For years, Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti had the NBA world’s attention as the most aggressive and intellectual basketball executive to come out of the storied San Antonio Spurs program.
A protege of R.C. Buford, Presti took what was a football-only city and state, and energized the area with NBA basketball, bringing together (and keeping for a while) talented names like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden to excite crowds that had only known ‘Boomer Sooner’ and the Cowboys to the north in Stillwater.
Today, he’s like the redheaded stepchild of Buford – literally and figuratively.
His grand plan after the departures of Harden (more money for more alcohol, and you can’t have a yacht party in Lake Hefner), Durant (ditching the Thunder to chase – and get – championships elsewhere), and eventually just wearing Westbrook out before sending him to Houston, was to stockpile as many draft picks as possible to make that the allure of making deals with him and the Oklahoma City Thunder when he realized he couldn’t sell the allure of playing basketball in a cowboy town any longer.
(How’s that for a run-on sentence?)
Initially impressive, Presti collected over 17 potential draft picks over the next six drafts, though he lost one when Houston’s wasn’t outside the top four this summer (the Rockets ended up with Jalen Green, 14.5 points, 4 rebounds. 2.5 assists so far this year).
- 2021: OKC first | MIA first | BOS first | HOU pick swap (lost pick)
- 2022: OKC first | LAC first | PHX first
- 2023: OKC first | MIA first | LAC pick swap
- 2024: OKC first | LAC first | HOU first
- 2025: HOU pick swap
- 2026: OKC first | LAC first | HOU first
I’ve learned a thing or two from Sam Presti over the past couple of years.
Having all those draft picks isn’t any more beneficial than me having over 400 pair of NBA players’ shoes (I can only wear them one pair at a time). It isn’t any more beneficial than Jay Leno having his collection of cars and motorcycles – he can only drive one at a time.
In acquiring all of these picks, understand that you’ve run off or traded away names like Harden, Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Reggie Jackson, Jerami Grant, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin, Sebastian Telfair, Thabo Sefolosha, Domantas Sabonis, Dennis Schroder, Victor Oladipo, Al Horford, Kemba Walker, and Chris Paul.
At the very least, he could have held a star or two hostage (like he did Westbrook for a couple of years) via contractual enforcement. It would have made the Paycom Center a semi-attractive place to play.
What do you have now?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (no disrespect) and a gaggle of G League players coached by a (again, no disrespect) G League head coach in Mark Daigneault. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you already have a G Legue team across the street – the Oklahoma City Blue?
Congratulations, Sam. In your quest to tank and gather as many draft picks as you have, you’ve created a team no one wants to play with or for, and turned Oklahoma City back into what it was before the Thunder were stolen from Seattle – a cow town with football and noted steakhouses as it’s core.
The Skinz League is drawing more NBA talent – Trae Young every summer, Deonte Burton, Dakari Johnson, Semaj Christon, Ekpe Udoh, #VFL Josh Richardson, Damyean Dotson, Daquan Jeffries, Darius Bazley, and Buddy Hield, just to name a few.
Dare I say that the Skinz League may be doing more for the Oklahoma City basketball community than Presti at this point?
Presti, and only Presti, can bring the Thunder back from being the Dust Bowl of the NBA. But it’s time to start pulling those draft picks out while they’re still worth something.
Otherwise, you might as well have a pocket full of unscratched lottery tickets.
Or, like me, 400+ pairs of basketball shoes that take up an entire room of your house, each pair waiting its turn to be worn … the other 411 pairs just there to say you have them.
Just a subtle reminder – this is still a football town and state.
Make the Thunder – once again – something more than a winter distraction.
|PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 99||NEW YORK KNICKS 112|
|Tobias Harris – 23 points
Tobias Harris – 9 rebounds
Tobias Harris – 9 assists
|Kemba Walker – 19 points
Julius Randle – 11 rebounds
Julius Randle – 7 assists
It was a streak four and a half years in the making, but the New York Knicks ended their 15 game losing streak against the Philadelphia 76ers last night in front of 15,216 faithful at Madison Square Garden.
For a while last week, I was ready to put out an APB or at least a Missing notice on a milk carter for Kemba Walker, who Knicks fans had been so excited to bring home; last night he showed, leading the Knicks with 19 points and five assists. He had help from Evan Fournier, who showed up for 18 points, and Julius Randle finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. Derrick Rose added 13 off the bench, and R.J. Barrett ended the night with 10 points and seven rebounds.
For Philly, it was the #VFL Tobias Harris Show, as the former Tennessee Vol led the team with 23 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. The only other Sixers that hit double digits were Joel Embiid at 14 and six, and Danny Green off the bench with a dozen. The 76ers shot 43 percent and only 29 percent from downtown.
