People in the Oklahoma City community are celebrating for the return of Paul George. It a surprising turn of events, George signed a 3+1 deal to return to Oklahoma City. His deal is worth $137 million to re-sign and actually did the franchise a favor because he could have earned a huge raise after the 2nd year of the deal. George didn’t just re-sign with the Thunder, he didn’t even give the Lakers a meeting! George cited his friendship with Russell Westbrook as one of the biggest motivating factors. People have been calling it the Thunder’s biggest victory yet crediting Sam Presti’s ability to not only trade for him but his year-long recruitment.
Despite the excitement around the Thunder, I think we’re forgetting something. This is a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Jazz with this exact same team. NBA media meatheads have called Presti one of the best general managers in the league for competing with a small market team. Let’s dive into the reality of what’s really going on with the Thunder. Can we stop pretending that Sam Presti is a good general manager?
Why don’t we start from the beginning? Sam Presti started his tenure with drafting Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in three consecutive years. Presti did a great job drafting and building a young core. There is no doubt about that. He even stole Serge Ibaka in a salary dump deal involving Rashard Lewis. The problem is once he got his core, Presti couldn’t have made worse decisions. Take a walk down memory lane with me.
October 27, 2012 via basketball reference: Traded Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, James Harden and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, a 2013 1st round draft pick (Steven Adams was later selected), a 2013 2nd round draft pick (Alex Abrines was later selected) and a 2014 1st round draft pick (Mitch McGary was later selected).
Trading James Harden was the decision that killed Sam Presti’s reputation in my eyes. Remember that time that Thunder decided they didn’t want to pay Harden a max that would have been worth $60 million? Don’t let that narrative fool you. They liked the trade. He could have traded Serge Ibaka but Presti didn’t. They were worried about having too many chefs in the kitchen with Westbrook and Harden both needing the ball. Can we just admit that Presti built around the wrong guy?
Presti liked the trade. He wanted a catch and shoot guy like Martin. He wanted future first-round picks to have cheap contracts on the books when the team got competitive. Instead, he gave up a future MVP for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, Steven Adams, and Alex Abrines. That move alone not only cost them a championship but it also sent a ripple effect to Kevin Durant. This is a franchise that selected Durant in Seattle and moved the franchise to OKC and now traded a superstar for a bag of chips. It was the first crack that kicked open the eventual Durant departure.
The fact of the matter is, Presti is paralyzed by Westbrook. He has built the franchise around a cancer. This is a guy who takes more than 20 shots a game and has never converted better than .45 percent of his attempts in a season. In fact, Westbrook’s “MVP” season, he shot a pathetic 42 percent who routinley makes his teammates worse. Durant best two seasons of his career from an efficiency standpoint have come in Golden State. Victor Oladipo has turned into an All-Star. James Harden flourished into an MVP as a former 6th man. Enes Kanter went from unplayable to shooting a career-best 59 percent with the awful Knicks. Domantas Sabonis field goal percentage went from 40 to 51 after leaving. Carmelo Anthony completely fell off a cliff in an hour. Do I need to keep going? Presti should have traded Westbrook a long time ago.
Even Paul George who Thunder fans are all worked up for. This team lost to the Jazz in the first round and really have no offense. It’s a lot of Westbrook iso with people standing in the corner. George isn’t an awful fit but he can no longer win games by himself. He’s realistically been 80 percent of himself after breaking his leg at the Olympics. Not only did Presti build around the wrong guy, he is actually going to make some history. Did you know that Oklahoma City will become the first $300 million team that couldn’t even win a first-round series?
With Paul George and Jerami Grant on board, Oklahoma City now has a payroll of $156M with 11 players under contract. Because of the repeater tax penalty, the Thunder currently have a tax bill of $130M. The tax bill would be the largest in NBA history.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 1, 2018
The Thunder payroll sits at $286 million with 11 players on the roster. OKC still has to sign 4 more players and the payroll will exceed $300 million with the same exact team from a year ago. It’s going to be the most expensive team in NBA history. You can hate the Warriors all you want but this Thunder team has spent even more then they have! I root for things that are well run. You can root for dysfunction that hands Carmelo $27 million this offseason. You can root for inefficient Russell Westbrook who shoots 42 percent. You can root for Sam Presti who traded James Harden for nothing. I’m not going to do it. Stop pretending Sam Presti is a good general manager because this team will never win a title and it has everything to do with the guy running the ship.