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What constitutes a good season for Oklahoma City Thunder? To be determined

As the roster changes for the Oklahoma City Thunder so does the criteria for a successful season.

As the Oklahoma City Thunder prepare to embark on the 2019-20 NBA season, their definition of a “successful season” is a bit of a moving target. That’s because of the uncertainty of what this campaign holds internally for the organization.

The Thunder are currently a mixed bag, of sorts. After trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George, a rebuild seems imminent, but maybe not immediate.

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The current roster heading into the season is a mixed one; good veteran players like Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari and very young up-and-coming players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Darius Bazley.

The direction the team chooses to go will determine what their definition of “success” is. An organizational decision to attempt to compete for a playoff spot by keeping the veterans and trying to rebuild on the fly — something similar to what the Boston Celtics did post Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — is possible.

In that instance the Oklahoma City Thunder would most likely be pursuing a playoff spot while also looking at their young players for future production.

In that sense, success would be measured in immediate success: how many games can the team win this season? Can they reach the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference? Can the veteran players — who are clearly less star driven than years past — produce at a higher level than the sum of their parts?

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While staying semi-relevant in the near future may be appealing to fans, it’s probably not what general manager Sam Presti has in mind. Throughout his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Presti has preached sustainability and longevity. His preference is to build for the long term instead of the immediate.

Knowing that, it may be a safer bet to assume that the Thunder will go full steam ahead into a rebuild.

That entails losing. Probably a lot of it.

In order to maximize a rebuild the Thunder would have to look into trading their veterans — Paul, Gallinari, Adams, Schroder — in return for even more draft picks and young talent to add to their overflowing stash. That would also result in the team inevitably winning fewer games, thus making Oklahoma City’s own draft pick even more valuable.

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In that scenario, success would be defined very differently, primarily based on the development of the younger players on the roster. Could Gilgeous-Alexander blossom into a franchise cornerstone type of player? Can Ferguson take the next step as a defender and ball-handler? What the heck will Bazley become? Will Diallo be able to refine his elite athleticism into tangible basketball skill?

Positive answers to those questions would undoubtedly constitute a successful season for Oklahoma City.

While it wouldn’t translate to immediate success on the court it would be a positive sign for the future and with the team holding 15 first-round picks — plus multiple pick swaps — over the next seven years it seems as though the distant future is where the front office has their sights set.

It’s nearly impossible to know which of these two directions the Thunder will take, and they don’t have to make an immediate decision. They could even do a little bit of both by trading some vets while keeping other around in order to take a minor step back now for a better future down the line. It will be a “wait and see” process as the season progresses.

Regardless if Presti elects for a full-fledged rebuild or doing it on the fly, his track record shows that the future is the most important aspect for the team. In that sense, success this season will be measured through development, not wins.

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