Pistons at Sixers – Thursday
Knicks at Bulls – Thursday
|GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 106||OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 98|
|Stephen Curry – 23 points
Draymond Green – 9 rebounds
Draymond Green – 8 assists
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 30 points
Josh Giddey – 9 rebounds
Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 4 assists
The Oklahoma City Thunder had their fans’ hopes high after opening 59-48 in the first half against the undefeated Golden State Warriors at the Paycom Center. But halfway through the third quarter and through the end of the game, the Warriors showed why they are one of three undefeated teams in the league.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors to the win with 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Andrew Wiggins dropped 21 points and Damion Lee added 20 in the effort that also featured Jordan Poole chipping in 10, and Draymond Green with eight points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 30 points on .579 shooting, including 80 percent from downtown. He got little help, though, with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Luguentz Dort the only other Thunder nabbing double digits with 12 and 11, respectively.
The difference in the game that turned the tide for Golden State was shooting 61 percent in that period while Oklahoma City shot just 26 percent.
Lakers at Thunder – Tonight
Grizzlies at Warriors – Thursday
|LOS ANGELES LAKERS 125||SAN ANTONIO SPURS 121|
|Anthony Davis – 35 points
Anthony Davis – 17 rebounds
Russell Westbrook – 8 assists
|Jakob Poeltl – 27 points
Jakob Poeltl – 14 rebounds
Dejounte Murray – 15 assists
No LeBron James, no problem. I’ve long contended that Anthony Davis is the Los Angeles Lakers’ MVP and Russell Westbrook is finally settling in and playing like the Russell Westbrook we all know and love.
L.A. got their second win of the season on the road in San Antonio last night, behind Davis’ 35 points and 17 rebounds, and another near triple double from Westbrook, who scored 33 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in the win. Malik Monk added 17 points, and Austin Reaves pumped in 10 off the bench.
The triple double performance came from Dejounte Murray, who had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 15 assists in the loss, San Antonio’s third in four games. Jakob Poeltl did an admirable job going toe-to-toe with Davis, scoring a team high 27 points and 14 rebounds. Lonnie Walker IV matched Murray’s 21 points, while Devin Vassell finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Keldon Johnson ended the night with 11 and six.
The Spurs were booed by their sold-out home crowd while shooting free throws in the last minute of the game. Does that still make them a sold out crowd – or a sell out crowd?
Lakers at Thunder – Tonight
Cavaliers at Clippers – Tonight
|HOUSTON ROCKETS 106||DALLAS MAVERICKS 116|
|Eric Gordon – 22 points
Christian Wood – 17 rebounds
Kevin Porter, Jr. – 8 assists
|Luka Doncic – 26 points
Luka Doncic – 14 rebounds
Jalen Brunson – 11 assists
Jason Kidd finally got to coach a team that he once played for in front of a home crowd and city he once delighted with his own talents (1994-97) last night, and the squad he coaches gifted him with a win in that situation.
Luka Doncic led all scorers with 26 points and 14 rebounds in front of 19,337 as Kidd won his second game as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, but the first at home in Big D. Both Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway, Jr. added 16 points apiece, while Jalen Brunson and Boban Marjanovic chipped in 11 points each. Brunson also had 11 assists, leading the team in dimes dropped.
Houston had their fans’ hopes up after a 60 point first half, but began losing steam in the second half, scoring only 28 in the third quarter and falling off to 18 in the fourth to lose their bid in upsetting the Mavericks at home. Eric Gordon came off the bench for a team high 22 points, Christian Wood had 16 points and 17 rebounds, Daniel Thies also double doubled with 15 and 10, while Kevin Porter, Jr. finished the night with 13 points, five rebounds, and eight assists in 31 minutes. Rookie Jalen Green had but 10 and five.
Jazz at Rockets – Thursday
Spurs at Mavericks – Thursday
|DENVER NUGGETS 110||UTAH JAZZ 122|
|Nikola Jokic – 24 points
Michael Porter, Hr. – 9 rebounds
Nikola Jokic – 6 assists
|Rudy Gobert – 23 points
Rudy Gobert – 16 rebounds
Donovan Mitchell – 6 assists
With high expectations, and the reigning MVP, the Denver Nuggets have fallen quickly to 2-2 (.500) after losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and, last night, the undefeated Utah Jazz. Nikola Jokic had a game high 24 points, to go along with six rebounds and six assists, but it wasn’t enough. The Nuggets had all of their starters in double digits, but only got 13 collective points from their shortened (five player) bench, with JaMychal Green and Austin Rivers throwing up goose eggs.
Will Barton finished with 21 points, Aaron Gordon got in the mix with 20 points and seven rebounds, Monte Morris added 19 points, and Michael Porter, Jr. finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Utah had seven players in double figures, including three from their bench, which scored 57 points to Denver’s 13, though they also had two with goose eggs – Eric Paschall and Jared Butler. Rudy Gobert led the way with 23 points and 16 rebounds, Donovan Mitchell had 22 points and six assists, Jordan Clarkson came off the bench for 19 points, while it was 15 points apiece for both Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley. Joe Ingles finished with 13, five, and four, and Hassan Whiteside emerged for 10 points and four rebounds in relief of Gobert.
The Jazz remain undefeated, along with the Warriors and Chicago Bulls.
Jazz at Rockets – Thursday
Mavericks at Nuggets – Friday
Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show, NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta.
A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia
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