Within basketball circles and no doubt in the minds of Thunder fans, Sam Presti – General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder is one smart cookie. His ability to make the right moves, draft the right guys and find some gems late in the first round has only added to his aura, but the common consensus is that Presti “knows what he is doing”. He plays chess while others play checkers.
This off-season might be the biggest test for Sam Presti – and the entire basketball world is watching.
Armed with two first round draft picks, a bench full of young (and under-developed and utilized) talent and a superstar trio (one on whom will be a free agent soon enough) Presti has his task set out for him – get this team into a position to win a championship. While he has done so successfully during his tenure at OKC, they have still failed to achieve their lofty goal of an NBA title and with every misstep, the fans grow nervous and the critics start to circle.
Will Presti be able to once again make the right moves this off-season to keep everyone happy and get the Thunder and Kevin Durant closer to an NBA title? Navigating the next few months is going to take great skill and caution as well as trademark bravery and education decision making.
It all starts with the NBA Draft in a few days time. The Oklahoma City Thunder have two first round picks in what has been lauded as a pretty stacked draft class. Picks 21 and 29 are at the Thunder’s disposal and how they use them will be an intriguing prospect. Will they draft two rookies? Package the picks and move up in the draft? Grab a young piece and stash them overseas while drafting for need later in the round? Trade one or both for veteran assistance?
The possibilities are endless and you can be assured that Presti will leave no stone unturned when thinking of how best to utilize these assets. The picks are only one piece in the puzzle though.
When the Thunder traded Kevin Martin to the Minnesota Timberwolves, they ensured themselves a trade exception for making the deal happen. This $6.6mil exception will expire mid July and therefore Presti and the Thunder will have to find the best way to use it, rather than letting it expire which has been the case with smaller exceptions in the past.
On top of all this, Presti and the Thunder need to determine what to do with Reggie Jackson who has made a bold claim that he wants to be the starting point guard and who will become a free agent after the following season.
Being Sam Presti once seemed like the coolest job in sports – but it comes with a great deal of responsibility and stress. Not to mention you have every move critiqued by anyone and everyone.
Among Thunder fans, there is a common mantra. “In Presti We Trust”. The Harden trade tested this, but the pieces of Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and now the #21 pick (as well as the rental of Kevin Martin) seem to have held up among the OKC faithful (not to mention witnessing the importance of Serge Ibaka during the Spurs series). We have seen the drafting of Adams as well as Perry Jones III and don’t forget the late first round steal that became Reggie Jackson – and Presti looks like he is the smartest GM in sports. We have forgotten the Byron Mullens fiasco and a couple of other little blemishes – because not even Presti is perfect.
So now we wait. We wait to see just what Sam Presti can do to improve the Thunder yet again. As with all things Thunder, we won’t know until it happens. The Oklahoma City Thunder franchise holds their cards very close to their chest, but you can expect something brilliant to happen.
It’s what Sam Presti does.