Lessons Sam Presti can learn from counterparts in Thunder rebuild

OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka- OKC rebuild lessons (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /


Four clubs who’ve recently gone through prolonged losing seasons are the Suns (9), Kings (13) Lakers (6) and Knicks (6 with just 3 postseason trips in their past 15 seasons).

In each case, the top of the food chain (management and ownership) is at issue as the brain trusts failed in one way or another to create a team culture or develop their team’s identity. For three teams in the Pacific Division this, either stunted team growth (Suns), led to unnecessary drama (Lakers) or upper management personnel didn’t recognize roster gaps or the types of players needed to develop their team’s culture and identity (Kings).

In the Knicks case ownership (James Dolan) often had too much sway in decisions which effectively removed the ability of their front office to do the job required.  This offseason many are jumping on the Knicks for not meeting with Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard as poor decisions. But, aside from gaining the experience and practice of recruiting, I’m not sure this can be deemed as poor decision making.

Let’s face it had the lottery balls fallen differently with the Knicks landing Zion Williamson I’m not sure their goal of signing two high end free agents would’ve netted different results with Durant bringing Kyrie to New York and convincing management to retain DeAndre Jordan  The free agents they did sign weren’t inked to long term contracts and unlike previous iterations of the Knicks the brain trust didn’t jump at overpaying to land a player outside the superstar tier.

The OKC Thunder are arguably a step ahead on this side of the balance sheet. Throughout franchise history, the players who arrive are all high-quality individuals with solid character. The success in this area can be dissected into a few key areas.

Upper management established the culture and identity of the team and don’t allow information to be leaked out. Albeit, occasionally that can be equally frustrating when covering the team. I mean really Sam, would it kill you to let us know the “list” of prospects you’re working out?

Equally important is the team leader who is tasked with the ownership of showing new recruits and rookies what being a member of the Thunder means and what is expected. From franchise inception, OKC was on the mark with this individual as Nick Collison led the squad. His leadership helped Westbrook grow as well as Andre Roberson and Steven Adams. The latter two (if not traded) will carry on that tradition.

Similarly, OKC is also cognizant of character and other than Mitch McGary who didn’t stick long with the team quality of character could easily be cited as part of what it means to be a member of the Thunder.