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Five Thoughts: Thunder epilogue

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The Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2016-17 campaign came to an end last night as the Houston Rockets won the best of seven series in five games.

These five thoughts will focus more upon the season as a whole and not specifically on the playoff series.

THANK YOU, MR. WESTBROOK

In the wake of a disastrous Fourth of July for Oklahoma City fans, Russell Westbrook provided Thunder nation — and quite frankly the rest of the basketball world — a historic season that will not be soon forgotten.

Triple-double streaks, tying Oscar Robertson’s 55-year old record at the Chesapeake Energy Arena and eventually breaking it. The last-second heroics against Dallas, Orlando and Denver. Not to mention dominant wins against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and eventual Eastern Conference first-seed Boston Celtics on the road.

One of the most amazing performances by an individual player in league history.

But what Thunder fans will cherish most is the fact that Westbrook made it great to wear Oklahoma City on your chest. With Kevin Durant gone and the future of the team up in the air, Westbrook lived by his mantra of “Why Not?” and remained loyal to help lead a young team into the future.

DESPITE YOUNG ROSTER, FRANCHISE MENTALITY MUST CHANGE

The Thunder were the youngest team in the 2016-17 playoffs. Typically a playoff appearance and a young roster provide optimism moving forward. That shouldn’t be what the franchise should lean on.

Over the years, Sam Presti has prided himself and the team on building through the draft and developing young talent. They have most certainly done that. That luxury went out the window and straight to Oakland over the summer however. With Westbrook leading the way as the lone star, Presti can no longer look a few years down the road. The future is now.

In the past, Presti would think twice about hiring veteran mercenaries to improve obvious team needs over developing young talent. In order to keep Westbrook in the fold, a shift in mentality must take place.

A core of Westbrook-Oladipo-Adams is fine. Hoping that Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines or Domantas Sabonis all make huge leaps to become more reliable compliments is no longer a luxury the Thunder can lean on solely.

The Thunder may have to get older. They may have to give up a young piece they enjoy for more mature skill-sets. Something must be done in order to keep Westbrook.

MAY BE THE LAST TIME WE SEE CERTAIN PLAYERS IN A THUNDER UNIFORM

Those names are well-documented.

Enes Kanter trade rumors have been rampant since his second season with Oklahoma City. Taj Gibson is an unrestricted free-agent. Nick Collison could retire. Andre Roberson enters the first offseason of uncertainty in his young career.

Not surprisingly, all names listed stated their desire to return to the Thunder next year. As Oklahoma City fans know, business tends to get in the way of what people may want.

This doesn’t even include players that could be moved in potential deals during the offseason. Needless to say, this team could have a very different makeup when they report back for training camp in a few months.

VICTOR OLADIPO

This was a player many were excited for when the trade went down. Of course, Durant was still believed to be returning to the Thunder at the time. Some may have not properly tempered their expectations accordingly when projecting a Westbrook-Oladipo backcourt going into the year.

Despite that, the former lottery pick had a fine season. He adjusted to the number two role well after being the guy in Orlando for three years. His efficiency numbers improved and he became well ingrained into the Thunder organization.

Many will remember his poor performance in the playoffs — Oladipo’s first experience in the postseason as an NBA player. For Oklahoma City to take that next step in competing in the West, Oladipo must learn from his near-nightmare experience in the playoffs and improve.

He has the talent and mentality to do so.

MVP

We all know he won it. We just have to wait for June for Drake (massive eye-roll) to call his name at the NBA Awards Show.

The playoffs did not yield the result fans or the team wanted. But the 2016-17 season will be a year that many will carry with them as they age. This was history, and we were all apart of it.

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