OKC Thunder: Presti's big trades come in the summer
The NBA trade deadline nears, and the Thunder is prominently mentioned in prospective deals. That’s what happens when you trade away Paul George and Russell Westbrook, while trading for Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari.
But the Thunder’s stunning success – 30-20 through 50 games – has made the rebuilding calendar change. The Thunder indeed will need to rebuild, but not now. This Thunder team is as competitive as recent Thunder teams.
Perhaps OKC doesn’t have the championship upside that the PG/Westbrook teams had, but in the rearview mirror, we now know that the PG/Westbrook teams weren’t as capable as most of us presumed. Back-to-back playoff knockouts by Utah (six games) and Portland (five games) showed us that.
Still, you don’t tear down a team this good, especially when other franchises are on high alert that Sam Presti is calling. Presti’s haul of draft picks and quality players makes potential trade partners a little queasy that they could be hoodwinked in a deal.
Collectively last summer, Presti traded George and Westbrook for Gallinari, Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, plus seven first-round draft picks. Lay aside the draft picks. PG and Westbrook for Gallinari, Paul and SGA seems a quite equitable deal, especially considering their contracts. Yet Presti also squeezed seven first-round draft picks out of the deals, and first-round draft picks are the currency of the NBA.
So it seems unlikely that the Thunder will pull the trigger on a big deal. Heck, it’s more likely that the Thunder will be a buyer, rather than a seller, this February. The Thunder has a little wiggle room to improve this roster and see what happens come playoff time.
And besides, despite Presti’s well-earned reputation for blockbuster deals, they rarely come in February. Summer is Presti’s preferred time for major trades, and despite that glorious weather over the weekend, stick your nose outside. It’s not summertime.
I went back and grouped by calendar all of Presti’s major deals in his 12 years as general manager of the franchise that started in Seattle:
1. February 2010: Traded Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, cash and a first-round draft pick to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.
2. February 2009: Traded a first-round draft pick to the Bulls for Thabo Sefolosha.
3. February 2015: Traded Grant Jerrett, Kendrick Perkins, Tibor Pleis, Reggie Jackson and a first-round draft pick, for Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and a second-round draft pick, in a three-team trade with Detroit and Utah.
4. January 2015: Traded Lance Thomas and a first-round draft pick for Dion Waiters, in a three-team trade with New York and Cleveland.
5. February 2017: Traded Joffrey Lauvergne, Anthony Morrow and Cameron Payne to the Bulls for Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick.
6. February 2008: Traded Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West for Adrian Griffin, Donyell Marshall and Ira Newbie, as part of a three-team trade with Cleveland and Chicago.
7. February 2008: Traded Kurt Thomas to the Spurs for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and a first-round draft pick.
That’s a fairly lean menu. The Sefolosha trade was not any kind of blockbuster, though it certainly worked out for the Thunder. Getting Kanter and Waiters helped some playoff pushes. But really, the only wow move at the deadline was the Perkins/Green trade with Boston.
1. July 2019: Traded Paul George to the Clippers for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round draft picks and two first-round draft slot swaps.
2. July 2016: Traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers for Paul George.
3. June 2016: Traded Serge Ibaka to the Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis.
4. July 2019: Traded Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul, two first-round draft picks and two first-round draft slot swaps.
5. June 2007: Traded Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Celtics for Wally Szczerbiak, Jeff Green, Delonte West and a second-round draft pick.
6. July 2018: Traded Carmelo Anthony and a first-round draft pick to the Hawks for Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
7. July 2007: Traded Rashard Lewis to the Magic for a second-round draft pick.
8. July 2019: Traded Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for a first-round draft pick.
9. July 2007: Traded a second-round draft pick to the Suns for Kurt Thomas and two first-round draft picks.
Are you kidding me? Presti’s summer trades, both before and after the drafts, have re-routed basketball history. Let’s see, he’s traded or traded for nine all-stars in the summer.
And that’s not counting players like SGA, Gallinari, Schroder, Szczerbiak, Green and Grant.
Every summer seems to be the Summer of Sam.
1. October 2012: Traded James Harden, Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook to the Rockets for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first-round draft picks and a second-round draft pick.
2. September 2017: Traded Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick to the Knickerbockers for Carmelo Anthony.
3. November 2016: Traded Ersan Ilyasova and a first-round draft pick to the 76ers for Jerami Grant.
4. August 2008: Traded Adrian Griffin and Luke Ridnour for Joe Smith and Desmond Mason, as part of a three-team trade with Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Trades that occur from the start of school until the virtual start of the season don’t generally generate much interest. But Harden went to Houston in October; Carmelo came to OKC in September. Kanter left us in September; Grant came in early November. Presti’s autumn trades are more notable than his trade-deadline trades.
You always need to keep your eye on Presti. But use both eyes and binoculars in the summer. That’s really when the wheeling leads to the dealing.