The Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder prior to the 2008-09 NBA season.
The franchise’s stint in OKC began that season with second-year forward Kevin Durant and a rookie point guard in Russell Westbrook. That young combination took its lumps as the team produced a 23-59 record.
One year later, the duo got some reinforcements and made a major leap to 50 wins to snag a postseason berth. And just a couple of years after that, Durant and Westbrook guided the Thunder all the way to an NBA Finals appearance.
Fast forward roughly a decade, and the Sixers find themselves in a very similar situation.
The team has a pair of young stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers underwent a significant jump in victories from 28 a season ago to 52 in 2017-18. That led to the group’s first playoff run, which ended with Wednesday’s 114-112 Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics (see game recap).
Even the sting of elimination didn’t prevent the Sixers from realizing their prime position in the league for years to come.
“Me and Ben, we have a lot of room to grow,” Embiid said. “I was thinking about it, just looking at K.D. and Westbrook, what they did their first season together. I think they only won like 28 games (23) or something like that. Looking at what we did, we have a bright future.
“At the end of the game, he (Simmons) came up to me and showed me his hands and he was like, ‘There’s going to be a lot of rings on these.’ I was like for sure, so we’ve got a bright future.”
Embiid believes that positive future would be aided by having roster consistency heading into next season.
“We have a great group of guys,” he said. “I hope they’re all back next year. We understand each other, we play well with each other.”
More than anything, Embiid and the Sixers understand they have more work to do.