Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Sam Presti has drawn more criticism than he deserves for the James Harden situation, as has Harden. Sometimes things just don't work out; there isn't anyone to blame.
The bottom line is that there is only so much money in Oklahoma City. One way or another, Harden was going to be offered more than the Thunder could pay him.
Presti is now realizing the downside of hitting one home run after another in the draft: Sooner or later, all those home runs deserve to get paid.
After they traded for Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder gave him what, at the time, seemed a pretty reasonable contract.
Then Kevin Durant got his max deal.
Then there was a little lockout and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That agreement meant that Durant's negotiated contract got even bigger because of what is known as the Derrick Rose clause, which, barring certain standards, allows players on their second contracts to be paid as though they were seven-year vets.
Then Russell Westbrook signed for a max deal.
Neither player is at fault for getting their max deal; they earned it.
Then Serge Ibaka signed his four-year, $12 million extension.
As a result of all that, the Thunder were locked into $54 million for four players with a fifth player that wanted and deserved a max contract.
When you start looking at the long-term ramifications, that contract could cost the Thunder tens of millions in taxes alone.
People complain that it's "all about the money," but they shouldn't. Every business is about the money, and Presti made the right long-term financial decision.
The only reason he gets a "B" is that with a little more foresight, he might have been able to keep the whole crew together if he had sat them all together and said, "Look, if everyone is willing to $1 million a year less, I think we can stay together." They might have gone for that.
But hindsight is 20/20; it's hard to find fault with Presti here.