A cautionary tale for the OKC Thunder and developing teams

OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) : Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) drives to the basket against Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) : Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) brings the ball up court as Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) defends him: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

More reasons for OKC Thunder fans to applaud Sam Presti

Again, I get why Connelly wanted to make the big deal as his first order of business at the helm. But beyond diving into the statistics and spending time maybe talking to Quin Snyder to get a better idea of where Gobert was in terms of his ceiling and health he made a fundamental mistake.

Connelly took precisely ZERO time getting to know his new roster and their personalities. If he had, then he would’ve discovered there were already some cracks in the foundational core.

He would’ve learned several of the players he packaged in the deal to Utah were the ones closest to his cornerstone. And, I don’t mean KAT — I mean the player who the Jazz should be building their future core around — Anthony Edwards.

Ironically, if Connelly had taken the time to look at the personalities he might’ve still made a big deal but perhaps in reverse order. Given their growth and where the team was under Chris Finch at season end, imagine if he had considered his prime asset might never draw a larger return and subsequently shopped KAT instead.

Could he have brought back a package similar to what the Jazz did for Mitchell (or what he gave up for Rudy) to surround Edwards with complementary pieces?

Even if they hadn’t maintained the status quo this season, with a slew of draft picks and a happy superstar wouldn’t he be in a much better position not just today but for the next several years?

On its face, it makes sense. Ownership wanted to build upon the team’s success, the fanbase was eager to sustain the winning, and Connelly wanted to impress with a big splashy deal to start his tenure.

Instead of vaulting the team ahead, this deal is looking like the biggest flop of the last decade. This entire situation sort of feels like one of those stories your Grandparents read to you as a child to teach a valuable lesson.

Ainge again proved why GMs are afraid to answer the phone when he calls and WHY assets accumulation can be just as valuable as draft picks particularly if you select the right assets with a view to overall roster construction.

Like Ainge, OKC Thunder executive Sam Presti pulled off a similar move with the Paul George trade. Sure everyone focuses on the slew of draft picks but this season that trade is being revisited based on the assets that were exchanged.

If the Clippers end up winning a title it’ll all be a moot point and they’ll call it a win-win. For the Thunder, however, regardless of what the Clippers do, the fact Presti astutely resisted the deal unless Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was included was the master stroke of the trade.

Presti has time to decide if the team keeps gunning for the play-in or downshifts to improve the team’s draft position. Unlike the Wolves, he has that option because Presti has all his draft picks (along with those of several other teams). PLUS, there is that guy sitting cheering on his team who might be the best player drafted this past season (Chet Holmgren).

Tonight if the Thunder end up winning in Charlotte, moving into a tie with the Wolves, those facts and the bright future of this team will be what resonates most.

Next. Jalen Williams channels Scottie Barnes rookie year. dark