Oklahoma City Thunder Have Discovered the Definitive NBA Draft Blueprint
The Oklahoma City Thunder are young, athletic and have created a world-class roster through their ability to scout and select prospects.
Before we confuse you, this is not an article intended to cover the history of the Seattle SuperSonics. Instead, it is to acknowledge the brilliance of one man that has re-defined the art of drafting: Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Since Presti took over in 2007, the Thunder have drafted several All-Stars and quality rotation players. Some of your favorite players may have come from OKC without you even knowing it.
There are quite a few adjectives that could define Presti's approach to the draft. Some would call it gutsy, as he has reached for players like Russell Westbrook. Others might call it lucky, as Kevin Durant fell right into his lap in 2007.
Regardless of which way you cut it, Presti has been as successful through the draft as any general manager in recent history, regardless of where he picks.
Let's take a look at his track record.
The Mastery of Sam Presti
Since 2007, the Thunder have drafted more than just superstars. In fact, they are responsible for drafting 11 players that are currently active in the NBA.
In alphabetical order, OKC has selected Rodrigue Beaubois, Eric Bledsoe, Glen Davis, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, Carl Landry, Quincy Pondexter and Russell Westbrook.
Most fans are aware of Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka receiving their start in OKC, as well as Jackson and Jones III being current members of OKC to a lesser degree.
What few remember is that the Thunder are responsible for bringing the likes of Bledsoe, Davis and Landry to the NBA. And let's not forget that they also traded for Jeff Green on draft night.
All of these players are proof of Presti mastering the craft.
The fact that the Thunder have drafted 11 active players since 2007 is brilliant, but it pales in comparison to another feat—breeding multiple superstars.
Durant is a three-time scoring champion. In 2012-13, he is on pace to win his fourth consecutive scoring title, leading the NBA with an average of 28.6 points per game. He is also on track to join the 180 club with a slash line of .509/.422/.907.
Westbrook, meanwhile, is a three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection. In 2012-13, he is boasting averages of 23.6 points, 7.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals—his third consecutive season with at least 20 points per game.
In 2011-12, Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year award while playing for OKC. Since being traded to the Houston Rockets, though, he has emerged as one of the league's premier shooting guards—averages of 26.2 points, 5.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals validate his status as a franchise player.
That's not one superstar, but three since 2007. And with young talents who have yet to reach their ceiling in Bledsoe and Ibaka—who led the league in blocks last season—that number could grow in the coming years.
Let's Talk About the Future
When the Thunder dealt Harden, most focused their attention to Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. After all, Martin is a world-class scorer and Lamb offers plenty of upside as the 12th overall pick of last year's draft.
However, Presti's greatest steal in that trade arguably came in the form of a potential lottery pick.
Prior to the Harden trade, the Rockets traded Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a first-round draft choice (via ESPN). When the Rockets acquired Harden, that pick was sent to OKC (via Yahoo! Sports).
For those wondering, it's protected from 1 to 3 and 15 to 30. In other words, the Raptors have to get very lucky in the draft lottery or make the playoffs to retain their pick, meaning OKC will be the likely recipient a top-10 draft selection down the line.
Pair that prospect with Lamb and Jones III, and the Thunder suddenly have a whole new wave of young talent to develop.
OKC is breeding quality NBA players left and right. Whether Presti elects to hold on to them or complete a trade for the Thunder's benefit, his team has clearly discovered the definitive NBA draft blueprint.
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