Sixers Notes: In Thunder, Sixers face a team they want to emulate

Thunder forward Kevin Durant gestures to a teammate after hitting a basket in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 113-107. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
Thunder forward Kevin Durant gestures to a teammate after hitting a basket in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 113-107. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)
Posted: March 06, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY - The 76ers faced one of the teams they are modeling themselves after.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are this season's 'A' standard for the Western Conference. At 45-15, they had the conference's best record heading into Tuesday's game against the Sixers at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder also advanced to the 2012 NBA Finals, losing in five games to the Miami Heat.

But back in 2007, the franchise was in all-out tank mode, just like the Sixers are now.

At the time, the Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics before relocating to Oklahoma in 2008.  The Sonics selected Kevin Durant out of Texas with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft before reshuffling their roster heading into the final season in Seattle.

"This is one of the main [franchises] that sort of becomes a natural association, given the Kevin Durant Ping-Pong ball and the growth of the program," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "I think Nick [Collison] is the only carryover from those Seattle days.

"When you start looking at the attrition of the program, and how it was sort of naturally cleansed and weeded out and you look at what they have, it's a really obvious example of what we aspire to grow to."

A month after drafting Durant, the franchise traded future Hall of Famer Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Boston Celtics for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. Then in July 2007, the Sonics conducted a sign-and-trade that sent Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic for a future second-round selection and a $9.5 million trade exception. They used the pick, another second-round pick, and the exception to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks from the Phoenix Suns.

The Sonics lost their first eight games and went 3-14 through the first month of the 2007 season. They finished with the second-worst record (20-62) behind the Miami Heat (15-67).

But after relocating to Oklahoma City, the franchise selected Russell Westbrook (fourth overall) and Serge Ibaka (24th) in the first round of the 2008 draft. The Thunder reached the playoffs in the 2009-10 season. Two seasons after that, Oklahoma City reached the Finals.

"I know what goes on behind the scenes, the class and meticulous paying attention to all of the small details," said Brown, a good friend of Thunder general manager Sam Presti. "What the public would see is the growth of a small program, because of the winning and losing. I think it's all-encompassing. . . .

"You start to look at this program, [and] you like to be like them."

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