- Rookie (maybe a starter).
F: Anthony Morrow- 2.6 points.
G: Randy Foye- 2.5 points.
F: Ersan Ilyasova- 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds.
G: Cameron Payne- 1.8 points.
This roster may look bleak now, but Kevin was just one player...a very talented player, but just one. The past two seasons, many thought Russell was No. 1 on this team and that's what I believe as well. As everyone witnessed, they didn't get to the Western Conference Finals and go up 3-1 on the Warriors solely because of Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook and the role players were the difference, and our bench got better when Ilyasova and Sabonis joined the team.
This hurts, bad. Don't get me wrong. Kevin Durant isn't just a basketball player to Oklahoma City, he was an ambassador and a pioneer in building a small city into one of the NBA's best. This is the first major heartbreak for this young franchise. James Harden's departure hurt, but this trumps that pain two-fold. Although a championship season looks unlikely in 2016-2017, the future of this team still remains in good hands, pending Russell Westbrook extending his contract, or re-signing at the end of next season. Sam Presti is a smart man as well and surely has an alternate plan up his sleeve.