Sam Presti was active in the trade market on Draft Night, just not in the way most Thunder fans may have expected.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to engineer a move up in the draft, as every team in the top five stayed put to acquire talent on their own.
It was always going to be an uphill battle moving up into the top five, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on OKC’s end.
“I think every single team in the league is looking to try to maneuver through there so we had a lot of people trying to get our pick at six,” Presti said in his post-draft Zoom press conference in the early hours of Friday morning. “There are a few things we looked at, but relative to like, were we close anything? I don't know, the other teams only ones that know that, but we looked at a lot of different variables.”
Rumors and smokescreens rule the run up to the draft, but it was always unlikely that any of the five franchises ahead of the Thunder, who all suffered through poor results on the court in 2021 themselves, were going to part ways with a top five pick considering the talent available in the 2021 draft.
That didn’t stop Presti from finding great value elsewhere, however.
Entering the night, it was always unlikely the Thunder took all three of their first-round selections.
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Many thought OKC would package picks 16 and 18 in an attempt to move up.
But when no moves happened, many raised their eyebrows when Oklahoma City in fact moved back at pick 16.
Working in a deal with the Houston Rockets, the Thunder ended up deal the 16th pick in a rare move, acquiring two future first round picks. When all the cards were laid out on the table, Presti said the move was a no-brainer.
“With the 16th Pick, that's you know that's a it's obviously a really solid pick. It's very unusual to get offered two future firsts that far out,” he said. “We obviously are looking at the value and the just the overall valuation of the of the pick. And then the other team tells us who they want to pick, so we traded 16 to get two really solid future first round picks, and we really liked Tre Mann and felt like we'd be able to get him a little bit later at 18.”
And that’s exactly what happened. The Rockets took center Alperen Sengun with the 16th pick, and the Thunder were able to acquire Mann at pick No. 18 anyways and come out of the ordeal two first round picks richer.
“There's really nothing more to it than that,” Presti said. “It was way above the line for the general value of that pick. And, you know, we're gonna probably make that decision most of time.”
Finally, the Thunder moved up from picks 34 and 36 to take Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl at pick No. 32.
“He's a player that we've liked for some time. I think he's a really good fit for our organization,” Presti said. “We felt like it was a priority to make sure that we acquired him with one of those picks, but we weren't sure exactly if he was going to be on the board just based on some of our some of our intelligence.
“And so it made sense to consolidate those based on what we thought the valuations were going to be at 36.”
Pair in their trade for Derrick Favors after the draft, and the Thunder were able to come away from the 2021 NBA Draft with four selections as well as three future first round picks.