Presti can draw inspiration from Damian Lillard and De’Aaron Fox in OKC Thunder rebuild

OKC Thunder: Blazers Damian Lillard, Kings De'Aaron Fox - the template (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Blazers Damian Lillard, Kings De'Aaron Fox - the template (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder: De’Aaron Fox #5 of Kings, Damian Lillard of Blazers (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Damian Lillard and De’Aaron Fox are the role models small market teams like the OKC Thunder need their young stars to channel.

As the OKC Thunder franchise enters their first rebuild in the 11 years of the franchise they do so knowing how fragile commitments are. After all, Paul George who re-signed with OKC on a four-year deal lasted just one season prior to requesting a trade.

The precarious position Paul George put Sam Presti in ended up turning out positively, but it just as easily could’ve backfired. Had Presti decided to not give in to George’s demands he risked the star revealing his trade desires. Had that occurred the value and leverage Presti was able to capitalize on would’ve vanished.

Think back to when the OKC Thunder got Paul George and note the package sent to Indiana. Although Victor Oladipo went on to produce the Most Improved season and Domantas Sabonis has grown each season that’s a far cry from the package Presti got for George from the Clippers.

Despite the trade haul, it’s important to note the shift this summer of the top tier free agents who predominantly abandoned small markets for large ones. Anthony Davis wasn’t a free agent but forced his way out of New Orleans to move to the LA Lakers. After winning the title in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard joined George in LA on the Clippers. And, while the Raptors aren’t a small market they don’t garner the same national TV coverage or attention given their Canadian locale.

Even teams in markets reaped in history or considered desirable (Boston and Golden State) lost free agents to New York (Brooklyn Nets). The writing seems to be on the wall and now more than ever players are being influenced by what ownership can bring them. Such is the case in Brooklyn where Joseph Tsai is set to take over full ownership. Tsai is the cofounder of Alibaba which was said to be part of Durant’s draw to the Nets. Alibaba as per

"Alibaba is China’s — and by some measures, the world’s — biggest online commerce company. Its three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and — have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. Alibaba handles more business than any other e-commerce company."

Just as keen as Kevin Durant was to join the Golden State Warriors due to Silicon Valley and technical upstarts he is equally compelled by the opportunities Tsai’s Alibaba offers.

So, what does this mean for small market teams like the OKC Thunder? Frankly, it limits their ability to effectively compete. That is unless the player isn’t moved by those types of advantages or desirous of landing in LA or New York.

Two current NBA players are giving small markets reason to believe they can still compete if they add a specific type of individual.