Tag Archives: Sam Presti

2016-2017 Northwest Division Projections


X-Portland Trailblazers 51-31 (4)

After winning 51 games during the 2014-2015 NBA season, the 2015-2016 campaign was expected to be a down one for the Portland Trailblazers. The summer of 2015 saw the Trailblazers ravaged by departures which included power forward LaMarcus Aldridge joining the San Antonio Spurs and shooting guard Wes Matthews signing on with the Dallas Mavericks. But Blazers general manager Neil Olshey didn’t cry over spilled milk as he simply went to work in building his team around All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. Last season saw Lillard become the focal point of the Trailblazers offense to the tune of averaging 25.1 points per game. And when the regular season was over, Portland shocked many people as they were heading for the NBA Playoffs. But the Blazers weren’t just content to reach the postseason as they advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second time in three years. Now the Trailblazers will head into this NBA season looking to build off of their last campaign and add to what they accomplished.

Damian Lillard

Aside from Lillard being the best player on the Trailblazers team, he is rapidly developing into one of the best players in the league. Along with averaging 25.1 points per game last season, Lillard averaged a career high in assists with 6.8. Lillard isn’t afraid to mix it up in the post as well where as averaged 4 rebounds per contest last season. And as Lillard goes, so goes the fortunes of the Trail Blazers, but he has a team around him that can compliment his style of play.

Center Mason Plumlee has seen his numbers improve in each of three NBA seasons, and after being a starter in all 82 games for Portland last year, he could be poised to average a double-double in points and rebounds this time around. Like Plumlee, the Blazers also employ players in their front court such as power forward Ed Davis and center Meyers Leonard who can play off of Lillard’s ability to get to the basket as they are finishers at the rim who don’t require set plays to be run for them.

Lillard is consistently paired with guard C.J. McCollum to give the Blazers one of the fastest backcourts in the NBA as it is simply pick your poison with both players who have the ability to take over a game.

During the summer, Portland signed swingman Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million deal. Turner gives the Trailblazers another ball handler, while he is a solid defender. And due to the attention that Lillard and McCollum will receive, Turner is going to see more than his fair share of open looks at the basket which should allow for him to have one of his more productive seasons in the NBA.

Aside from Turner, the Trail Blazers also signed center Festus Ezeli in free agency. Ezeli was an under utilized big man during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but his championship experience could pay dividends for a young team in Portland.

Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts is set to begin his fifth season as the Blazers head coach, and in spite of the fact that he has guided this team to the postseason in each of the last three years, he is an underrated commodity in the NBA. But Stotts has a team this time around that could be more than just a playoff participant as the Trail Blazers have the potential to do some damage in the Western Conference.

Y-Oklahoma City Thunder 50-32 (5)

This past June the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared to be on the verge of heading to the NBA Finals, until things came apart for them in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder had a 3-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors until the wheels fell off. And as the 2016 NBA Playoffs ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Thunder, the sorrow didn’t end there for them.

After nine years with the Seattle Supersonics/ Oklahoma City Thunder franchise, small forward Kevin Durant decided to leave. Durant spurned the Thunder’s offer in free agency in favor of joining the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s departure signals the end of his pairing with point guard Russell Westbrook as one of the most dynamic duos in the NBA. But if anyone is expecting the Thunder to feel sorry for themselves after Durant left town, think again.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti is one of the best front office people in the NBA when it comes to putting a team together which means that Oklahoma City should be poised for another run to the NBA Playoffs.

Russell Westbrook

After Durant left, the Thunder made it their business to sign Westbrook to a three-year extension that is worth $85.7 million as he will be the centerpiece for head coach Billy Donovan. This new deal will keep Westbrook in Oklahoma City through 2020 which is more than enough time for him to show the basketball world that he is ready to emerge from Durant’s shadow.

When Durant missed the majority of the 2014-2015 NBA season with a foot injury, Westbrook led the league in scoring at 28.1 per contest. And I don’t see Donovan attempting to hold him back this year.

Enes Kanter

But around Westbrook, the Thunder have a very talented team that consists of the likes of centers Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. Last year with the Thunder, Kanter averaged 12.7 which was the result of not enough basketballs to go around for everyone, but this time around he should become more involved in the offense due to the loss of Durant. Adams is a wild man on the boards and at the defensive end of the court as you never know what you’re going to get from him which makes him an X-factor for the Thunder.

