For the first time since the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise was turned upside down by a number of different transactions—beginning with Paul George’s request to be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers—Thunder GM Sam Presti held a press conference to meet with media and discuss the future of the organization.
This morning, Presti wrote an op-ed that was published in The Oklahoman entitled “Looking Back, Thinking Forward,” where he explained the turn of events over the last few weeks, looked back at the 11-year history of the Thunder franchise, and discussed the future of the organization. In his press conference, he elaborated even more on the direction that the Thunder is headed.
Many analysts and fans alike have fully expected a complete rebuild by the Thunder from the ground up, but after Presti was unable to make a deal to move Chris Paul elsewhere in exchange for assets, the rebuild appeared to be put on hold. The topic came up early in the press conference, and Presti was asked how severe the rebuild was going to be, as well as a mention of potentially tanking. Presti’s response was much more optimistic than what was probably expected:
I wouldn’t say that we’ve started to rebuild. The primary focus for our organization based on the circumstances that we inherited over the summer is first we need to reposition the franchise. Second to that, we need to replenish the franchise after 11 years of not ever being able to do that because we were in such a pursuit for maintaining a team that could get to the postseason, contend in the postseason, year after year after year. Ultimately…we will have to rebuild the team, but that tends to happen organically.
When the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008, Presti had already made a number of moves to set up a rebuild for the franchise, but fans saw it more as a starting point anyway as the organization was brand new to the city. The Thunder brand saw dramatic improvement and growth over the first decade, and the franchise has made Oklahoma City known worldwide. After Presti’s comments today, perhaps a traditional rebuild is not a part of the plan at all.
Moving forward, nobody really knows how long some of the Thunder’s current veterans—namely Chris Paul and Steven Adams—will be in Oklahoma City, as they carry some hefty contracts, but it makes sense that as Presti wants to build the Thunder back to the former glory of being a regular contender, he does not necessarily plan on doing it through the draft lottery. Both Paul and Adams, along with guys like Andre Roberson and Dennis Schröder, bring a level of experience and leadership that will be beneficial to the growth of the youth on the roster.
Oklahoma City acquired a slew of draft picks through the different transactions over the last few weeks, but the Thunder has also put together a solid young roster that could be foundational to building a team that may one day very well be in the mix for a championship. The roster currently has 12 players with 6 NBA seasons played or fewer, and 7 of those players have 2 or fewer years of experience.
As for the immediate future, the Thunder has a roster that is capable of putting together a run to potentially sneak into the playoffs, but it will definitely be a challenge. If OKC has a slow start to the 2019-20 season, however, that could all change very quickly as players may be moved via trade perhaps sooner than later. If the Thunder ends up making a run similar to the one that the Los Angeles Clippers made last year, finding unexpected success, then there is no telling what Presti might try to do with the team.
Regardless of the level of success that the Thunder experiences in the upcoming season, one thing is for certain: this team has a future full of potential, and Sam Presti appears to be the right guy to be making the decisions to get OKC back to the top of the league.
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