Thunder, Presti Look Mortal

I realize writing an article ripping on Sam Presti may make me look foolish but I’m going to do it anyway.

Presti is known as one of the golden boys in the NBA for making the bold moves to build around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Throw into the mix his decision to draft James Harden and it’s tough to argue with his acumen as a front office deity.

The Oklahoma City Thunder went into the playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference and only looked mortal after losing Westbrook to a season-ending knee injury. So, by knocking on them for for finally losing a game is a kin to kicking a man/team when they are down, but I’m still going to do it because I feel it’s deserved.

The problem is I’m no longer slurping the Presti Kool-Aid. Instead, last night I found myself jumping around my living room like a mad man while watching the Thunder play and using all of the self-control I have to refrain from throwing my remote control through my television.

Why the fury and frustration? I couldn’t help but have visions of a Thunder team featuring Durant, Harden, Ibaka and Rajon Rondo dance through my head.

Westbrook posted all-star worthy numbers this season – 23.2 points, 7.4 assists and countless highlight reel plays – but each time I watched the Thunder play I couldn’t shake the feeling the team would be even better if they had nabbed Kendrick Perkins’ teammate instead.

There was a report back in 2011 that a deal was on the table which would have seen Rondo and Jeff Green head to Oklahoma City in exchange for Perkins and Westbrook.

Shockingly the Thunder passed on this deal.

Sorry, but I don’t get why Oklahoma City would pass on removing one mistake – overpaying Perkins – while arguably getting an upgrade at point guard. To me that’s a classic win-win.

Throw into the mix that it would have given the team the cap flexibility to sign James Harden to an extension last summer and it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Another frustrating thing watching the Thunder this year has been Scott Brooks’ lack of creativity as a coach. Besides wanting to blame Presti for keeping an uncreative coach at the helm, I blame Zach Lowe for opening my eyes to this. Earlier this week Lowe wrote a fantastic article on Grantland that subtly took digs at Brooks by poking holes at his lack of creativity on the offensive end.

“Oklahoma City has never had an offensive system in the way the Spurs or Heat do — a structure in which each possession features a series of movements, countermovements, built-in options, and side-to-side actions the teams run through until the most desirable shot becomes available,” Lowe wrote. “The Thunder instead have a series of pet plays designed to produce certain end outcomes — a Serge Ibaka midrange jumper, an open Kevin Durant shot, a driving lane for Westbrook, or a favorable isolation for one of the perimeter stars. There aren’t really third, fourth, and fifth counters; if the first or second actions don’t produce a clean look, the players mostly stand still and watch Durant or Westbrook go to work.”

If Presti is a great basketball mind, how has he allowed Brooks to continue with his role as a head coach? Sure, Brooks has an impressive roster, but having the benefit of coaching the talent in Oklahoma City would allow any coach to have an impressive record.

Imagine if a coach like George Karl or Doc Rivers had access to the Thunder roster? The results would be scary.

Presti deserves his fair share of praise for building around Durant, drafting Westbrook earlier than most people expected and making some shrewd moves to acquire a much-needed veteran in Perkins or other moves which allowed him to stockpile draft picks.

But the team’s lack of depth beyond it’s core players is going to cost the team. Throw into the mix the loss of Harden and it’s tough to see the kind of future the team had this time last year.

About the Author

Ryan McNeill Ryan McNeill has appeared on NBA XL, ESPN Radio, The Fan 590, The Score, TSN Radio and The Home Stretch. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.

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