Sam Presti press release on Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul: 3 Key takeaways

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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Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (Photo by Jeffrey Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images) /

It’s all in how you position things:

A General Manager’s job is never done and although Sam Presti recent trio of trades likely meant burning the candles at both ends, his work isn’t finished.

It’s also a good bet the GM would prefer to move Chris Paul off the books with a view to getting assets and draft picks back but that won’t be an easy proposition. Paul has arguably the worst contract in the league given his age (34), his recent health concerns (played just 58 games each of the last two seasons) and rumored issues with teammates.

In back to back situations with the Clippers and Rockets, CP3 has experienced power struggles with other core players. To believe the deal to send Westbrook to the Rockets for Paul was simply a contract swap would be naive. The fact the Rockets felt obliged to include two draft picks and two trade swaps to sweeten the deal gives legs to the rumored conflict between Harden and Paul.

That said, Presti has more leeway in this situation as he shouldn’t feel as obligated to deliver Paul to a contender. Albeit his history suggests he’ll do his best to meet those expectations. The difference in this scenario is Presti can afford to exercise patience.

At the moment there are debatably three teams who are the most logical teams CP3 trade destinations. Miami remains a team who wants to upgrade their starting point guard and perhaps the team that will top Paul’s shortlist. For as much as CP3 has injury issues and questions surrounding his regression pairing him with Jimmy Butler and a squad renown for their defensive prowess would be a good fit.

Likewise, the Wolves and Pistons are said to be seeking a point guard who could improve their club’s starting rotation and pair with existing stars. Specifically, Karl-Anthony Towns and Blake Griffin haven’t excelled with the dynamics of their current squads and Paul would be an upgrade for either squad.

For those thinking it’s best to buy-out Paul as mentioned in a previous article it’s highly unlikely Presti would deviate from his past reticence to take that action. Nor is it likely Paul would be open to taking a massive pay cut for a buyout. And that’s precisely what would have to occur since the most a team can offer is 15 percent of the team’s salary. Paul is owed over $124 million over the next three years.

Playing devil’s advocate, even if we assume Presti would alter his thinking on buyouts Paul would need to take agree to take quite literally half of his salary. The Thunder currently are committed to $136,322,790 and are already paying Kyle Singler just under a million a year for his buyout.

That means Presti just in this season could only offer a buyout of $19,448,418.50 (with Singler’s $1M removed). Paul is slated to earn $38,506,482 this season. Looking at all three years it’s also reasonable to assume Presti will be looking to cut even more salary which means the shift will be headed south not north. Therefore, at a minimum Paul would need to accept a 50 percent cut or under $62 million.

More from Thunderous Intentions

With all these things in mind, the takeaway from Presti’s statement is the OKC GM is already posturing to his counterparts. Pay particular attention to how Presti notes the positives of having CP3 on the staff as a playmaker and leader.

This indicates the Thunder are willing to keep CP3 in the interim at least. Simultaneously, the GM plants the seeds of long term growth. This tells prospective trade partners he’s still open to trading Paul.

We can debate the success of Presti as a GM having never won a title in spite of three different MVP’s having graced the team and another (Paul George) who might’ve won had he not been injured this season.

Alternatively, I can point you to Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone (and John Stockton), Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Grant Hill, Steve Nash and a myriad of others who were either former MVPs or considered top talents that never won a title either.

Whenever Presti hangs up his GM (or Magician’s hat) I still think what he does in this go around to rebuild the OKC Thunder and what he does with those draft picks will define his legacy.

Next. Thank you, Russell Westbrook; a trip down memory lane. dark

To view the full press release from Sam Presti on the OKC Thunder website click this link.