Aside from losing Durant, center Serge Ibaka was traded to the Orlando Magic. In exchange for Ibaka, the Thunder received shooting guard Victor Oladipo, power forward Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to power forward Domantas Sabonis.

Oladipo is expected to be a running mate in the Thunder’s backcourt with Westbrook and he should be able to have an immediate impact. In three years with the Magic, Oladipo averaged 15.9 points per game, and as long as he is healthy, the sky is the limit this season for him in Oklahoma City.

Last year Sabonis was a second-team All-American for the Gonzaga Bulldogs where he averaged 17.6 points, and 11.8 rebounds per contest. Sabonis is the son of former Portland Trail Blazers center Arvydas, and he will flash some of the moves that his old man did once upon a time on the hardwood.

Billy Donovan

In Donovan’s first year as the head coach of the Thunder, he stayed out of the way while letting his superstars in Westbrook and Durant do their thing. This time around I can see Donovan being more hands on, but I doubt that he will attempt to stop the one-man show that is Westbrook.

Y-Utah Jazz 41-41 (8)

The last two NBA seasons have seen the Utah Jazz overachieve, but it still wasn’t enough for them to make the playoffs. The Jazz won 40 games last season and missed making the NBA Playoffs by one game which is something the head coach Quin Snyder will attempt to build off of as Utah is seeking their first postseason berth since 2012.

Gordon Hayward

If Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward played in a bigger market, he would be a household name. In each of Hayward’s first six seasons in the NBA, his offensive stats have increased which included him averaging 19.7 points per game. Hayward is developing into one of the better wing players in the NBA, and his continued improvement is vital to any success that Utah seeks. Like Hayward, the numbers of power forward Derrick Favors continue to improve as he is one the most underrated big men in the Western Conference. At 7’1″, the length of center Rudy Goubert gives opponents problems, and after he averaged 11 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season, he is a prime candidate to be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this time around.

With the return of point guard Dante Exum who missed the entire 2015-2016 NBA season after suffering a torn ACL, the Jazz decided to trade point guard Trey Burke to the Washington Wizards for a 2021 draft pick. And along with veteran guard Shelvin Mack who led the Jazz in assists last year with 5.6, Exum will be looked at as being one of the floor generals for Utah.

Last year the Jazz were one of the younger teams in the NBA, but general manager Dennis Lindsey has attempted to remedy that as over the summer he signed veteran swingman Joe Johnson, point guard George Hill, and power forward/center Boris Diaw. All three players have tremendous experience in the NBA which includes Diaw winning an NBA Championship in 2014.

Eight of Utah’s first eleven games will be on the road this season, but this is a Jazz squad that
should be up for the challenge.


Minnesota Timberwolves 37-45

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of a very long hibernation. You have to go back to 2004 in order to find the last time that the Timberwolves made the playoffs as they’ve become an afterthought in the NBA. Minnesota has had its fair share of misses at the NBA Draft, but they finally appear to be headed in the right direction.

Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau is set to begin his first year as the T-Wolves head coach and president of basketball operations as he will be bringing law and order to the franchise. For five years Thibodeau was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and in each season he was able to get them to the postseason. Under Thibodeau, the Bulls were one of the better defensive teams in the NBA and that is a philosophy that he will attempt to instill into the young Timberwolves who gave up 106 points per game last season which was tied for 23rd in the NBA.

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Timberwolves have the last two NBA Rookie of the Years to work with in shooting guard Andrew Wiggins and center Karl-Anthony Towns. Last year Wiggins led the Timberwolves in scoring at 20.7 points per contest and it would not surprise me to see him make the All-Star team this year. Power forward Karl-Anthony Towns was a double-double machine last year for the Timberwolves, and he has the potential to be the second best big man in franchise history behind Kevin Garnett. The T-Wolves also have a pair of young ball handlers in point guard Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine, while guard Kris Dunn could be in the running to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year which would make it three years in a row that the franchise could claim that honor.

Five of the Timberwolves first seven games will be on the road, and even if they start slow, this should a be an exciting team as the NBA season progresses.

Denver Nuggets 35-47

After a decade of success, the Denver Nuggets are fading into obscurity. From 2004-2013, the Nuggets made 10 consecutive playoff appearances, but the last three years have seen them fail to reach the postseason while winning no more than 36 in any campaign. And as Michael Malone is set to begin his second year as the Nuggets head coach, he must find the right formula that can once again make Denver a playoff contender in the Western Conference.

