Sorry Seattle, I have to twist the knife and remind you that you could have the Thunder right now. But if I couldn’t include the Sonics, the Thunder’s all-time starting five would just be this year’s starter’s with James Harden swapped in for Dion Waiters, so be proud Seattle, you get to have three spots on this team’s starting five. It’s better than nothing. I also built this lineup assuming they’d be playing against other all-time squads instead of just dropping them into today’s NBA, so that impacted some of the decisions made on the lineup.
PG – Gary Payton
I’m going to save everyone some time here: Russell Westbrook isn’t on this list. That’s not meant to be a knock to Westbrook; he’s probably the fourth or fifth-best Thunder-Sonic of all time, but the top three fill all the positions he could play. If I were making an all-time Thunder-Sonics roster, Westbrook would come off the bench and make a run at Sixth Man of the Year for these all-time teams. I’d rather start Payton because of his defense and the fact that he doesn’t need the same volume of shots that Westbrook does to be effective. Also, he’s the only member of the franchise I’d feel even a little bit comfortable covering Michael Jordan, so there’s that.
SG – Ray Allen
Again, we’re building a roster, and if I can have the greatest three-point shooter of all time on my team, he’s going to be starting. Keeping teams honest with Allen spacing the floor is going to give the next player on the depth chart all the more room to do what he does best: score.
SF – Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is the best player this franchise has ever had, and that might be a problem when they play the Bulls or Lakers in this imaginary league, but how many teams have a good answer for Durant’s unique length and shooting ability? Durant will be their primary scoring option, as he is now for OKC, but this squad will have a lot more around him and make it harder for teams to focus their defense on him.
PF – Serge Ibaka
I thought about running a small ball lineup with Durant at the power forward spot and Westbrook at one of the perimeter positions, but then I remembered the team could be facing frontcourts in the West that included: Kareem-Shaq, Walton-Aldridge, Yao-Hakeem and Duncan-Robinson, so I decided that the team had to have some presence in the paint. Ibaka will help space the floor on offense in a similar way as his current role on OKC, while still providing interior presence when rebounding and on defense.
C – Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp was really good, even if he’s more known now more for his paternity results than his basketball results. He had more than a few 18-10 seasons and had a 52 percent field goal percentage with the Sonics. He’ll be a serviceable big man in this hypothetical league, and the team’s roster is thin on big men to begin with, so he makes the cut. I considered Spencer Haywood for one of the frontcourt positions, but he’s only 6’8”, which would make him only the third-tallest player on the team, and not nearly big enough to battle the seven-footers that’ll be littered throughout the league.
Ultimately, I think the Sonics (yes, they’re the Sonics again through a 3/5 majority) would be a No. 4 seed in the West and lose in the second round to the Lakers in this hypothetical all-time league, because the Lakers shouldn’t drop a game to anyone but maybe the Celtics or Bulls. Seriously, Magic, Kobe, Elgin, Shaq and Kareem would only lose if Kobe starts shooting them out of a game, at which point, Phil benches him for Jerry West and everything’s fine again.