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
Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves continue to develop but remain underachievers, OKC Thunder rebuild lessons (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Woeful Wolves – bad draft picks:

The one NW team OKC don’t want to emulate is the Wolves. The post Kevin Garnett period is earmarked by 13 consecutive lottery appearances and just one trip to the playoffs in the past 15 seasons.

The key takeaway from the Wolves is knowing when to pull the plug and conversely when to allow constancy to pay dividends. Additionally, of all the Northwest teams poor draft choices mired the club in mediocrity.

Case in point, in the 2011 draft the Wolves had the second pick and selected Derrick Williams. Players who were drafted in the first round after Williams include:

I’d argue all 13 players above should’ve been selected ahead of Williams who is no longer in the league. Sure, the draft isn’t an exact science, and not everyone will agree on a players ceiling and upside. But when you have the second pick and with all the available tools in this era to utilize you simply can’t miss by this margin in such a deep class.

Nor was this the only time the Wolves punted their picks. In the 2009 draft, Minnesota had back to back picks (5th and 6th) and elected to take two point guards: Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn.

Notably, Steph Curry (7th) and DeMar DeRozan (9th) were in this class.

Granted there are always sleepers that even the best GMs can miss. In 2012 the OKC Thunder selected Perry Jones with the 28th pick. That same season Draymond Green (35th) Khris Middleton (39th) and Will Barton (40th) were still on the board.

In the 2014 draft, Presti selected Westbrook’s old dance partner Cameron Payne ahead of Kelly Oubre (15th). Two point guards got selected shortly afterward, Terry Rozier (16th) and Delon Wright (20th).

And sometimes every GM misses a talent such as Fred VanVleet who wasn’t even drafted but the Raptors saw something in him in Summer League and offered him a contract. Flash forward to the 2019 Finals with FVV getting Hubie Brown’s vote (over Kawhi Leonard) for MVP.

Now more than ever scouting and analyzing prospects is essential and finding those hidden gems can be the difference in how rapidly teams can contend or take that next step.

Next, let’s dive into specific elements of what is required to excel in developing a winning franchise and sustaining that excellence.