After the Russell Westbrook trade, new Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul was immediately the target of trade rumors — would he end the season with the Miami Heat? The New York Knicks? Somewhere else?
In the trade of Paul George, the haul of draft picks overshadowed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the trade, first tweeted about the “record” number of picks, and then his follow-up tweet had the picks before the guard. Bleacher Report even had Danilo Gallinari and the picks in the headline, but no Gilgeous-Alexander.
It looked like a team looking toward the future, and trading Jerami Grant for another draft pick seemed to confirm that.
General manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that the organization wanted to see the team it had put together, even though it was missing its stars from last year.
“When you’re in the NBA, if you’ve done it long enough, you realize that there is a significant amount of randomness that takes place in the NBA every single year,” Presti said. “I think you’ve gotta give the opportunity for the team to figure itself out.”
The organization made the right call. The three-headed point guard monster has blossomed, and Gilgeous-Alexander has quickly developed into the true prize of the George trade. Paul is doing all he can to live up to his $38 million contract.
Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams, both of whom could have been traded for future assets, stayed put and helped lead a dominant fourth-quarter unit.
“To their credit, they’ve developed themselves from the start to now, into a pretty fully formed team that has to play a as team but when they do they’re really difficult to beat,” Presti said.
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It’s not like the Oklahoma City Thunder were dead-set on competing for the playoffs entering the year. But as Presti said throughout the Zoom call, the team was adaptable.
The Thunder were playing well, so the front office didn’t meddle and put too much an emphasis on the future.
“Did it mean that there wasn’t at some point in time something that would have made us do that? Of course, but I just think our value proposition on trying to see what could take place with this team, because you do have Chris Paul, who’s one of the premier point guards in history, letting that take its shape,” Presti said.
Persti may have been alluding to Gallinari trade talk at the deadline. He was a reported target of teams including the Miami Heat, but Oklahoma City chose to retain the free-agent-to-be instead of trading for a future asset.
“There’s a lot of things that have to go right in order for things to come together, but I think we decided that this team needed the opportunity to see if that could take place,” Presti said.
They got that opportunity. And while the organization may not have quite the future capital it would if a true tear-down took place, the team is in a position in which it can make noise in the playoffs and continue growing with the draft wealth it’s accumulated through 2026.