The Mind Behind OKC

Arya Bhansali

This man drafted KD, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. This man just completed two trades this offseason to acquire Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. This man was so close to having a dynasty in 2012. Yep, this man’s name is Sam Presti. He was hired by the Thunder in 2007 and they have never looked back. So far, his short 10-year tenure has mostly been a great success evidenced by the decisions he made so far.

In his first ever draft in 2007, he had Kevin Durant fall in his lap second overall. Presti was lucky because the Blazers selected the injury-prone center, Greg Oden, first overall.  He had previously traded all-stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis weeks leading up to the draft because he wanted to rebuild their team and start over. In the 2007 season, Sam Presti and the Thunder finished with a 20-62 record, which was the worst record in franchise history.

In the 2008 draft, Presti had drafted the overlooked prospect in Russell Westbrook. He didn’t have an illustrious college career and was touted as a role player in the NBA. He was destined to be average, yet Sam Presti took the risk at 4th overall and believed in Westbrook and drafted him. The fact that Sam Presti saw the potential and the intangibles in Westbrook that other GMs never saw shows his skills as a GM and his success as a GM for the Thunder.

In the 2009 NBA draft, he again took a risk on James Harden. He was a good player in college, but no one had touted him as a star level player. He was considered a combination of Manu Ginobili and Brandon Roy at best. When he was playing on the Thunder, he had become one of the best 6th man in the league and had the potential to be the best 3rd option in the league for a dynasty. James Harden was the final piece for the Thunder and they had become one of the youngest contenders in the NBA and were destined to become a dynasty one day. If James Harden wasn’t traded, he wouldn’t be an MVP candidate, but he would be one of the most efficient wings in the NBA and the clear-cut best 3rd option in NBA history. The Thunder could’ve been a dynasty if James Harden was still on the Thunder.

Even though he had failed to build a potential dynasty in 2012 and even after Kevin Durant left to the Golden State Warriors in a cruel manner, Sam Presti wasn’t going to give up and restart a rebuilding process. Russell Westbrook put on an MVP performance and average a triple-double this past season with a below average supporting cast. To make sure that Russell Westbrook will commit long term, he had seen in the market that Paul George was available. Most teams didn’t bother chasing after him because they thought he was 100% going to the Lakers after this season. The Thunder took a chance and went after Paul George. Sam Presti had tricks up his sleeve and convinced the Indiana Pacers that the most they could get for PG13 was Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. This was a huge steal as they got a top 20 player in the NBA for “pennies on the dollar”. Even though PG13 is an FA next year, this trade shows the skills that Sam Presti has to pull off a trade for a superstar when the team had basically no good draft picks or any good young players to build around. The trade for Paul George also saved money for the Thunder and it cleared up $7.5M in cap.

Later on in the offseason, Sam Presti took a look at the Knicks and saw that they were willing to dump Carmelo Anthony for anything back in return and rebuild. The Knicks wanted Kristaps Porzingis to become the number 1 option and for him to develop. Since Carmelo had a no-trade clause, he had leverage on the Knicks and got to decide which teams he wanted to go to. Because of the fact that Sam Presti had managed to trade for Paul George, he saw a contender in the Thunder and was willing to become the 3rd option in order to commit to winning and fix his reputation as a ball hog and a washed up player. Sam Presti only had to give up Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second-round pick to get Carmelo Anthony.

Sam Presti in 1 offseason turned the Thunder from a one-man show in Russell Westbrook to a legitimate big 3 in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.  This big 3 might only last 1 NBA season due to the impending free agency for all 3 of the stars, but Sam Presti only had to give up Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second-round pick into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder as a whole transformed from a team that had too many big men and no shooters that could space the floor for Russell Westbrook to a team that can fit into the modern day style of play and a team that can contend for this season. If Sam Presti could convince all the 3-star players to stay for longer than 1 season, we are talking about a potential contender for the next 2 seasons after this one and a team that could potentially give the Warriors problems.

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