The Oklahoma City Thunder, once the Seattle Super Sonics (and eventually just the Sonics), have had a lot of great players participate in the franchise at one point or another. It’s somewhat amazing, despite several trips to the NBA Finals, that they haven’t won a championship since all the way back in 1979 — nearly 40 years. In the interest in looking back at the careers of former players, let’s count down the 10 best players in Oklahoma City/Seattle history, ordered according to Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).
10. Ray Allen
Back at the trade deadline in 2003, the Sonics made a major deal that shook up their franchise. They traded Gary Payton and Desmond Mason to the Milwaukee Bucks in return for Ray Allen and Ronald Murray. Allen only played in parts of five seasons in Seattle before moving on in a deal that landed him in Boston just prior to the 2007–08 season, when he teamed up with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to win the NBA championship. But Allen was excellent in his stop with the Sonics, averaging 24.6 points and 39.4 minutes per game.
9. Detlef Schrempf
Detlef Schrempf came over to the Sonics from the Indiana Pacers in a trade just prior to the start of the 1993–94 season. The 6-foot-9 small forward fit in well with the uptempo pace of the Sonics and head coach George Karl, averaging 16.6 points per game and shooting 41.4% on three-pointers in six seasons in Seattle, making the Western Conference All-Star team twice. He helped lead the Sonics to the 1995–96 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls, but lost in six games.
8. Gus Williams
One of the biggest parts of the last NBA champion in franchise history, Gus Williams joined the Sonics in the offseason after the 1977 season. He was an excellent scoring point guard, averaging 20.3 points with 6.0 assists per game in his six-year tenure with the Sonics. In the 1979 postseason, he averaged 26.7 points per game in leading the Sonics to glory. However, his time with the team did have a blemish, as he missed an entire season in 1980–81 due to a contract dispute.
7. Shawn Kemp
The best seasons of Shawn Kemp’s career came from 1993–97, with the big man making five consecutive All-Star teams in a Sonics uniform. He was the second best player on the team during that run to the 1996 NBA Finals, and held averages of 16.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game during his eight seasons in Seattle. He was dealt in a three-team deal to the Cleveland Cavaliers just prior to the 1997–98 season, and unfortunately saw his skills — and conditioning — decline heavily by the time he was 31 years old.
6. Gary Payton
The ultimate star in franchise history, “The Glove” was known as a furious trash talker, strong-willed defender, and a winner. He played in 13 seasons with the Sonics, averaging 18.2 points and 7.4 assists in 36.9 minutes per game. He was the brightest star on the 1996 NBA Finals team, leading the NBA that season with 2.9 steals per game and winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Payton returned to the NBA Finals as a Los Angeles Laker in 2004, losing to the Detroit Pistons, and then again with the Miami Heat in 2006 — when he finally collected his only ring as an NBA player. But despite that, Payton will always be remembered as a Seattle Sonic.
5. Rashard Lewis
The Sonics got a steal in the 1998 NBA draft when they snagged high school star Rashard Lewis with the third pick in the second round. He had sparse playing time in his rookie year on the contending Sonics, but gradually worked his way into the lineup over the next two years. At his peak, Lewis was the embodiment of what 6-foot-10 small forwards have become in the NBA — an excellent outside shooter and a 20-point-per-game scorer. He moved on after nine seasons and one All-Star appearance in Seattle.
4. Nate McMillan
Nate McMillan, also known as Mr. Sonic, spent his entire playing career in a Seattle uniform from 1987-1998. He spent the majority of his career as the backup point guard to Payton, but early on was able to put up some pretty decent numbers in his own right—averaging 9.3 assists per game as the starter in 1988–89. His addition to the list, and placement, has a lot to do with longevity with the team helping him build his VORP numbers.
3. Jack Sikma
Arriving as the eighth pick in the 1977 NBA Draft, Jack Sikma teamed with Williams as the best players on the 1979 Sonics team that won the NBA title. He averaged 15.6 points and 12.4 rebounds that season, and became known for his strong rebounding and good shooting as a 6-foot-11 center over his nine seasons with the team. He even led the NBA in free-throw shooting percentage at 92.2% at one point later in his career, and transformed his game to include three-point shooting while he was playing with the Bucks.
2. Russell Westbrook
The first of the players from the Oklahoma City Thunder era, Westbrook can reasonably expect to move to second on this list before long. Originally drafted fourth overall in the 2008 NBA draft by the Sonics, just prior to the team moving to Oklahoma City, Westbrook has compiled 36.1 VORP in his eight full seasons.
Westbrook had some issues with his knees, causing him to miss a big chunk of the 2013–14 season. But he helped lead the team to the NBA Finals in 2011–2012 and is looking forward to at least a few more years with the team, having just signed a three-year, $85 million contract extension. Westbrook carries career averages of 21.5 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.6 rebounds.
1. Kevin Durant
The biggest reason that Westbrook will likely move up to No. 1 at some point soon is because that spot is held by Kevin Durant, who now plays in a Golden State Warriors uniform. Durant compiled 41.7 VORP in nine seasons with the franchise, eight of them in OKC and his rookie season in Seattle. He averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 37.8 minutes per game with the team, winning the 2013–14 MVP award and playing alongside Westbrook in the 2012 NBA Finals.
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