Thunder Rewind: OKC Lays the Foundation for Greatness in Year One

In the franchise's inaugural season, the Thunder flashed top end potential with Durant and Westbrook.
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The history books opened on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 29, 2008.

The NBA’s newest franchise took the floor against the Milwaukee Bucks, falling 98-87 before a sold out crowd in the Ford Center.

Four nights later, OKC picked up their first win in franchise history against the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the few times they would emerge victorious all season.

But despite the struggles on the court, Year 1 in Oklahoma City laid the bedrock for an NBA Finals run and kickstarted a culture which would see the franchise become one of the winningest in all of American professional sports.

In the late stages of a rebuild, the first Thunder roster in history had plenty of pieces to flash their potential.

Led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green formed OKC’s young trio. All under the age of 23, the budding stars all averaged over 15 points per game in their first season in the Ford Center.

Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha were on the roster as well, forming the bonds which would be the leadership structure from the Finals run four years later.

Things were far from smooth sailing from the start, even for a rebuilding franchise.

After a 1-12 start, second year General Manager Sam Presti made the decision to fire head coach P.J. Carlesimo, elevating assistant Scott Brooks as the interim head coach.

Brooks rallied the team to finish 23-59, a small improvement from their final season in Seattle.

Most importantly, Brooks was able to get the team to play defense at a high level while continuing to develop Durant and Westbrook.

In his second season in the league, Durant improved his 3-point shooting from 28.8 percent in Seattle to 42.2 percent under Brooks in OKC, a mark which still stands as his career high. Durant evolved every area of his game under Brooks, showing that he could indeed be the do-it-all superstar he was projected as at Texas.

The feather in Brooks cap, however, was his work with Westbrook.

Westbrook was considered a surprise by some as the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. An incredibly raw prospect, the Thunder moved him to point guard, where he starred under Brooks.

Averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 assists per game, the former Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year proved he was more than just an explosive athlete.

The Thunder closed the season with two wins over the San Antonio Spurs, who went on to earn the 3-seed in the Western Conference, in the last 15 games of the season, proving they were just a few pieces away from being a legitimate playoff team.

Finishing the season with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Presti would add the missing piece, drafting shooting guard James Harden out of Arizona State.