Skip to content

Thunder GM Sam Presti admits ‘good fortune’ was key to OKC’s rebuilding success

Jun 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

Serge Ibaka, Sam Presti AP

The Thunder have emerged as a perennial contender in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to the job that the team’s general manager, Sam Presti, has done in rebuilding the franchise.

But even he himself will tell you that luck played an important part in that success.

Many have touted the OKC model as the proper way build a team when you’re essentially starting from scratch, and there’s some truth to that when you consider that bottoming out and accumulating draft picks is the easiest way to acquire multiple players capable of becoming stars while being relatively inexpensive on their rookie contracts.

It’s also a bit flawed, however, because not everyone is going to be as fortunate to have draft picks in consecutive seasons work out as well as they did in Oklahoma City.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

Kevin Durant was the second overall pick in 2007 of the Seattle SuperSonics, who became the Thunder. That was an easy choice after the Portland Trail Blazers selected center Greg Oden first overall. A year later, the Sonics selected at No. 4 Russell Westbrook, who wasn’t such a consensus pick, and later in the first round, general manager Sam Presti grabbed Congolese forward Serge Ibaka and allowed him to stay with his Spanish team for another season.

All three of those picks worked better than expected. Durant and Westbrook are perennial All-Stars, and Ibaka is one of the best defenders in the NBA. Presti was astute, but he admits luck played its part.

“We’ll be the first to say that we’ve had a tremendous amount of good fortune. Nobody in our organization is taking credit for the development of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook,” said Presti, a Concord native and former Emerson College player. “Our focus was on building a team that was capable of sustainable competitive success. We felt like building through the draft and building an identity for a team over a period of years was the best approach for us. It’s really so much about the individual team and organization and how they see their envisioned future.”

Rebuilding through the draft is indeed a sound strategy, for all the reasons we’ve already mentioned. But it requires sharp scouting and quite a bit of that “good fortune” Presti mentioned in order for it to truly work out to perfection.

Latest Posts
  1. Anthony Davis out Friday night vs. Clippers due to abdominal strain

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:56 PM EST

    Anthony Davis Anthony Davis

    This is not a serious injury, but they will miss him defending Blake Griffin.

  2. Rumor: Heat, Clippers, Cavaliers interested in Mo Williams

    Jan 30, 2015, 5:59 PM EST

    Mo Williams AP

    All of those teams could use point guard depth.

  3. Jimmy Butler even plans to play defense in the All-Star Game

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:29 PM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “So if you see me diving on the floor and people say ‘what is he doing?’ I can’t help but be the player that I am.” —Jimmy Butler on playing in the All-Star Game

  4. LeBron James reportedly asked Adam Silver for longer All-Star break, fewer back-to-backs

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:09 PM EST

    2012 Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year Award Presentation - Arrivals Getty Images

    NBA Commissioner has delivered on All-Star Break. Back-to-backs next?

  5. Tyson Chandler, better than ever, thinking legacy

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Will center stick with Mavericks this time?

  6. Mike Dunleavy is smooooth

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:11 PM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Sliding into your DMs like…

  7. DeMarcus Cousins wins.

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:33 AM EST

    Kings center waits five years, burns Clay Travis for tweet

  8. Kobe Bryant on if he returns next season: “Yeah, that’s the plan”

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:34 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Did anyone think he would get injured and say, “nah, I don’t want to fight through this” and walk away?

  9. Report: Magic close to firing Jacque Vaughn

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:37 AM EST

    Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Already facing scrutiny, Vaughn oversaw 15-point loss to Bucks last night

  10. One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:48 AM EST

    BKN-NBA-BULLS-LAKERS Getty Images

    “I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all.” —Pau Gasol

Featured video

Who should be All-Star Game reserves?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. C. Anthony (7984)
  2. D. Howard (7709)
  3. R. Rubio (7186)
  4. K. Bryant (7081)
  5. K. Walker (6713)
  1. K. Martin (6693)
  2. H. Whiteside (6609)
  3. N. Batum (6556)
  4. K. Durant (6470)
  5. L. James (6399)