Sam Presti has quietly proved to the world that he’s one of the smartest executives in the NBA -- and all major sports league for what it’s worth -- taking a franchise that was pretty much on the verge of disaster and creating the Oklahoma City Thunder team we all know now.
Presti drafted Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all in the span of 3 years, and even though they fell in the NBA Finals to LeBron James and his Miami Heat, they quickly became some of the best players this game has seen over the past couple of decades.
Of course, many people question the fact that he decided to trust Serge Ibaka and deal James Harden to the Houston Rockets, but even without the Beard, the Thunder were a major contender in the Western Conference and were just a couple of quarters from reaching at least one more NBA Finals series.
And even when it looked like the Thunder was yet again on the verge of disaster after Kevin Durant’s departure to Golden State, he managed to put several capable role players alongside the reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, who played like his life depended on it every night, carrying the Thunder to the postseason.
Still, Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter weren’t exactly All-Star caliber players, but the fact that Presti kept this team on board when everybody expected them to tank says a lot about a guy that managed to make a lot of noise at the start of the offseason with the acquisition of Paul George.
George only has next season left on his contract, and his desire to leave the Indiana Pacers made him a very sought-after trade target, but Presti actually managed to pull the move off unlike the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves, who even had better assets to offer.
Presti sent Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo to the Pacers to help them in their rebuilding process for a one-year rental of a guy that may well be the missing piece the Thunder need in their quest for a championship, and even though they may lose him for nothing in next year's free agency, he never parted ways with big prospects to land PG, sending lousy contracts to Indiana in order to land one of the best scorers in the game.
And when it looked like Carmelo Anthony was a lock to become a member of the Houston Rockets or even the Portland Trail Blazers, Presti pounced again, and nabbed him from other teams, sending just Enes Kanter, a future 2nd rounder and Doug McDermott for another one-year rental of one of the best forwards in the Association.
So, if you’re talking about a very decent offseason, you have to put the Thunder at the top of the list, suddenly creating a deadly squad featuring Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony alongside defensive standouts in Steven Adams and Andre Roberson and didn’t sacrifice much for it.
There are still a lot of questions regarding how well the trio will fare alongside each other considering how much they like to have the rock in their hands and thrive in isolation, but if they develop some chemistry and make at least a WCF push, it’s pretty likely that they manage to keep that core for at least a couple of extra years.
Time will tell, and it still seems like the Golden State Warriors have no opposition and will win their second title in a row and third in 4 years, but if there's something that you can’t underrate, it's 3 fierce competitors eager to turn the tables and prove the basketball world that they’re also elite and won’t back down from anybody.
Even if they wind up losing everything after this huge gamble, you just can’t deny Presti’s work in the team’s front office. So watch out, because there’s a new big three in the National Basketball Association.