One thing that has hurt the Nuggets in recent years is that they don’t have a consistent go-to scorer. Last year the Nuggets had seven players average at least 10 points per game with small forward Danilo Gallinari leading the team with 19.5 points per contest. However the Nuggets lack of a consistent 20-point per game scorer will hurt them against the better teams in the Western Conference.

The keys to any potential success for the Nuggets during the 2016-2017 NBA season will come down to the development of point guard Emanuel Mudiay, the health of Gallinari, and how power forward Kenneth Faried will play off of them.

Emmanuel Mudiay

Last year as a rookie, Mudiay averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists as he was one of the better first-year players in the NBA. Mudiay has the potential to be a quality floor general and the Nuggets could be ready to improve if he continues to make progress.

In five seasons with the Nuggets, Gallinari has averaged 15.6 points per game, but his main issue has been his inability to remain healthy. In eight NBA seasons, Gallinari has never appeared in all 82 games as he has been done in by knee injuries. But in spite of that Gallinari is still a solid perimeter scorer as he is a career 41% scorer. And if Gallinari is able to appear in at least 70 games this season, it should be a big boost for the Nuggets.



If there were an All-Energy team in the NBA, Faried would be on it. There’s nothing fancy about Faried’s game as he plays with the mentality of a junkyard dog. Faried scraps and claws as he does whatever is necessary for the Nuggets to win. Faried is one of those rare players in the NBA that doesn’t need a play to be called for him, but when the game is done, he’ll have 15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals, along with the respect of his opponents. And it is that ability of Faried which will allow him to play off of Mudiay and Gallinari.

As a team the Nuggets were 22nd in the NBA in points allowed last season as they surrendered 105 per contest which must improve if they want to become a playoff contender.

Six of Denver’s first seven games for the upcoming NBA season will be on the road and they last thing that need is a slow start which could derail their postseason chances before they even start.

X-Division Winner
Y-Clinched Playoff Berth
Source: Basketball-reference.com

Now It’s My Team


Russell Westbrook

In a bit of a surprising move point guard Russell Westbrook signed an extension this week to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook was heading into the final year of his contract with the Thunder and he agreed to a three-year deal that is potentially worth $85.7 million, while he has a player option to opt out after the 2017-2018 NBA season. The move comes officially one month after small forward Kevin Durant left the Thunder as a free agent to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s move to join Golden State appeared to signal the end of Westbrook’s time in Oklahoma City as the All-Star point guard might have been looking for a new home as well after next season when he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics were prepared to pursue Westbrook in free agency or trading for him, however these teams will now have to go back to the drawing board as he is off of the market. Westbrook’s decision to remain in Oklahoma shows that he believes in the Thunder’s foundation under general manager Sam Presti and the upcoming NBA season could be very special for the enigmatic point guard.

For Westbrook’s eight-year NBA career he has averaged 21.5 points and 7.6 assists per contest. Westbrook has done this in spite of the fact that he has played out of position. Prior to being drafted by the Thunder, Westbrook never played the point guard position as he was a shooting guard throughout his high school and collegiate career. That has shown up at times throughout Westbrook’s career with the Thunder where he has attempted to take games over by himself while not always playing within the realm of the offense. And with Durant no longer around to get the basketball to, Westbrook could now be off to the races.

It’s only August, but it is not far-fetched that Westbrook could be one of the early favorites to be named as the NBA’s MVP next spring. As the Thunder’s top scoring option for next season, Westbrook could flirt with averaging 30 points per game like he did during the 2014-2015 NBA campaign when Durant missed the most of the season with a foot injury. That season saw Westbrook begin to emerge from Durant’s shadow as he averaged 28.1 points per game which was tops in the NBA, and it should be more of the same this time around.

The Thunder have a head coach in Billy Donovan that isn’t going to attempt to reign Westbrook in as he knows that he is one of the most exciting and energetic players in the NBA. Westbrook is a triple-double waiting to happen, and as the game of basketball has transformed into more of a perimeter game, he is ready to take his game to another level.

Westbrook’s decision to remain in Oklahoma City is a huge coup for Presti who had to watch Durant leave without getting anything in return, while also trading shooting guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012 after failed contract negotiations. Presti has shown that he can put together a quality team as the Thunder have won at least 50 games in five of the last seven seasons.

In spite of losing Durant and shooting guard Dion Waiters in free agency, while also trading center Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic, the Thunder still have a quality team that they can put around Westbrook which includes centers Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, along with shooting guard Victor Oladipo who was acquired from the Magic as Westbrook is now the undisputed leader in Oklahoma City.

