OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — If the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to build a dynasty, they made need to have success at Monopoly first — or at least the NBA’s version of it.
“The draft is just like a board game where you pass `GO’ and you get a free chance to improve,” general manager Sam Presti said. “We’ve got to figure out the best way to use that. Sometimes it’s not drafting a player. Sometimes it’s using it to push it down the line or some other way to help the business. We’ll look at everything.”
Perhaps no team has played this particular game better in recent years, with All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus Sixth Man of the Year James Harden and NBA blocks leader Serge Ibaka all coming through the team’s own first-round draft picks over the past five years.
After losing in the NBA Finals, the Thunder aren’t supposed to pick until the 28th choice in the first round on Thursday night. That’s the team’s only pick of the night right now because Oklahoma City shipped its second-round choice to Minnesota in the preseason trade for reserve Lazar Hayward.
The Thunder also lost one of its second-round picks for next year when the league awarded it to Boston on Tuesday as part of a dispute over the Jeff Green-Kendrick Perkins trade.
Presti has a habit of making frequent moves on draft night, though, and despite Oklahoma City making it all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to Miami in five games, there could be some holes he needs to fill.
Veterans Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey are all free agents and another group of players — including Harden and Ibaka — will be up for new contracts if they aren’t re-signed by the end of next season. So, Presti may be in the market for backup plans in case he’s not able to keep the Thunder’s core together as he’s successfully done for the past few years.
It could also be an opportunity to find some relatively cheap labor to play alongside Durant and Westbrook, who already have multimillion-dollar deals for the long-term, if he also has to spend big to keep Harden and Ibaka.
“We’re going to look to see what’s there that might be able to add to our team whether it’s now or in the future,” Presti said.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re looking to move our draft pick. I’ve read that some places. If there’s a player on the board that we feel like fits our organization, fits our identity, we’ll draft them. If we feel like there’s a better way to use the draft pick, then we’ll look at that.”
Presti batted away Harden’s suggestion after the season that Oklahoma City could be on its way to building a dynasty, joking that his top bench player was more of a 1980s TV aficionado than him.
“We have a long way to go as an organization before we start talking about things in those terms,” Presti said. “It’s part of what I love about James is his confidence but at the same time … this organization has to be thinking about how we do things and not pointing to what we want to do.”