Friday, April 19, 2024

OKC’s Sam Presti is an overrated draft savant

Sam Presti is the one NBA government ever to draft three future MVPs and he did it in three consecutive drafts. It’s a maniacal stroke of luck and an train of danger/reward, likelihood and foresight. By doing so, Presti on the time assured short-term success for the soon-to-be relocated Seattle Sonics into the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder. The brand new franchise would function within the league’s smallest market and wish super-sized star energy to maintain them financially and competitively. Presti delivered by deciding on Kevin Durant second in 2007, Russell Westbrook fourth in 2008, and James Harden third in 2009. Whereas epic, since 2009, Presti has not drafted one other participant who has earned All-Star or All-NBA honors, or any of the league’s end-of-the-year awards. Whereas he deserves credit score for kicking off OKC’s begin as a franchise, he has been embarrassingly dangerous at scouting expertise since Harden.

However first, the great. Durant would win MVP in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 with the Thunder, and Harden in 2018 with the Houston Rockets. It’s certainly one of NBA historical past’s nice scouting acumens, deciding on three guys who would go on to be not simply MVPs however named Prime 75 Gamers in NBA historical past and surefire first-ballot Corridor of Famers. The trio shares 33 All-Star alternatives, 26 All-NBA Group nominations, 9 scoring titles, and 5 season help chief titles. However whereas Durant gained two championships with the Golden State Warriors, throughout the three years the trio shared in OKC and the 11 years Westbrook spent with the crew, Presti couldn’t carry a single championship to the franchise. It is likely one of the all-time underachievements in sports activities historical past. However look nearer, and you’ll find one other.

The way it all fell aside

Now that we have now acknowledged the historic back-to-back-to-back future NBA draft alternatives Presti discovered within the prime 4, we will dive deeper into what he did within the draft afterward. Throughout the Westbrook-Durant run, from 2008 via 2016, the crew was too good to have a choose within the draft lottery, so easy Presti sycophants (of which there are lots of in OKC fandom) will level to Presti needing to take main swings to construct a supporting forged for rivalry. However the Thunder had been solely capable of attain the Finals as soon as, in 2012, an embarrassing defeat with three, after which two superstars. Even when Harden was in a reserve position, one by which he gained Sixth Man of the 12 months award, he was a celebrity in ready and able to taking on video games on his personal. Failing to resign Harden and buying and selling him to future legacy in Houston stays a Presti foil for an additional time.

From 2011 to 2017, Presti had a first-round choose choice in each draft aside from 2016. And as a substitute of choosing surefire complimentary gamers who may plug in round Durant, he took what Thunder interns dub “huge swings.” That is essential as a result of he has continued this failed method with Thunder 2.0, taking misses within the first and second rounds whereas attempting to construct round future MVP Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who he snagged within the largest fleece of the twenty first century. Under are the first-round alternatives Presti made out of 2011 – 2017.

2011: Reggie Jackson, twenty fourth

2012: Perry Jackson, twenty eighth

2013: Steven Adams, twelfth

2014: Mitch McGary, twenty first

2015: Cameron Payne, 14th

2017: Terrance Ferguson, twenty first

Aside from Adams, that’s numerous busts. I gained’t waste time going via each participant Presti may have chosen as a substitute, maybe a safer or higher match round Durant and Westbrook. However simply guys like Ferguson tells you every thing you want to find out about how dangerous Presti’s eye take a look at failed throughout the 2010s. And it’s continued into this present rebuild.

Lu Dort was an undrafted gem Presti picked up in 2020 earlier than overpaying him with a five-year, $82.5 million extension, together with $65 million assured. His largest lottery whiff was Josh Giddey in 2021 with the sixth choose. This season, Giddey was accused of getting intercourse with an underage woman, and because of her dad and mom refusing to cooperate, he has averted additional issues. On the court docket, he’s averaging profession lows in factors (11.4), assists (4.4) and rebounds (6.1). Presti bounced again in 2021 with the star-in-making collection of Chet Holmgren, who will actualize his potential if he stays wholesome. In that draft, Presti additionally obtained the steal of the draft with Jalen Williams on the twelfth choose, which made his draft day commerce with the New York Knicks so rattling odd. The Thunder traded three future protected first-round picks on draft day to the Knicks for the eleventh choose, taking long-term undertaking Ousman Dieng, who has been out of the Thunder’s rotation. The top-scratching transfer was pointless in hindsight, particularly contemplating these picks had been initially acquired by the Thunder after they chosen, then traded Alperen Şengünin 2021. That fumble is Presti’s worst draft-day transfer and one he’ll remorse.

Out of the occasions Presti has chosen within the lottery (2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2021, 2022 (twice) and 2023), he hit on seven (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Adams, Holmgren, Williams, and Wallace) and missed on three (Cameron Payne, Giddey, Dieng). That’s a reasonably stable charge over the past 15 years. However past that, on the subject of much less surefire alternatives, Presti has been atrocious. Of the 18 occasions he has chosen (and retained) between the fifteenth and sixtieth picks, he has solely hit twice in his complete profession: Serge Ibaka at No. 24 in 2008 and Reggie Jackson at No. 24 in 2011. Washouts like Mitch McGary, Ferguson and Theo Maledon had been all out of the NBA in 4 seasons or much less.

And what draft-day trades has Presti made since taking the job? He’s misplaced each single one. Have a look:

2010 (Misplaced): The Clippers acquired the 18th choose (Eric Bledsoe) in change for a future-protected first-round draft choose. The Thunder subsequently included that choose in a commerce with Boston, which netted them heart Kendrick Perkins.

2018 (Misplaced): The Memphis Grizzlies acquired the twenty first choose (Brandon Clarke) for the 2019 draft rights to the twenty third choose (Darius Bazley) and a future second-round draft choose from the Thunder. Bazley is now not within the NBA.

2020 (Misplaced): Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Ricky Rubio, the twenty fifth (Immanuel Quickley) and twenty eighth picks (Jaden McDaniels) for the No. seventeenth choose (Aleksej Pokuševski). Poku was waived earlier this month.

2021 (Misplaced): Houston Rockets acquired sixteenth choose (Alperen Şengün) for 2 future highly-protected first-round picks from the Wizards and Pistons. These picks can be packaged to pick out Dieng in 2023. Dieng is out of the Thunder rotation.

2022 (TBD): Dallas swapped the tenth choose (Cason Wallace) for the twelfth choose (Derek Full of life). Whereas Wallace is an elite defender and three-point shooter, Full of life is strictly the sort of rebounding huge they wanted to again up Holmgren. The Thunder are at the moment backside of the league in rebounding.

The Thunder waived Poku earlier this month. Each Quickley and McDaniels are beginning for his or her respective groups. Even worse was when Presti drafted present Most Improved Participant candidate Şengün in 2021, simply to commerce him on draft night time for future protected picks he would use within the commerce with the Knicks to amass Dieng. This season Şengün is averaging 21.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG and 5 APG. The squandering of Şengün is not only Presti’s worst draft resolution ever, however one of many worst draft trades of the twenty first Century.

This isn’t to say Presti has not been among the finest executives of a small market ever. And his acumen in constructing groups from the bottom up has few friends. The commerce for Gilgeous-Alexander stays the largest fleece of the fashionable period. However his expertise for constructing via the draft largely rides the coattails of his back-to-back-to-back future MVP alternatives of the late 2000s. Since, he has been one of many worst within the NBA at taking swings within the lottery and particularly at discovering gamers who’ve even first rate careers late within the first and second rounds. However like Presti’s simps like to say, “Scared cash don’t generate profits.” Properly, apparently, it doesn’t make championships, both. 

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