The most recent piece of NBA history that can compare to the divorce of Durant and Westbrook was when the Los Angeles Lakers traded center Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. O’Neal’s departure from Los Angeles paved the way for shooting guard Kobe Bryant to emerge from the shadow of “The Big Diesel” which included Bryant averaging 35.4 points per contest during the 2005-2006 NBA season. And you can expect Westbrook to prepare for the upcoming NBA season with a huge chip on his shoulder as he has something to prove to himself, his teammates, his opposition, and Durant that he doesn’t have to play second fiddle to anyone.


What About Me?


By now you know that small forward Kevin Durant has decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors in free agency. The moves marks the end for one of the greatest players to ever suit up for the Seattle Supersonics/Thunder franchise as Durant was the team’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals (1,143) and second in points (17,566). Durant has left a lasting impact on Oklahoma City and his departure has opened up a ton of questions in regards to the future of point guard Russell Westbrook with the Thunder.

For the past eight years, Durant and Westbrook were one of the top duos in the NBA. Durant and Westbrook combined to help the Thunder go from a record of 23-59 during the 2008-2009 NBA season, to winning 50 games and making the postseason in 2010. Durant and Westbrook were also vital in the Thunder winning the Western Conference Championship in 2012, while that summer would also see them win gold medals as part of Team USA in the Summer Olympics. Durant and Westbrook are each regular fixtures at the NBA’s All-Star Game and it is hard to think about one without recognizing the other as they’ve been like peanut butter and jelly.

But with Durant having left Oklahoma City as an unrestricted free agent, it means that the Thunder didn’t get anything else than well wishes from the superstar when he decided to join the Warriors. And with Westbrook set to enter the final year of his contract, Thunder general manager Sam Presti is now on high alert about the status of their All-Star point guard.

With Durant taking his talents to Oakland, it doesn’t look like Westbrook wants to remain in Oklahoma City either which will make the next seven months very interesting there as the talents of “Trader Sam” will once again be on display. Presti is one of the better general managers that is currently in the NBA as he hasn’t been afraid to make trades that will return value to Oklahoma City.

In 2012 after being unable to come to agreement on a long-term extension with shooting guard James Harden, Presti traded him to the Houston Rockets which saw players such as center Steven Adams, along with guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb go to the Thunder. With the contract of center Serge Ibaka set to expire next summer, Presti traded him last month at the NBA Draft to the Orlando Magic in exchange for guard Victor Oladipo, power forward Ersan Ilyasova, and the draft rights to power forward Domantas Sabonis. And over the past few years Presti has made key in-season trades to beef up the Thunder’s postseason chances which included acquiring shooting guard Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers and center Enes Kanter from the Utah Jazz.

Durant’s departure definitely changes things as far as the Thunder being a title contender, but don’t expect Presti to allow Mr. Westbrook to catch a flight out of Oklahoma City without receiving something in return.

Sam Presti

Whereas Presti will seek to trade Westbrook, it will have to be to a team that believes that they will have a legitimate shot at locking up the point guard to a long-term deal. And as of right now Presti is holding all of the trump cards which means that he’ll more than likely look to ship Westbrook to the Eastern Conference where he wouldn’t compete with the Thunder for a playoff spot. But it doesn’t mean that Presti wouldn’t trade Westbrook inside of the Western Conference which was the situation with Harden in 2012. What has made Presti so good as a general manager has been his ability to be a forward thinker which means that he dictates the trades and holds all of the aces.

Whomever will acquire Westbrook will more than likely surrender a king’s ransom to the Thunder as Presti is going to do what’s best for his organization as far as keeping them competitive. But just as the folks in Oklahoma City are beginning to come to grips with the fact that Durant is gone, they might as well begin to think about Westbrook playing for another team as his days there appear to be numbered.


A Thunderous Defeat


A week ago life was good for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder had a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, and a trip to the NBA Finals appeared to be in the cards for them. But the Thunder were unable to seal the deal as they lost their next three games, with each defeat being more painful that the previous one. Now the Thunder have become a running gag on social media as some people are labeling them as “choke artists”, with their star players in point guard Russell Westbrook and small forward Kevin Durant being singled out. The Thunder enjoyed a terrific season as they won 55 games during the regular season en route to winning their fifth Northwest Division Title in the last six years. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Thunder got past the San Antonio Spurs who were viewed by many observers as the uncrowned NBA Champions. But after being so close to defeating the Warriors, the Thunder are left to ponder what could have been as they’ll be licking their wounds over the summer.

