By now you've heard the gospel preached about the ability of Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti. Presti, the former understudy and assistant general manager of current San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, was tabbed as the next "it" guy in the NBA's league of extraordinary talent personnel gentlemen. Presti, who has gone from intern to vice president/assistant general manager at the age of 30, followed up with taking the "assistant" off of his title the following year and taking the personnel reigns of the franchise he's been employed by for the last five years.
You could say that the man has had the golden touch ever since.
Unless you're an extremely causal basketball fan or you're reading this out of sheer love for yours truly (Hi Mom) then you should know Presti's draft history since he took command of the ship.
Kevin Durant, the golden child, landed into Presti's lap with the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft. Literally, nothing else has to be said.
Russell Westbrook, selected No. 4 in the 2008 draft, was by far a pick that came with tons of scrutiny by many NBA pundits. Sure, Westbrook was a talented guard prospect from UCLA. However, he was also a raw, position-less player whom many didn't know how he'd fit in the NBA, much less on the newly named Thunder roster. Four years later, the player some questioned whether he should "run track" versus play basketball, was minted as a superstar by being one America's 12 best players.
in the same 2008 draft, Presti took Serge Ibaka at the No. 24 pick. Another project, even more raw (raw-er?) than Westbrook. Ibaka, a 6'10" big man who was to be stashed away in Spain for a few more years unti he was ready to play in the NBA, ended up being a miner's ultimate prize. Pure gold in a shot-blocking savant with sheer athleticism and tenacity that would prove to be a force in the league for years to come.
Then there was the selection of James Harden at No. 3 in the 2009 NBA Draft, by far one of the most loaded draft classes in a long time. Back on my personal blog, I professed my thoughts about this selection, and it wasn't one of sheer excitement. Here are my words, draft diary style, as I watched the draft live on my living room couch:
Now the fun begins, my Oklahoma City Thunder are on the clock...I've flip-flopped on this pick three times. I've went from Harden, to Curry, to Rubio, and finally settled on a two-way split on Curry and Rubio. How good does either one of those two players make Kevin Durant? An elite shotmaker in Curry who has 30-foot range, along with Durant's 30-foot range would be incredible. Rubio would live to make Durant better. Decisions...
OKC takes...James Harden.
Wow. I'm going to get kicked out of my building because I just let out a 100-decibel four-letter curse word when I heard that. Wow.
Sigh...okay, here's his best-case scenario. This isn't the worst pick in the world, not even a bad pick, but Curry and Rubio were the only other players I thought that were on the board that I thought could be great. However, after watching Harden enough, his college game reminds me of Brandon Roy. They both played within themselves and have an old-school game. Neither are overly athletic and don't have great measurables, but they know how to play the game. I'm going to pray that James Harden turns into something like Brandon Roy.
My thought of Harden's best-case scenario proved to be quite accurate, if not leaning more towards another lefty wing for the Spurs. Even if I wasn't ready to see it at the time. Thank God I'm not the general manager of the Thunder. (You know, because Curry's ankle is made of chicken wire and paper mache...and Ricky Rubio had his ACL torn by Kobe Bryant...but I digress.)
Presti was four-for-four thus far. What more could you ask of him?
Throw in the
hijacking acquisitions of Thabo Sefolosha from the Chicago Bulls, Eric Maynor from the Utah Jazz and Kendrick Perkins from the Boston Celtics, and you could say that Presti was now batting a thousand.
Yet, as the 2012-13 season looms across the horizon and this could prove to be Presti's most trying season yet. Not from a lacking of talent standpoint, but more about the chance to maintain his talent for the future. We've beaten the "will Harden stay or go" narrative into the ground, but part of Presti's "genius" has been his ability to be part-psychic, part-pilferer and part-lucky bastard. Or to be nice about it, play chess when everyone else is playing checkers.
Will it be Reggie Jackson, drafted at No. 24 in the 2011 NBA Draft? All reports are that he's confident, he spent his time in the summer league dunking on people with no regard for human life, and seems poised to take a larger role in the Thunder rotation. If James Harden leaves, could Jackson be the one to pick up the slack? The last time the Thunder picked at No. 24, that player evolved into the league's best shot blocker. If Jackson can emerge as a solid contributor, then he becomes one more quality asset for OKC.
Will it be Hasheem Thabeet? You know, the guy that was drafted one pick ahead of James Harden in the draft back in 2009? Its the sort of acquisition that served as a head-scratcher back in July, as other teams had left the former Big East and college defensive player of the year for dead. By all accounts in Thunder camp, Thabeet's in much better shape and his mental seems to be in a good place. Again, if Thabeet finds a way to be a solid contributor, Presti's genius will continue to grow.
Of course, let us not forget about Maynor, recovering from a tough knee injury suffered last season. His past clutch exploits say he could still be a major player for years to come. Or Cole Aldrich, who is slated to be the back-up center for a gimpy Kendrick Perkins, as another potential player taking a leap this season. Hell, even Perry Jones III could evolve into something as a rookie, its not out the question.
A great American hero named Benjamin Franklin once said that, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." It seems like year over year, Presti's been living handsomely on his dividends, as the Thunder continue to rise to elite status in the Association. Will Presti be able to cash in on the Thunder's latest investments? Only time will tell, but if they do, then the Thunder will be able to swim in their money bin like Scrooge McDuck did, hopefully all the way to an NBA title.