Video: Our All-Time Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Five
A truly great sports debate has no end. Your opinion is all about perspective and, in many cases, whom you've seen play.
Generation X and Michel Wilbon will always believe that Michel Jordan is the greatest athlete to play any sport while Baby Boomers are split between Micky Mantle and Johnny Unitas.
For Millennials, it's LeBron James and Lionel Messi (I'm guessing here). The important thing is there is an argument to be made, and if you can back up your opinion, you can dazzle your friends the next time you're sitting at a bar.
This week ESPN released its starting five for every team in NBA history. And the Thunder line up was reasonably predictable.
G: Russell WestbrookG: James HardenF: Kevin Durant F: Paul George F: Serge Ibaka Royce Young says, "The Thunder has been around for just 12 years and boasts a remarkable cupboard of talent: three MVPs (Durant, Westbrook, Harden) and piles of All-NBA and All-Star nods. Maybe one of the best examples of how deep they are is in the showcase."
Not to take away from ESPN's hard work, but we wanted to put together our own starting five. While it would be easy to copy what the four-letter network produced, we put our on criteria together.
We had to cover said player, which means this five had to be with the team starting in 2013, so that leaves James Harden out of our discussion. Also, even in the era of positionless basketball, we wanted to cover all spots on the floor.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook even, I'll admit this is the obvious choice. But, it's hard to argue with his resume'. 2016-2017 MVP, from 2016-2019, he was averaging a triple-double. He broke Oscar Roberson record for single-season triple-doubles (42), and he carried the Thunder to the playoffs in 2016-2017, the year after Kevin Durant took off for Golden State.
Signature Moment: April 9th, 2017, Westbrook goes for 50, 16, 10, helping the Thunder erase 14-point deficit to the Nuggets by hitting a game-winning 36-foot jumper off an assist from Steven Adams, and inbound pass from Kyle Singer. That was also the game Westbrook passed Roberson.
Shooting Guard: Paul George, we took some liberties here, but George has the defensive skills to make up for Andre Roberson coming off the bench, and the guy is deadly accurate. In his two seasons in Oklahoma City, George averaged 25 points, shooting 43 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. When Westbrook wants assists, passing to George on the wing is a heck of an option, plus we want to get the best five on the floor possible, so there is no way to leave Geroge out of the conversation.
In 2018-2019 he was in the mix for MVP (which would have been the third in the Thunder's 12-year history) until shoulder issues took their toll after the All-Star break.
Signature Moment: February 22nd, 2019, George scores 45 points while going 17 of 31 and playing 50 minutes in a double-overtime win vs. the Jazz. George hits the game-winner with 2.8 seconds left, after splitting Joe Ingles and Rick Rubio, then putting up a floater in the lane over Rudy Gobert.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant, again, this one is obvious. During Durant's MVP season, he averaged 36 points and scored 30 plus in 12 straight games. He also carried the Thunder to a 20-7 record while Russell Westbrook was recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Signature Moment: January 17th, 2014. Durant scores 54 points in 43:30 vs. the Warriors leading the Thunder to a 127-121 win. What might have been the next year had Durant suffered his Jones fracture.
Power Forward: Danilo Gallinari, this could be our most controversial selection, seeing as how most people would go with Serge Ibaka. However, in just 55 games with Oklahoma City, Gallinari is shining. He's above his career averages for every meaningful stat. Points 19, rebounds 5.5, 44 percent from the field, and 41 percent from beyond the arc.
Ibaka has Gallinari on field goal percentage and rebounds, but I'll take Gallinari's ability to space the floor and play small forward if Durant gets hurt. If he stays in Oklahoma City past this season, they'll be some good discussion as to who was more valuable to the Thunder, him or Serge.
Signature Moment: December, 31st, 2019 Gallinari got switched up on Luka Doncic with 24.1 seconds left to play an managed to steal the ball from the Mavericks MVP candidate as the Thunder were holing on to a 102-101 lead. The steal forced Seth Curry to foul Dennis Schroder sending the Oklahoma City Guard to the line where he would sink both free-throws.
Maxi Kleber and Doncic both had chances to tie the game on the ensuing possession and came up short. Schroder added two more free-throws to finish off his 20 point night and give the Thunder their 18th win of the season.
Center: Steven Adams, is there any more authentic representation of his position than Adams. Yes, he is overpaid at 25.8-million with what we expect from modern centers, think Brooke Lopez and Anthony Davis. However, this season we've seen Adams increase his averages in points (11), rebounds (10), and field goal percentage (59).
He will never be a threat from three, and he will always be a hindrance when shooting free throws, but he does give the Thunder an edge, with his toughness and ability to make life hell on opposing centers when they want to go inside.
Signature Moment: December, 6th, 2019, Karl Anthony Townes puts the Timberwolves up 122-120with 1.1 left after making two free throws. The Thunder has no timeouts, Adams takes the inbound and passes it almost the full length of the court to Dennis Schroder for a game tieing layup. Oklahoma City would outscore Minnesota in overtime 17-5 for a 139-127 win.
Tell us who your all-time Thunder starting five are. Just click the comment box below.