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Sam Presti has a sterling reputation league-wide. He’s seen as a genius, someone that’s always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. It’s not just because he’s built a contender from the ground up in a couple of years, it’s because he’s built a culture and a process for sustained excellence.
He had a plan when he was hired four years ago. And he hasn’t deviated. He’s calculated, cool, smart and savvy.
Which is why it’s no surprise that SB Nation’s Mike Prada slotted Presti second overall among all NBA general managers.
STYLE: Meticulous planner.
THE GOOD: There are so many ways to describe Presti’s strengths, but my favorite one is this: he knows when to take the risk. The Kendrick Perkins trade came at the right time and sent out just enough value where it barely hurts his team, but still provides enough value to make the trade fair. Presti fostered a culture where the risk was minimal, which was his greatest strength.
THE BAD: Hard to find much of anything, but he did trade Rodrigue Beaubois for B.J. Mullens, and his 2010 lottery pick (Cole Aldrich) didn’t get off the bench last year.
BOTTOM LINE: Presti’s pretty much running this league. Sure, he got lucky with drafting Kevin Durant, but he’s made the most of it.
Who’s ahead of Presti? Captain Slick Back, Pat Riley.
Here’s the thing with Presti though: He’s done such a terrific job and has everyone bought so much in to his plan — fans included — that we can’t really even question moves. Like on draft night when he selected Reggie Jackson with the 24th pick and we all said “Huh?” eventually we all talked ourselves in to it. As KD tweeted me that night, “but u know sam, he’s almost never wrong lol.” Not many fanbases unequivocally trust their GM quite like Oklahoma City does with Presti. But it’s something that’s hard earned, and deserved.
Last week on TGR, we reviewed Presti’s tenure with the Thunder and pretty much everything received high marks. The one scuff in his otherwise clean sheet is trading Beaubois for Mullens, but I can forgive it, because sometimes taking a chance on a 7-1 athlete is worth it late in the first round. When you have a developmental plan like the Thunder do, it’s not such a bad idea to try and steal a talent late.
Because that’s what Presti has invested in as much as any other GM. It’s funny that Riley and him are one and two because they couldn’t have built their rosters more differently. Riley used starpower, suave, bravado, market and the fact three guys really wanted to play together to assemble a superstar cast of players. It happened in one swoop. Presti on the other hand was patient and calculated. He made minor deals here, grabbed a second-round pick there, invested heavily in scouting and development and watch his plant grow. (Now Riley had to do some planning too in clearing cap space for his three stars, but you get my drift.)
Something I’ve always actually wondered is if Presti is really that good of a talent evaluator or if the Thunder organization is just that good at developing solid talent. Presti obviously favors work ethic guys (it’s the main reason he took Russell Westbrook fourth overall in 2008) and when he sees some talent there with it, I think he immediately senses the potential to develop a good player in the Thunder’s system. Not to say James Harden or Serge Ibaka or Westbrook were ready-made stars, but maybe it wasn’t so much about finding that breakout talent everyone else missed and more that Presti has a system built to get the best out of good players.