By Michael Kinney
If Sam Presti ever wants to give up his job as General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, their is a seat waiting for him on the No Limit poker tour. Or some grand master chess champion.
For the second time since the 2016-17 season ended, Presti has seemingly pushed his chips all in to the center of the table to acquire talent when no one thought he had the cards to do it.
The latest move came Saturday afternoon when multiple outlets reported Oklahoma City had finalized a trade with the New York Knicks that would bring 10-time All Star Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder. This all happened 24 hours after Presti held his annual state of the Thunder press conference and gave no hints this type of move was in the works.
“I think it’s also important to say that with respect to the season that we have, obviously in a few days, on Tuesday we’ve got to put our attention on just that day and understand that we have to take care of each day, day by day, but I also think that we’re really excited about the potential for this team over the long-term,” Presti said Friday. “We feel that this team is kind of at a launching point to continue to grow and get better, as I said before, due to the age of the team, the versatility of the group, and the upside that we think the team has over time. We’re going to go and kind of focus in on the day and the season, but we also feel like there’s an incredible platform and opportunity for the future of the team, and we’re really excited about both the season and beyond.”
When Presti made that statement, no one seemed to know he had been in talks with New York for at least two weeks about bringing Anthony to Oklahoma City. It wasn’t until late Friday that news of Anthony adding the Thunder to his short list of teams he would agree to be traded to hit the wires. That came after Russell Westbrook and Paul George acted as recruiters and convinced him Oklahoma City was good for him.
Then by Saturday morning, the deal was complete, according to reports, and the NBA world was knocked on its heals once again. The smallest market in the league had taken on Anthony and his $54 million contract over the next two years.
In exchange for Anthony, the Thunder had to part with a 2018 second round pick, forward Doug McDermott and center Enes Kanter.
Even though Kanter was seen as a liability on defense, he was Oklahoma City’s best interior scorer.
But in losing Kanter, the Thunder also lose the one player on the team who seemed to really want to be in Oklahoma City. He made it known how great the city and state was constantly. That is not something any of the other members, new or old, can be counted on to do.
Yet, what the Thunder do gain is a 33-year old that may be past his prime, but is still a proven scorer. In his last season with the Knicks Anthony averaged 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
Anthony has long been tagged as only numbers player who can’t win a championship. He has never come close to playing for an NBA title.
However, Oklahoma City will be the best roster he has played on in his career. That includes his years in Denver.
Bringing in Anthony, George, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton in the same offseason shows the Thunder are in a win now mode. Presti and his staff don’t have the luxury acting like they have years in front of them like they did in 2012. This year’s $134 million payroll shows that.
None of these moves guarantee Westbrook will sign the 5-year, 207 million contract offer from the Thunder by the Oct. 16 deadline or that George will stay with the team when the season is over.
But during Presti’s press conference Friday, he may have gave a little hint of where his mindset is. While talking talking about making the trade for George, he could easily have been saying the same thing about Anthony.
“It’s hard to acquire a player like that, and I think when you have a chance to do that, I think you have to be decisive,” Presti said. “I think there’s no way to do that in trade unless you’re willing to take on some risk. But I think we go into that eyes wide open because it’s rare to get a player that caliber with where our team currently is and with the fact that if things go well, it could be the continuation of or extension of a very long run of success in Oklahoma City, starting in 2009, ’10, so to speak. But I just think you’ve got to be willing to act when a rare opportunity comes along because if you don’t, you know, you’ll be waiting.”
The Thunder are no longer playing the waiting game.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com