Sam Presti’s Pressures With #14


Oklahoma City missed out on the NBA playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and the team’s consolation prize ended up being the #14 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Consequently, the Thunder organization finds itself it in a unique situation, one that fans are picking up on – general manager Sam Presti’s next route appears to be unclear.

OKC’s current state of fog can be attributed to various factors- ones that aren’t necessarily bad. For one, the Thunder arguably has the most depth on its roster since the team’s relocation from Seattle – and with great depth comes even greater responsibilities. OKC currently has 13 out of 15 of its players on the books for next season and many expect the organization to fight aggressively to retain Enes Kanter while also attempting to resign Kyle Singler.

So, in addition to the fact that Ish Smith will not be needed, Presti has to trim down some fat on the roster.

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Unlike last year, (and if healthy this coming season) the Thunder will be dealing with a different kind of hardship – too many options to choose from. Even if OKC were to trade away a combination of Jeremy Lamb, Steve Novak, and Perry Jones, the Thunder still has talent stockpiled away with the Oklahoma City Blue. The NBA’s first domestic “draft and stash” forward, Josh Huestis, has developed quite nicely on the D-League side of the Thunder system and he’s waiting for his chance to prove himself as the 3-and-D wing that OKC has been dreaming of.

Another promotional option for the Thunder is Semaj Christon. The point guard exploded for the Oklahoma City Blue this past season with impressive averages of 18.6 points and 5.7 assists per game: this ultimately led to Christon being named to the 2014-2015 NBA D-League All-Star Game roster.

Between their NBA lineup and their D-League affiliate’s player pool across the street, the Thunder are stacked with talent. This means that there may be no rhyme or reason to immediately add additional power – especially with the price tag that OKC’s already paying. The team is already cuddling with luxury tax territory for the second straight season and serious talks haven’t even begun with Kanter.

As Presti proved with last year’s trade acquisitions, he’s ready to spend more money…but there still has to be a limit in place for Oklahoma City’s small market and the GM still has to play it smart. We’re talking about an organization that has to carefully assemble its qualifiers; it doesn’t have the bottomless resources to buy them prepackaged like other teams in the league.

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We are so close to the NBA draft right now. Too close. And nobody knows what exactly Presti is going to do with this #14 pick. Will he use it? Will he trade it up? Will he trade it down? He may not even know the answer yet. As with all of his decisions, I’m sure that he’s meticulously analyzing every single detail. Thunder fans are just going to have to wait for the final answer.

The draft means more than ever before. The number fourteen is not just a symbol of the present, it’s a clear representative of Oklahoma City’s future. This pick is arguably the most definitive pick of the franchise’s tenure in OKC, because so much is on the line. Win or lose this coming season, the organization as we know it will change- meaning that the options that are coming along with the #14 pick are more significant than ever before.

Presti’s under pressure to cultivate the best case scenario for the Thunder in the ever-competitive Western Conference. Regardless of the already pressing factors – roster depth, stashed prospects, and salary on the books – #14 is going to carry either positive or negative consequences along with it.