OKC’s Sam Presti is an overrated draft savant


Sam Presti is the one NBA govt ever to draft three future MVPs and he did it in three consecutive drafts. It’s a maniacal stroke of luck and an train of threat/reward, probability and foresight. By doing so, Presti on the time assured short-term success for the soon-to-be relocated Seattle Sonics into the Oklahoma City Thunder. The new franchise would function within the league’s smallest market and want super-sized star energy to maintain them financially and competitively. Presti delivered by deciding on Kevin Durant second in 2007, Russell Westbrook fourth in 2008, and James Harden third in 2009. While epic, since 2009, Presti has not drafted one other participant who has earned All-Star or All-NBA honors, or any of the league’s end-of-the-year awards. While he deserves credit score for kicking off OKC’s begin as a franchise, he has been embarrassingly unhealthy at scouting expertise since Harden.

But first, the nice. Durant would win MVP in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 with the Thunder, and Harden in 2018 with the Houston Rockets. It is certainly one of NBA historical past’s nice scouting acumens, deciding on three guys who would go on to be not simply MVPs however named Top 75 Players in NBA historical past and surefire first-ballot Hall of Famers. The trio shares 33 All-Star choices, 26 All-NBA Team nominations, 9 scoring titles, and 5 season help chief titles. But whereas Durant received two championships with the Golden State Warriors, through the three years the trio shared in OKC and the 11 years Westbrook spent with the staff, Presti couldn’t convey a single championship to the franchise. It is likely one of the all-time underachievements in sports activities historical past. But look nearer, and you will discover one other.

How all of it fell aside

Now that we’ve got acknowledged the historic back-to-back-to-back future NBA draft choices Presti discovered within the prime 4, we are able to dive deeper into what he did within the draft afterward. During the Westbrook-Durant run, from 2008 by 2016, the staff was too good to have a choose within the draft lottery, so easy Presti sycophants (of which there are lots of in OKC fandom) will level to Presti needing to take main swings to construct a supporting solid for competition. But the Thunder have been solely capable of attain the Finals as soon as, in 2012, an embarrassing defeat with three, after which two superstars. Even if Harden was in a reserve function, one during which he received Sixth Man of the Year award, he was a famous person in ready and able to taking up video games on his personal. Failing to resign Harden and buying and selling him to future legacy in Houston stays a Presti foil for an additional time.

From 2011 to 2017, Presti had a first-round choose choice in each draft aside from 2016. And as a substitute of choosing surefire complimentary gamers who may plug in round Durant, he took what Thunder interns dub “big swings.” This is essential as a result of he has continued this failed strategy with Thunder 2.0, taking misses within the first and second rounds whereas making an attempt to construct round future MVP Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who he snagged within the greatest fleece of the twenty first century. Below are the first-round choices Presti constructed from 2011 – 2017.

2011: Reggie Jackson, twenty fourth

2012: Perry Jackson, twenty eighth

2013: Steven Adams, twelfth

2014: Mitch McGary, twenty first

2015: Cameron Payne, 14th

2017: Terrance Ferguson, twenty first

Except for Adams, that’s a variety of busts. I received’t waste time going by each participant Presti may have chosen as a substitute, maybe a safer or higher match round Durant and Westbrook. But simply taking a look at guys like Ferguson tells you all the pieces you should learn about how unhealthy Presti’s eye check failed through the 2010s. And it’s continued into this present rebuild.

Lu Dort was an undrafted gem Presti picked up in 2020 earlier than overpaying him with a five-year, $82.5 million extension, together with $65 million assured. His greatest lottery whiff was Josh Giddey in 2021 with the sixth choose. This season, Giddey was accused of getting intercourse with an underage lady, and due to her mother and father refusing to cooperate, he has averted additional issues. On the courtroom, he’s averaging profession lows in factors (11.4), assists (4.4) and rebounds (6.1). Presti bounced again in 2021 with the star-in-making collection of Chet Holmgren, who will actualize his potential if he stays wholesome. In that draft, Presti additionally obtained the steal of the draft with Jalen Williams on the twelfth choose, which made his draft day commerce with the New York Knicks so rattling odd. The Thunder traded three future protected first-round picks on draft day to the Knicks for the eleventh choose, taking long-term venture Ousman Dieng, who has been out of the Thunder’s rotation. The head-scratching transfer was pointless in hindsight, particularly contemplating these picks have been initially acquired by the Thunder after they chosen, then traded Alperen Şengünin 2021. That fumble is Presti’s worst draft-day transfer and one he’ll remorse.

Out of the instances Presti has chosen within the lottery (2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2021, 2022 (twice) and 2023), he hit on seven (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Adams, Holmgren, Williams, and Wallace) and missed on three (Cameron Payne, Giddey, Dieng). That’s a fairly strong price over the past 15 years. But past that, in the case of much less surefire choices, Presti has been atrocious. Of the 18 instances he has chosen (and retained) between the fifteenth and sixtieth picks, he has solely hit twice in his whole profession: Serge Ibaka at No. 24 in 2008 and Reggie Jackson at No. 24 in 2011. Washouts like Mitch McGary, Ferguson and Theo Maledon have been all out of the NBA in 4 seasons or much less.

And what draft-day trades has Presti made since taking the job? He’s misplaced each single one. Take a glance:

2010 (Lost): The Clippers acquired the 18th choose (Eric Bledsoe) in alternate for a future-protected first-round draft choose. The Thunder subsequently included that choose in a commerce with Boston, which netted them middle Kendrick Perkins.

2018 (Lost): The Memphis Grizzlies acquired the twenty first choose (Brandon Clarke) for the 2019 draft rights to the twenty third choose (Darius Bazley) and a future second-round draft choose from the Thunder. Bazley is not within the NBA.

2020 (Lost): Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Ricky Rubio, the twenty fifth (Immanuel Quickley) and twenty eighth picks (Jaden McDaniels) for the No. seventeenth choose (Aleksej Pokuševski). Poku was waived earlier this month.

2021 (Lost): Houston Rockets acquired sixteenth choose (Alperen Şengün) for 2 future highly-protected first-round picks from the Wizards and Pistons. Those picks can be packaged to pick out Dieng in 2023. Dieng is out of the Thunder rotation.

2022 (TBD): Dallas swapped the tenth choose (Cason Wallace) for the twelfth choose (Derek Lively). While Wallace is an elite defender and three-point shooter, Lively is strictly the type of rebounding large they wanted to again up Holmgren. The Thunder are at the moment backside of the league in rebounding.

The Thunder waived Poku earlier this month. Both Quickley and McDaniels are beginning for his or her respective groups. Even worse was when Presti drafted present Most Improved Player candidate Şengün in 2021, simply to commerce him on draft night time for future protected picks he would use within the commerce with the Knicks to amass Dieng. This season Şengün is averaging 21.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 5 APG. The squandering of Şengün is not only Presti’s worst draft determination ever, however one of many worst draft trades of the twenty first Century.

This is to not say Presti has not been the most effective executives of a small market ever. And his acumen in constructing groups from the bottom up has few friends. The commerce for Gilgeous-Alexander stays the largest fleece of the trendy period. But his expertise for constructing by the draft largely rides the coattails of his back-to-back-to-back future MVP choices of the late 2000s. Since, he has been one of many worst within the NBA at taking swings within the lottery and particularly at discovering gamers who’ve even respectable careers late within the first and second rounds. But like Presti’s simps like to say, “Scared money don’t make money.” Well, apparently, it doesn’t make championships, both. 


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