The Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed one of the best runs in professional sports since splashing on the scene in Bricktown. That has all been pioneered by Thunder General Manager Sam Presti, who is still at the helm today.
After a brief two-year rebuild, the Oklahoma City Thunder enjoy one of the league’s best young cores in the NBA and a mountain of future NBA Draft picks in their arsenal.
The NBA fans and media have long looked for ways to measure General Managers. Each franchise offers unique challenges; they all have different resources, and sometimes ownership even interferes with the direction of a team, straying away from what the front office planned for. This prompted Yahoo! to take a stab at ranking the entire league’s top executives with a system crafted by the baseball world.
Yahoo! Snubs OKC Thunder General Manager Sam Presti from the top-ten list in a laughable error.
Even if you are not an MLB fan, you have likely heard the story of “Money Ball,” which was the Oakland A’s attempt to counterbalance the league. Baseball does not have a salary cap, leading to big market teams having an unfair advantage over small markets. So, with the plethora of players in the Majors and the Minor League levels, the A’s searched for ways to find hidden gems.
Bill James, a now famous statistician, crafted ways to measure each player, taking into account everything they do on the field and stripping away the narratives around their career in a one-size-fits-all stat that takes away the human element to team building.
That catch-all stat is what Yahoo! attempted to create for basketball General Managers, and the results the computer spit out pegged Sam Presti as the 13th best executive in the sport, behind the likes of David Griffin (Pelicans), Zack Kleinman (Grizzlies), Tim Connelly (Timberwolves), Brad Stevens (Celtics), Kobe Altman (Cavs), Troy Weaver (Pistons, former Sam Presti executive), Pat Riley (Heat), Kevin Pritchard (Pacers), James Jones (Suns), Brian Wright (Spurs), Masai Ujiri (Raptors), and Danny Ainge (Jazz).
This is simply laughable. Even without Thunder-tinted glasses on, forgetting about some tumultuous top-five debate, any metric that suggests Sam Presti is not one of the League’s ten best executives is an embarrassment and should never be relied on.
How exactly is David Griffin or Troy Weaver more successful at with team building than Sam Presti? What have either of them accomplished? Some of Weaver’s best feats happened under Presti’s watch, like advocating for Russell Westbrook to be drafted.
If I wanted a Piano player, I would call Griffin ahead of Presti. Still, if the two swapped places, one could argue Presti would have found a way to elongate that second LeBron James era in Cleveland better than Griffin was able to. At least Griffin has actually won a championship, but I would still prefer to have Presti, especially seeing the Piano Man navigate a non-LeBron James-led team.
Kobe Altman landed Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland and drafted a solid core there of Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, but that does not outshine the body of work from Presti or his current-day core, which goes far deeper than Cleveland’s first-round exit squad under the bright lights, with whispers already of Mitchell wanting out. Altman has done a really good job in Cleveland, but ranking him ahead of Presti’s body of work, along with his current-day decisions, is misguided.
Ultimately, this list is meaningless, and I appreciate Yahoo! being adventurous with crafting catch-all stats to value individuals. That is one area MLB thrives in that maybe the NBA (and every other league) needs to catch up. But there has to be trial and error, and if Sam Presti is not a top-ten General Manager, we should go back to the drawing board.