Sam Presti has done a hell of a job in charge of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the team hasn’t been able to win an NBA Championship and has only made it to the Finals once during his time as General Manager.
The Thunder have landed terrific players on the Draft that actually wound up becoming superstars, and Presti has never hesitated to pull the trigger and surround his players with great supporting casts, even if that means taking a risk.
However, at the end of the day, the team’s trophy cabinet remains empty, unless you’re counting the Championship the Seattle Supersonics won back in 1979, and people always give Presti a hard time for all of the players he’s lost.
Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most notable players that have joined the Thunder during Presti’s tenure:
Honorable Mention: Enes Kanter
10. Jeff Green (2011)
Jeff Green was supposed to be a huge part of the future of the Seattle Supersonics’ organization, as he was a part of the trade that sent Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics and looked like one of the best scorers of his generation back in the day.
Even so, Green’s tenure at Oklahoma wasn’t nearly half as successful as expected, so he was eventually traded back to the Boston Celtics on the trade that got the Thunder Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.
9. Domantas Sabonis (2017)
Domantas Sabonis got off to a very solid start of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he was eventually benched in favor of Taj Gibson and became expendable for a team that was trying to win now rather than developing talent.
So, he was eventually traded to the Indiana Pacers alongside Victor Oladipo in the Paul George operation. Now, he’s one of the league’s most interesting prospects, a guy that can rebound and score quite efficiently as well as a great passer.
8. Dion Waiters (2016)
Dion Waiters has never been the most efficient scorer and his desire to prove he’s one of the elite shooting guards in the league has always kind of backfired for him, especially during his time with the Cavaliers.
However, he really embraced a lesser role with the Thunder and looked like a much more mature player and built some nice rapport with Russell Westbrook, but the Thunder lost him in the offseason to the Miami Heat.
7. Reggie Jackson (2015)
Reggie Jackson was quite a solid backup for Russell Westbrook and he even stepped up big time when Westbrook was forced to miss time with an injury, so he demanded for more playing time even when he came back.
Obviously, the team thought trading him could be the best move for every party involved, so they sent him to the Detroit Pistons on a 3-team deal that got them DJ Augustin, Steve Novak, Enes Kanter, and Kyle Singler, none of them still with the team.
6. Victor Oladipo (2017)
The Orlando Magic pretty much gave up on Victor Oladipo following a dismal start of his career, sending him with Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova for Serge Ibaka, and he actually took a major step forward once he left the Magic.
However, Sam Presti wanted to go on a different direction and enter win-now mode, so he shipped him with Domantas Sabonis to get Paul George. Now, he’s the leader of the Pacers and one of the best two-way players in the league.
5. Serge Ibaka (2016)
Serge Ibaka started his career at Oklahoma and he became a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate almost right away thanks to his ability to swat shots and protect the paint against bigger opposition.
However, once the team lost Kevin Durant, they were also quite likely to lose Ibaka in free agency, so Presti packed his bags for him and sent them to the Orlando Magic on the Oladipo – Sabonis trade.
4. Paul George (2019)
Back in 2017, Paul George told the Indiana Pacers that he was looking forward to leaving the team, and with the Lakers waiting to get him in the summer, it was Presti the one to go all-in on him and traded Sabonis and Oladipo to get him.
George was the best player of the team during his second year with the Thunder but demanded to be traded to join Kawhi Leonard at the Clippers. At least, Presti turned him into multiple first-round picks for the future.
3. James Harden (2012)
James Harden was coming off a Sixth Man of the Year campaign and the Thunder had just made it to the NBA Finals, but there wasn’t enough money to keep both Harden and Ibaka in free agency.
Therefore, Presti took the bold decision to trade Harden to the Houston Rockets on a huge blockbuster move. Now, Harden is one of the league’s deadliest scorer, a scoring champion and an MVP.
2. Kevin Durant (2016)
Kevin Durant was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics and he embraced a leadership role with the Oklahoma City Thunder towards the first passage of his career, becoming the team’s MVP and the best scorer in the world.
However, he wanted to win an NBA Championship and the Golden State Warriors were the easiest path to the ring, so he joined them in free agency back in 2016 on a very controversial move.
1. Russell Westbrook (2019)
And finally, Russell Westbrook is the latest star to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple of years after signing a huge contract extension even though Durant had decided to leave the team.
Westbrook demanded to be traded after Paul George’ blockbuster trade, joining the Houston Rockets on a trade that got the Thunder even more first-rounders and Chris Paul’s contract.