They say lighting won’t strike the same place twice. Well, for the fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, they know this to be false. Sam Presti is a great talent when it comes to finding players, he just sucks when it comes to keeping them. Think of what Presti has done throughout his career with Supersonics/Thunder.
In a stroke of luck, Presti was able to draft Kevin Durant. However, the same day he snagged Durant he would begin his breakdown and rebuild of the Sonics. On a day when Presti could’ve had Durant, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis, he sent Allen packing for a 2008 second-round pick and one notable player, Jeff Green. His first set of trades should have been a warning sign. But there was more to come.
The following month, Presti made a move that would give the team their second piece of the core four in Serge Ibaka, thanks to a trade involving Lewis. Presti would go on with his continued luck and select the third piece to the puzzle, Russell Westbrook. A year later, Presti would take a chance on James Harden, and just like that, the core was built.
It would take awhile for the team to come together but when they found their niche, it was pure magic. With the team finally situated in Oklahoma City, the Thunder would leap from 23 wins in 2008, to 53 in 2009. All it took was the right coach, Scott Brooks to get them moving in the proper direction. As one of the youngest teams in the league at the time, the Thunder won games on athleticism, defense, and one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in NBA history. Just too bad Presti didn’t know it at the time.
When the bottom fell out, it hit the ground hard. Presti’s first major mistake was trading away Jeff Green. Yes, that same season in 2011, they would make it to the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat with Kendrick Perkins replacing Green. However, the loss of Green hurt the Thunder against the agile Heat.
With the Finals loss behind them, Presti would begin to make the moves that would label him as one of the craziest GM’s in NBA history.
The official downfall began with the trade of James Harden in 2012. For whatever reason, Presti panicked. Maybe he didn’t want to pay Harden but he figured a veteran like Kevin Martin was best suited for the Thunder. Not only was he wrong, but he was out-of-his-mind-wrong. With Harden gone, the Thunder would still succeed but not like they would have if he was still there. Then in 2016, Presti let the unthinkable happen.
With Durant set to hit the free agent market, Presti made a trade for Victor Oladipo to add the third scorer many felt the Thunder were missing. Mind you, this was right after a blown 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors. While Presti thought he was doing the right thing, his move may have pushed Durant out the door. Nevermind the media-created beef between Durant and Westbrook, Presti just traded away one of Durant’s’ closest friends in Serge Ibaka. Gone was Durant and Ibaka, and for what, Oladipo?
For Durant, it was never about the money. Which brings us to Paul George and the new hurdle the Thunder must cross with Presti.
For Thunder fans, this offseason will be one of hope. While Presti is hailed as one of the best talent evaluators in the league, he’s also bold, crass, and not always the best when it comes to keeping his talent. While with the Pacers, George made it known, according to Yahoo Sports, his desire to play with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in 2018. But along the way, he was dealt to the Thunder, treated like royalty, and best of all, they’re winning games. This is what Presti must take into account when it comes time to offer George a deal.
As good as George has been, fans will have no choice but to think of Presti’s past. This is the same guy who let Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis go. The same GM who traded away Jeff Green, Harden, and Serge Ibaka, all for nothing. Then, to top it off, he let Durant walk out the door. If history serves us right, why should fans believe that George will stay? What has Presti ever done that gives Thunder fans that kind of hope?