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NBA draft: Sam Presti refuses to let the Thunder fade to the background, moves up to grab Cole Aldrich

Jun 24, 2010, 11:00 PM EDT

Sam Presti doesn’t just wait by the phone. He had antennae implanted in his brain years ago, for convenient and instantaneous connections to each and every GM in the league. Every time the draft broadcast goes 5 minutes without mentioning the Thunder or showing Kevin Durant, he makes a brain call and a subsequent move. Boom, whiz, pow, and the Thunder grabbed the 11th pick in a draft that didn’t feature them as major players — and filled a positional need — while holding on to the 18th pick.

OKC sent two late first rounders (the 21st and 26th picks, which were used on Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter) to New Orleans for Morris Peterson’s $6.2 million contract and the draft rights to Cole Aldrich. Not too shabby.

Aldrich may not pan out as a terrific NBA center, but the Oklahoma City Thunder honestly don’t need all that much. For the moment — and the foreseeable future — the Thunder just need someone to play quality minutes in the middle, and Aldrich can grab rebounds and play solid interior defense while finally giving OKC some depth at the 5. There’s nothing all that attractive about this game, and he won’t go down as the best center in this draft. Not a chance.

That won’t stop him from being a long-time, consistent role player that specializes in defense, which isn’t the easiest thing to find in a center. Aldrich won’t have Chris Paul force-feeding him buckets, but playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is a pretty plush gig, too.

The question is whether or not Mo Pete’s immediate effect on the Thunder’s salary total will make the acquisition of Aldrich worthwhile. New Orleans needed to ditch Peterson’s contract to escape the luxury tax, but that same $6.2 million will eat into OKC’s cap room this summer. For now, this trade gets an incomplete. Not only because we need to see Aldridge in NBA action to properly assess his game, but also because the financial implications for the Thunder could be minimal.

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