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Are the Oklahoma City Thunder's playoff struggles Sam Presti's fault?

There's been little success since the Harden pick in '09.

Christian Petersen

A lot of the blame for the Oklahoma City Thunder's playoff struggles have been laid at the feet on head coach Scott Brooks (beyond the Russell Westbrook injury, of course). Tjarks covered this extensively in his "Groundhog Day" post. However, Scipio made a good point that OKC's bench is pretty putrid and is a direct causation to subpar performance.

I took a look back through the Thunder's transaction log and was wholly unimpressed by what I saw. Certainly, general manager Sam Presti deserves credit for his successive draft efforts starting in 2007. That draft netted Kevin Durant (and Jeff Green), 2008's Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and 2009's James Harden.

An analysis of all the moves since the Harden-anchored 2009 Draft reads like a list of David Kahn's greatest hits. Here are the major acquisitions, along with some semblance of a grade.


Acquired Etan Thomas (for Chucky Atkins & Damien Wilkins). No impact.

Signed Kevin Ollie. No impact.

Acquired Eric Maynor (for Peter Fehse's draft rights). Net positive.

Acquired Daequan Cook (swapped 32nd pick for 18th pick, which turned into Eric Bledsoe). Net negative.

Drafted Craig Brackins & Quincy Pondexter (could have drafted Jordan Crawford, Greivis Vasquez, Landry Fields, Lance Stephenson). Net negative.

Acquired Latavious Williams' Draft Rights (for 32nd pick above, which turned into Dexter Pittman). Net negative.


Acquired Cole Aldrich & Morris Peterson (for Quincy Pondexter & Craig Brackins). Net negative.

Signed Royal Ivey. No impact but Hook 'Em with Cheese.

Acquired Kendrick Perkins & Nazr Mohammed (for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic & 22nd pick, which turned into Fab Melo). Given the Perkins infatuation by Brooks, net negative.

Signed Robert Vaden. No impact.

Drafted Reggie Jackson (over MarShon Brooks, Norris Cole, Jimmy Butler & Chandler Parsons). Net positive but likely not draft pick maximization).


Acquired Lazar Heyward (for Robert Vaden). No impact.

Acquired 2013 32nd pick (for Byron Mullens). TBD. Nice draft slot but Mullens has been a decent backup.

Signed Derek Fisher. Yuck.

Drafted Perry Jones III (over Marquis Teague, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, etc.). Jury's out.


Signed Hasheem Thabeet. No impact.

Signed Hollis Thompson. No impact.

Signed Daniel Orton. No impact.

Signed DeAndre Liggins. No impact.

Acquired Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and Toronto's 2013 1st Rd Pick (for James Harden, Cole Aldrich & Daequan Cook). D'OH!

Acquired Ronnie Brewer (for 2014 2nd Rd Pick). No impact.

Acquired rights to Giorgos Printezis (for Eric Maynor). Net negative given the Westbrook injury.

Signed Derek Fisher. C'MON, MAN.


The point of the post isn't necessarily to indict Presti for some of his more questionable decisions (trading Harden, extending Perkins, insisting on Fisher's veteran presence), nor does it account for his intelligent extensions (Nick Collison, Sefalosha, Ibaka). Instead, it simply points out how many of Presti's transactions ended up simply not mattering.

Sourcing good role players is a science, an art, and a key ingredient to successful teams (see another excellent Tjarks piece on the matter). Keep missing and things can get ugly, no matter how good your stars.

Presti is generally hailed as one of the better general managers in the game, especially since he came from the Gregg Popovich/R.C. Buford San Antonio Spurs school of finding talent anywhere and everywhere. However, his recent track reflect fails in all aspects other than OKC's star power.

There's hope on the horizon. Perhaps Jones and/or Lamb develop into quality starters, or free talent guys like Liggins and/or Orton turn out to be role players later in life. Maybe one of the the Thunder's top 32 picks (29th, 32nd, and Toronto's first rounder) is a hit. Let's hope so, because the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka triumvirate could really use some help.