Ever since leaving Seattle, the Oklahoma City Thunder have done a great job building an identity, and becoming a steady and consistent Championship contender thanks to Sam Presti’s management.
Yes, they’ve always underperformed when it matters the most, but that doesn’t mean Sam Presti has n’t been one of the best General Managers when it comes to drafting future superstars.
As a matter of fact, the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted 3 future MVPs without having a 1st overall pick in Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant, while the Lakers and Celtics have drafted 3 MVPs combined in their history. But, how could this team fare if they had kept all of their players? Let’s break it down.
Honorable Mention: Eric Bledsoe (18th pick, 2010 NBA Draft)
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
Back in 2008, Sam Presti drafted Russell Westbrook with the 4th overall pick out of UCLA even despite him being Darren Collison ’s backup. Needless to say, Westbrook wound up having a way better career than the Bruins’ starter.
Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the 3rd straight season, won one MVP, led the league in dimes once and won 2 Scoring Titles as well. He’s one of the most athletic players ever, and it looks like the only one capable of stopping him is himself.
Shooting Guard: James Harden
The very next year, Presti took James Harden with the 3rd overall pick out of Arizona State University, with Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet being the 1st two picks of that Draft. Obviously, Harden became by far the best player.
Harden is the best scorer in the league right now, led the league in dimes once and once in scoring as well. Also, he’s the first player ever to win both the MVP and the 6th Man of the Year award, and he may be Sam Presti’s biggest regret on top of the Thunder.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant
It all started back in 2007 when the Thunder was still the Sonic and they got Kevin Durant out of Texas with the 2nd overall pick right after the Blazers drafted injury-prone big man Greg Oden.
While Durant eventually left the team on bad terms, he was the best player and ultimate leader of the post-Seattle era. Before winning back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs, he was the Thunder’s MVP, Rookie of the Year and 4-time Scoring Champion.
Power Forward: Serge Ibaka
2008 was a great year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they also got Serge Ibaka with the 24th overall pick after getting Russell Westbrook, and, to this day, I still can’t fathom the fact that he slipped all the way down to that spot.
Presti eventually chose to keep Serge Ibaka over James Harden because the first was one of the most dominant rim protectors in the league. While in OKC, he made it to 3 All-Defensive squads and led the league in blocks twice.
Center: Steven Adams
After striking out on a couple of Drafts, Presti hit the jackpot once again in 2013 when he took Steven Adams with the 12th overall pick out of Pittsburgh, being one of the picks involved in the trade that sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets.
It took Adams a while to adapt to the physical demands of the NBA, but he grew to become one of the best defenders in the post. He’s a great rim protector, a physical stopper, and a guy that’s never going to be bullied around. If they made it so far with Kendrick Perkins at center, just imagine what they could’ve done with Adams instead.