Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti held his end-of-season presser today and spent over 90 minutes speaking with the media. Here are the notable takeaways from the session:
Presti started by thanking the COVID testers and medical staff. Presti said that the team did not have a single COVID positive case throughout the season.
This is quite a feat to accomplish as nearly every NBA team had players hit with COVID during the season. The lack of positive tests reflects greatly on the professionalism shown by such a young team over the last five months.
Presti also mentioned that a big reason why the team decided not to have fans during the season was that they value the health and safety of the community over potential profits.
In terms of handling the lottery, Presti said that the team would have a wait-and-see approach and start planning once they find out where they are picking.
He also stated that the team has no control over how the ping pong balls bounce and thought there was little point in worrying too much about it.
The money quote from the presser:
The quote indicates that the team will not take any shortcuts in terms of rebuilding and are willing to take the hard road of being bad for multiple seasons to collect and develop elite draft prospects.
This has been the message the team has conveyed since the Russell Westbrook trade. The franchise wants to build a long-term contender whose championship window spans over several seasons. To achieve this goal, the Thunder need a core of players who can develop and play together.
It seems like the team wants to try to replicate their success with the Kevin Durant/Westbrook/Paul George teams, where the team had control of Top-15 players for several seasons.
Presti also mentioned that he believes that players on the current team will have long NBA careers due to the opportunities given this season.
This is a fair assessment to make. The Process 76ers were able to find a few gems (Robert Covington, TJ McConnell) despite how historically awful they were. Not everybody on this team will contribute to the Thunder’s next contender, but that does not mean that those who do not find a role cannot carve out a nice career contributing to other teams.
Presti also raved about Gabriel Deck and how Argentinian players bring something special. He cites his time in San Antonio as evidence that backs up his theory, with Manu Ginobili being his best case.
The team has not yet decided who will represent them on draft lottery night, which is on June 22.
Presti confirmed that the decision to rest Al Horford was a mutual one and that the team will talk with him shortly to discuss offseason plans. It is widely expected that Horford will not return to OKC next season and that the team will try to trade him to his preferred trade destination.
Presti noted that he thinks the team has avoided going the surgery route for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s plantar fasciitis and confirmed what Gilgeous-Alexander said about not being fully 100% healthy yet. Presti further stated the entire point of resting him the last two months of the season was to avoid going under the knife.
Presti said that the team would be open to moving up and down during the draft if they deem it necessary to get someone they really like. This is encouraging news because it confirms that the team views their large amount of draft picks as currency they could use if they really want to draft a player. The Thunder have over 30 picks in the next few drafts, and it will be nearly impossible to use every pick to draft a player.
When asked about Mike Muscala’s comments during his exit interview, Presti said he is “tremendously grateful and very moved” with how Mike feels about the team. Presti was unable to speak upon whether the Thunder has an interest in re-signing Mike for next season.