Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2009-06-21

The Thunder's path to respectability is often likened to Portland and New Orleans. Acquire multiple draft picks, build around homegrown talent and spend wisely.

But one of the teams in The NBA Finals is a pretty good blueprint, as well. Orlando is playing for the title five years after drafting Dwight Howard with the No. 1 pick. The rise appears quick now, but wasn't without its trials.

The Magic missed the playoffs the first two years with Howard. Jameer Nelson, acquired in 2004 like Howard, had an up-and-down start before developing into an All-Star. The signing of Hedo Turkoglu was questioned by some, while the $118 million spent on Rashard Lewis was criticized by many.

The team also swapped out coaches, firing Brian Hill in favor of Stan Van Gundy. Not every other move worked along the way, but enough of them did. Orlando is now positioned to contend for years to come.

Oklahoma City has a collection of young talent in place, building around future All-Star forward Kevin Durant, a number of draft picks in years to come and financial flexibility.

"We know this is one step in the process for us," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "We feel we have made progress."

SEASON HIGHLIGHT: Kevin Durant was easily the star of the early portion of All-Star weekend. The sensational sophomore scored 46 in the Rookie Challenge game and won the league's first H-O-R-S-E competition. For those who doubted Durant's star potential, this was his time to shine.

TURNING POINT: The 1-12 start cost P.J. Carlesimo his job and morphed into a 3-29 record that had many wondering if the Thunder would post the worst record in NBA history. Oklahoma City then followed with a 6-3 stretch and stayed relatively competitive the rest of the season.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: June 21, 2009