The events on July 6, 2019, were supposed to send the Thunder into their first rebuild since they arrived in Oklahoma City on the tail end of one. This was the day the Paul George trade occurred, causing fans to be uncertain and basketball analysts to predict last-place finishes for the brand new Thunder squad.
The backlash was fierce. Message boards filled with demands to fire Presti, and fans expected a dismal season. Trading away an MVP candidate when the league was gaining more parity was baffling– and then it got seemingly worse.
As more dominoes fell, it seemed like Presti was embracing an immediate rebuilding era. He traded away Jerami Grant, allowed Alec Burks to walk away from the Thunder and dealt some guy who wore the number 0. Things were bleak and no one knew what to think.
But Sam had a plan.
One of the only people who believed in the present and future was the one who made the deal: Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sam Presti.
Presti has always been known for his bold moves. He shakes up teams when he deems it necessary. That level of calculation separates him from the rest of the NBA’s executives, and it’s why he deserves the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award for 2019-20.
The Thunder should not work. Remember the parity I talked about? Yeah, that is due to so many great teams assembling, not middling ones. There are beasts all around the league. In the return for OKC’s traded superstars, Presti created a team of beast slayers–all of whom can play the star depending on the night.
With past Thunder teams, you knew where the scoring production was coming from: Russell Westbrook and Paul George. That’s who opponents had to gameplan around. Not only does this current team have great ball movement, they have multiple players who can step up and take over on the offensive side of the ball. From a future hall of famer like Chris Paul, to an underdog story like Luguentz Dort, anyone on this Thunder roster has the potential to wow fans–once upset with the direction of the franchise–on any given night.
Presti built this by being one of the only executives in the league who isn’t afraid to try something new. The Thunder system got stagnant in the past few years, so he changed it up completely. Instead of running it back, he sold high (with an assist from Kawhi Leonard) on the Thunder’s best players. This paved Oklahoma City’s way to the 5 seed in a very strong Western Conference. For an executive to trade his two superstars and come away with a 5th seed, on top of about a million first round picks, is extraordinary.
Presti magic is real, and it’s the reason the Thunder have thrived this season and are set to thrive for years to come.