Kevin Durant

But the Thunder won’t be able to sulk for long as team general manager Sam Presti must formulate a plan to keep Durant in Oklahoma City. Durant is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and there are several teams in the NBA that will be putting on the full-court press in order to entice him to join them. However what the Thunder have going for them is that they can offer Durant more money than any other team, while roster wise they still possess a squad that is championship ready.

Presti must also decided if he is willing to re-sign shooting guard Dion Waiters. During the 2014-2015 NBA season, the Thunder acquired Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he became a valuable sixth man in Oklahoma City. Waiters made $5.1 million this season, but you can expect that he will be seeking a bigger payday over the summer, and it will be interesting to see if the Thunder are willing to commit to him on a long-term deal. However being that Waiters is a restricted free agent, the Thunder will have the opportunity to match any offer from another NBA team.

Other than Durant and Waiters, all the key players to the Thunder’s success are under contract at least through next season. Billy Donovan was solid in his first season as the head coach of the Thunder as he was brought in for his ability to deal with different personalities. And Donovan did a solid job of staying out of the way, while letting his players be.

But as good as the Thunder have been and can be, they are not going to get too many opportunities to win an NBA Championship like the one that they just had which was right within their grasp.

The Western Conference is still difficult with the likes of the Warriors, Spurs, and the emerging Portland Trailblazers. And the Thunder proved how difficult that winning the Western Conference can be as they’ll more than likely have to go through the Spurs and Warriors once more.

Russell Westbrook

Although that Westbrook didn’t enter the NBA as a point guard, he has evolved into one of the best in the league as he is a triple-double waiting to happen. And in the defeat to the Warriors, Westbrook showed that he is the heart and soul of the Thunder as he was a big reason why Oklahoma City was up 3-1 in the series due to his relentlessness at both ends of the court. With the deep run by the Thunder in the playoffs, I don’t see Durant leaving Oklahoma City as being there gives him the best chance of winning an NBA Championship which appears to be high on his list of priorities. The Thunder have rebounding in the form of centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, along with power forward Serge Ibaka. The Thunder also get interior defense from Ibaka and Adams, while Waiters and shooting guard Andre Roberson are solid perimeter defenders. But what the Thunder could benefit from is having another ball handler on the court coming down the stretch of games which would take some pressure off of Westbrook while allowing him the freelance more. And most importantly, the Thunder must find a way to finish.

What separated Golden State and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals was that the Warriors expected to win, while the Thunder hoped to win. The Warriors have been there and done it, which is why they are the defending NBA Champions and are still playing as the Thunder are not. Make no mistake about it that this version of the Thunder was better than the team that lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals. And if the Thunder can find a way to build off of this difficult defeat as opposed to allowing it to bring them down, they can once again be a very formidable team next season.

Source: Basketball-reference.com


The Magic Of Sam Presti


Sam Presti

Sam Presti has been an NBA general manager since 2007. Presti started as a GM in the front office of the Seattle Supersonics before they became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008. Presti’s first season saw the Sonics finish with a record of 20-62 which was the second worst record in the NBA, but they did have a building block that year in small forward Kevin Durant who would average 20.3 points per game and would be named the NBA’s Rookie of The Year. Presti would give Durant a running mate in 2008 when he selected guard Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall selection of the NBA Draft as the team was set to transition to Oklahoma City. With a young Durant and an even younger Westbrook, the Thunder would go 23-59 in their first season in Oklahoma City. The Thunder would use the third overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft on guard James Harden and Presti now had his core to build around. The following season would see the Thunder win 50 games and make the 2010 NBA Playoffs. And in 2012, the Thunder would win the Western Conference Championship. After the Thunder’s run to the NBA Finals in 2012, Presti would then begin to show even more of his savvy as a general manager.

With Harden up for a contract extension, the Thunder could not afford to give him, Durant and Westbrook maximum deals; especially after signing power forward Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million extension in August 2012. And after failing to sign Harden to a team friendly contract, Presti traded him to the Houston Rockets in a six-player deal that also saw the Thunder receive three draft picks just prior to the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Two of those picks would work out for the Thunder as they used them on center Steven Adams and power forward Mitch McGary who are growing into solid role players in Oklahoma City. Since trading Harden, the Thunder haven’t skipped a beat as they won 60 games during the 2012-2013 NBA season for the first time since 1997-1998 when they still called Seattle home. In the past five years the Thunder have become a consistent title contender as they also advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season.

