Since the Thunder rose to prominence last year, I've heard good things about their GM Sam Presti and how he built the team. Most of the things, though, have been generic statements about draft picks, trades, or cap space. Intrigued, I decided to research exactly how Presti transformed a lottery team into a championship contender. Here's what I found:
The 2007 NBA Draft happened three weeks after Presti was hired as the GM. What's the first thing he does? Trade the team's best player and leading scorer to the Celtics. In exchange for Ray Allen and the 35th pick (Glen Davis), Seattle got the 5th pick (Jeff Green), a 2008 second-round pick, Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak. The eventfulness of that draft would continue, as the team took Kevin Durant with the 2nd overall pick. Two weeks after trading the team's leading scorer, Presti traded the team's second leading scorer. In exchange for Rashard Lewis, Seattle got a conditional second-round pick and a 9 million dollar trade exception. Presti then traded that second-round pick to Phoenix in exchange for Kurt Thomas, a 2008 first-round pick and a 2010 first-round pick.
Prior to the trade deadline, Presti would make a couple more moves. First he traded Thomas to San Antonio for Brent Barry and Francisco Elson (expiring contracts) and an exchange of 2009 first-round draft picks. Then he traded West and Szczerbiak to Cleveland for Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble; both of whom were later waived.
The 2008 NBA Draft would prove to be just as successful for Presti as 2007 was. The biggest success was drafting Russell Westbrook, with the 4th overall pick. Additionally, he used the draft pick acquired from the Phoenix trade to select Serge Ibaka. Draft day would also see the Pistons trade D.J. White to Seattle for the No. 32 and 46 overall picks.
In December 2008, the - recently renamed - Thunder signed restricted free agent Nenad Krstic. The following month, the Thunder traded Johan Petro and a 2009 second-round pick for Chucky Atkins and a conditional first-round pick. Then they flipped that pick to Chicago for Thabo Sefolosha.
With the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Thunder selected James Harden. And with the pick that they had swapped in the San Antonio trade, they drafted Bryon Mullens. Finally, they traded cash considerations to the Bobcats in exchange for the 54th pick (Robert Vaden).
In December 2009, the Thunder traded the draft rights of Peter Fehse to Utah for Eric Maynor.
With LeBron taking his talents to South Beach - along with Bosh - Miami needed to clear cap space, so they sent Daequan Cook and the 18th overall pick in the 2010 Draft to Oklahoma City in exchange for the 32nd pick. The Thunder then flipped that pick to the Clippers for a future conditional first-round pick. Presti then packaged their first-round pick (21st overall) with the first-round pick they got from the Kurt Thomas/Phoenix trade for Morris Peterson and the 11th overall pick (Cole Aldrich) from New Orleans. That summer also saw the Thunder sign free agent Royal Ivey.
The biggest move of the season would come when Oklahoma City agreed to send Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston in exchange for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Presti followed that trade deadline shocker by sending Morris Peterson and D.J. White to Charlotte for Nazr Mohammed.
Let's recap (cliff notes version):
Drafted: Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Mullens, Vaden
Free Agents: Nenad Krstic, Royal Ivey
Trades: Ray Allen & Glen Davis -> Jeff Green, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak -> West and Szczerbiak become cap space, Green and Krstic become Perkins and Robinson
Rashard Lewis -> second-round pick -> Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks -> Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich, Morris Peterson and cap space
No. 32 and 46 picks -> D.J. White
Johan Petro -> conditional first round pick -> Thabo Sefolosha
Draft rights of Peter Fehse -> Eric Maynor
No. 32 pick -> Daequan Cook and 18th pick (18th pick becomes future conditional first-round pick from Clippers)
D.J. White and Morris Peterson -> Nazr Mohammed
After four years, the only current roster member that is pre-Presti is Nick Collison. The transformation of the franchise is astounding. With some great draft picks, a few free agent signings, and some amazing trades, Presti has built a championship caliber team. The most amazing part is that this team is the third youngest team in the NBA. I think it's safe to say that Sam Presti is a genius and the best GM in basketball.