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Saturday, April 20, 2024

OKC’s Sam Presti is an overrated draft savant

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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, likelihood and foresight. By doing so, Presti on the time assured short-term success for the soon-to-be relocated Seattle Sonics into the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder. The brand 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 choosing Kevin Durant second in 2007, Russell Westbrook fourth in 2008, and James Harden third in 2009. Whereas 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. Whereas he deserves credit score for kicking off OKC’s begin as a franchise, he has been embarrassingly unhealthy at scouting expertise since Harden.

However first, the great. Durant would win MVP in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 with the Thunder, and Harden in 2018 with the Houston Rockets. It’s one in every of NBA historical past’s nice scouting acumens, choosing three guys who would go on to be not simply MVPs however named High 75 Gamers in NBA historical past and surefire first-ballot Corridor of Famers. The trio shares 33 All-Star picks, 26 All-NBA Staff nominations, 9 scoring titles, and 5 season help chief titles. However whereas Durant received two championships with the Golden State Warriors, in the course of the three years the trio shared in OKC and the 11 years Westbrook spent with the workforce, Presti couldn’t convey a single championship to the franchise. It is without doubt one of the all-time underachievements in sports activities historical past. However look nearer, and one can find one other.

The way it all fell aside

Now that now we have acknowledged the historic back-to-back-to-back future NBA draft picks Presti discovered within the high 4, we will dive deeper into what he did within the draft afterward. Through the Westbrook-Durant run, from 2008 by way of 2016, the workforce was too good to have a decide within the draft lottery, so easy Presti sycophants (of which there are various in OKC fandom) will level to Presti needing to take main swings to construct a supporting forged for competition. However the Thunder have been solely in a position to attain the Finals as soon as, in 2012, an embarrassing defeat with three, after which two superstars. Even when Harden was in a reserve function, one through which he received Sixth Man of the 12 months award, he was a celebrity in ready and able to taking on 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 decide choice in each draft aside from 2016. And as an alternative of choosing surefire complimentary gamers who might plug in round Durant, he took what Thunder interns dub “massive swings.” That 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 attempting to construct round future MVP Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who he snagged within the largest fleece of the twenty first century. Beneath are the first-round picks Presti produced 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

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Apart from Adams, that’s loads of busts. I received’t waste time going by way of each participant Presti might have chosen as an alternative, maybe a safer or higher match round Durant and Westbrook. However simply taking a look at guys like Ferguson tells you every part it is advisable to find out about how unhealthy Presti’s eye check failed in the course of 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 largest lottery whiff was Josh Giddey in 2021 with the sixth decide. This season, Giddey was accused of getting intercourse with an underage woman, and because of her mother and father refusing to cooperate, he has averted additional issues. On the court docket, 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 acquired the steal of the draft with Jalen Williams on the twelfth decide, 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 decide, taking long-term venture Ousman Dieng, who has been out of the Thunder’s rotation. The pinnacle-scratching transfer was pointless in hindsight, particularly contemplating these picks have been initially acquired by the Thunder once 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 reasonably stable fee over the past 15 years. However past that, in relation to much less surefire picks, 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. Have a look:

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

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

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

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

2022 (TBD): Dallas swapped the tenth decide (Cason Wallace) for the twelfth decide (Derek Full of life). Whereas Wallace is an elite defender and three-point shooter, Full of life is strictly the sort of rebounding massive they wanted to again up Holmgren. The Thunder are presently backside of the league in rebounding.

The Thunder waived Poku earlier this month. Each Quickley and McDaniels are beginning for his or her respective groups. Even worse was when Presti drafted present Most Improved Participant candidate Şengün in 2021, simply to commerce him on draft evening 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 isn’t to say Presti has not been top-of-the-line 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. However his expertise for constructing by way of the draft largely rides the coattails of his back-to-back-to-back future MVP picks 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. However like Presti’s simps like to say, “Scared cash don’t become profitable.” Nicely, apparently, it doesn’t make championships, both. 

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