Kevin Durant

Things would be tougher for the Thunder this season as Durant began the season in street clothes as he was recovering from a fractured foot. And it would become more complicated for the Thunder in their second game of the season when Westbrook suffered a fracture in his hand versus the Los Angeles Clippers that would sideline him for nearly a month.

The Thunder were without their two stars in Durant and Westbrook and it showed in their record as they began the season at 3-12. But the slow climb back to respectability has seen them get back above the .500 mark as they’re back in the playoff hunt.

Ever since returning to returning the Thunder lineup, Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking crew as he has scored in double figures in every contest. In Westbrook’s first game back he went for 32 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in a 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks on November 28 and earlier this month he scored for 45 points in a 102-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. In the past Westbrook developed a reputation as being a bit of a ball hog, but this season he is averaging 8.1 assists per game which is fifth in the NBA. On the season Westbrook has three triple-doubles to his credit including one this past Tuesday night in the Thunder’s 105-92 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the victory over the Pacers, Westbrook went for 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. For the month of February, Westbrook is averaging 10.1 assists per game and on the season he is averaging 26.2 points, 8.1 assists and 6.6 rebounds as he is in the discussion to be the NBA’s MVP.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s emergence as a better all-around player has been able to somewhat offset Durant’s absence. Durant missed the first month of the season as he was recovering from a fractured foot. That same foot has caused Durant to miss some time here and there after initially returning to the Thunder’s lineup, but he has been shutdown since February 19 after undergoing a minor procedure to reduce the pain in his foot and he will be re-evaluated soon. Durant is the reigning NBA MVP and on the season he is averaging 25.4 points. But at this point Durant is just trying to stay fresh for the stretch run and the postseason.

Scott Brooks

But aside from Durant and Westbrook, Presti has given Thunder head coach Scott Brooks a talented team to work with. Last month the Thunder acquired shooting guard Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal that included the Knicks. Waiters was fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Cavs, but during his time in Cleveland he and point guard Kyrie Irving were never on the same page. Waiters came to the Thunder and he has been a valuable sixth man off of the bench as Oklahoma City has needed a player that can somewhat fill the void that Harden left when he was traded a few years ago. Earlier I talked about Adams and McGary and how they are asserting themselves with the Thunder. In 2013, Adams was the 12th overall pick of the NBA Draft while McGary was the 21st overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Adams is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but when healthy he has shown drastic improvement this season as he is averaging 7.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. At 7’0″, Adams came to the Thunder being rather “green” after spending just one year in college at the University of Pittsburgh. Adams has a tremendous wing span and his overall game is only going to improve due to his athleticism. Like Adams, McGary left school early as well. After two years at the University of Michigan, McGary declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. But due to injuries and a positive test for marijuana, McGary’s stock fell; however he has found a home with the Thunder. And after missing the majority of the season due to injury, McGary has appeared in ten games for the Thunder as he is averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest.

Enes Kanter

And as if that weren’t enough for the Thunder, Presti added a slew of depth to his squad just prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. The Thunder acquired point guard D.J. Augustin from the Detroit Pistons. After being a first round pick of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2008, Augustin has bounced around the NBA and the Thunder are the sixth team that he has played for in the league. For his career Augustin has averaged 10.2 points and 4.1 assists and he can be veteran presence coming off of the bench for the Thunder. Presti also made a big splash when he acquired center Enes Kanter from the Utah Jazz. Kanter’s numbers have improved in each of his four years in the NBA and at 6’11”, he is another big body in the Thunder’s frontcourt to go along with Ibaka, McGary, and Adams as in the Western Conference you can never have enough big bodies when the postseason rolls around.

The Thunder have won nine out of their last ten games and they are currently in possession of the final spot in the Western Conference, but they are mowing down opponents in spite of the injury to Durant and that is mainly due to their depth which comes as a result of the ability of Presti. With the exception of selecting Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have drafted in the later part of the first round and they have come out smelling like a rose due to the fact that most of the teams that have been picking in front of Oklahoma City are clueless which makes Presti’s job that much easier. Presti has continued to push the right buttons with the Thunder and regardless of where they are seeded when the NBA Playoffs begin this spring, they are poised to contend for the NBA Championship.