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What the Oklahoma City Thunder Can Learn From the San Antonio Spurs

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Greg Popovich

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of some of the youngest teams in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder might come to mind.

The Thunder rank fifth among youngest teams in the league with an average age of 24.8. Some other teams that might come to mind are the Houston Rockets (23.7), the New Orleans Hornets (24) or the Cleveland Cavaliers (24.5).

But when the San Antonio Spurs are brought up in conversation, you might think old, veteran and wise. This may be true to an extent. The current core of the Spurs is in their big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. All three of these players are over the age of 30 — which does not seem old to me, but is considered to be so in professional sports.

Even though a majority of the Spurs players are old, there is still a lot the Thunder can learn from them when it comes to developing young players.

The Thunder organization has changed the game of basketball by getting young players and developing them into superstars, all while staying within the boundaries of a small market team.

Just think about it. There have been a few star players that has come out of the Thunder organization in the past several years: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and even Jeff Green if you want to count him as a star.

With that said, the Spurs might be doing an even better job at developing young players.

Royce Young on spoke on how the Spurs are out-doing the Thunder when it comes to developing young players.

One stereotype that’s somewhat incorrect: they (the Spurs) are old. Tim Duncan’s old. Manu Ginobili’s old. Tony Parker’s old-ish. But the dirty little secret about the Spurs is that they have some serious youth in their ranks too. Kawhi Leonard is 21. Danny Green is 25. Gary Neal is 28. Tiago Splitter is 28. Cory Joseph is 21. Nando De Colo is 25.

And here’s the funny thing about all those guys: Gregg Popovich has absolutely no problem playing any of them. And thereby, the Spurs develop those young players on the fly, which in turn is why I think a lot of people think of the team as old. Because you’re used to seeing Green and Leonard and Splitter and Neal. They seem just as veteran as anyone else on the roster.

But it really struck me that there’s a disconnect between the Thunder and Spurs when it comes to young players. At least there was this season. It’s not that the Thunder aren’t trying to develop their youth, it’s just that they’re going about it somewhat of a different way.

The “different way” Royce is speaking of is the fact that Thunder coach Scott Brooks did not always put youth on the floor.

For example, when Derek Fisher was signed by the Thunder after the All-Star break, the minutes of young players like Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Liggins immediately went down. For a team that preaches the development of young players and sustainable success, it surely was an odd move to give Fisher way more minutes that the younger players.

And that is exactly the difference between the Spurs and the Thunder, at least for the moment. If anything, the Thunder can learn from the Spurs and attempt to emulate the success they have had throughout their existence.

Jared Porter is an Oklahoma City Thunder writer for Follow him on Twitter @JaredRyanPorter, or add him on Facebook.

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