It’s pretty safe to say that Sam Presti has done a great job in charge of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s made some bold moves and has never hesitated to let go of top-tier talents if that meant piling up picks or getting even more players in return.
Sadly, he’s never been able to put together a Championship team, mostly due to Kevin Durant’s sudden departure in free agency. Even so, the team has rarely missed the playoffs under his command, and he’s now piled up 16 first-round picks through 2026.
Still, some people give him a hard time for all the great talents he’s ‘wasted’ in trades, as Draft picks don’t mean a thing unless you win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Today, we’re going to let you know about the top 10 players he’s traded over the past 9 years:
Jeff Green (2011)
Jeff Green was supposed to be an elite scorer in the NBA and had the physical tools to become an outstanding defender as well. Needless to say, none of those things happened, but he’s been a streaky contributor for contending teams over the years.
Presti was the first to be disappointed by Green’s inconsistency and didn’t bat an eye to trade him away to the Boston Celtics along with Nenad Krstić and a future pick in return for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. That trade gave the Thunder the defensive big man they desperately needed.
James Harden (2012)
Sam Presti gets a lot of hate for this trade in all fairness, it seemed like the right move at the time. James Harden was great but was the team’s Sixth Man. They didn’t need another scorer or ball-dominant player with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and Harden was pretty bad in the NBA Finals as well.
The Thunder sent Harden to the Houston Rockets along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, and 3 picks. Harden went on to become one of the most talented scorers of all time, a Scoring Champion, and an MVP.
Reggie Jackson (2015)
You’re not going to get many minutes if you’re Russell Westbrook’s backup, that’s a fact, and the main reason why Reggie Jackson wanted out of the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially after a nice stretch that proved that he was ready to break out somewhere else.
Obviously, Westbrook was always Presti’s guy and he wasn’t going to move him for Reggie, so he sent Jackson away to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler, and a Draft pick, while also getting Enes Kanter and Steve Novak on a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz.
Serge Ibaka (2016)
Serge Ibaka is the main reason why Sam Presti traded away James Harden. There wasn’t enough money to keep both Ibaka and Harden and Presti thought they could use Serge’s defensive expertise over yet another ball-dominant scorer.
Ibaka was the defensive anchor of the team for years until Kevin Durant left and OKC hinted at a rebuild, so he traded him with Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic in the aforementioned trade that got them Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
Domantas Sabonis (2017)
Drafting Domantas Sabonis was a no-brainer for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had a privileged gene pool and the upside to become a great passing and rebounding big man just like his father, so they sent away Ersan Ilyasova and Serge Ibaka to land him and Victor Oladipo back in 2016.
This trade was a major steal and one of Presti’s finest moves. Not only they got a couple of young players with sky-high upside at a discount but also Ibaka was out of the Orlando Magic in the blink of an eye as he looked to join a contender. Then, Sabonis and Oladipo headed to Indiana to land Paul George.
Victor Oladipo (2017)
Whenever you have the chance to land a former 2nd-overall pick that hasn’t blossomed on a bad team, you pull the trigger. Sam Presti did that and Oladipo started to break out and show glimpses of the superstar potential scouts saw during his time in college.
Oladipo was the team’s second go-to-guy behind Russell Westbrook and made great strides in the defensive end as well. That’s why the Indiana Pacers were rubbing their hands when they got him and Domantas Sabonis in return for Paul George.
Carmelo Anthony (2018)
Carmelo Anthony was the scapegoat of the New York Knicks during one of their toughest times. He was mistreated and back-stabbed so he eventually decided to veto his no-trade clause and team up with Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
But after a failed trip to the playoffs, Carmelo was once again pointed out, and Presti traded him away for Dennis Schroder and Thimoté Luwawu-Cabarrot on a three-team trade between the Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Paul George (2019)
Paul George broke out as one of the best two-way players in the league in Indiana before finally demanding a trade out of the franchise. Presti didn’t hesitate to swoop in and gave them Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo in the blink of an eye.
George would eventually become an MVP and DPOY candidate in Oklahoma but the lack of playoff success knocked on their door again. Also, Kawhi Leonard wanted him in the Los Angeles Clippers so they gave Presti Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and five first-round picks.
Russell Westbrook (2019)
Everybody thought that Russell Westbrook was going to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder throughout his entire career, especially after he signed a huge contract extension despite Kevin Durant’s departure. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
The Thunder wanted and needed to rebuild and Westbrook wanted and needed to compete for an NBA Championship, and that’s why Presti traded him to the Houston Rockets along with multiple picks in exchange for Chris Paul.
Chris Paul (2020)
When the Thunder lost Paul George, their chances of competing were pretty slim. Presti set Russell Westbrook free and traded him to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and picks. And while people thought CP3 was going to be traded right away, he ended up having one of the best seasons of his career with them.
Paul led the rebuilding Thunder to the playoffs and was pretty close to taking them to the second round. Then, Presti sent him to the Phoenix Suns with Abel Nabder in exchange for Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, and a first-round pick.