As Sam Presti approached the microphone donning a simple blue denim button-down and rolled-up sleeves, Thunder loyalists tuned in to listen to him speak. The Executive Vice President and General Manager, heading into his 15th year with the organization, set the expectations for Thunder fans heading into 2022-23 as he talked about how young the current roster is, what obstacles they will face, and how the franchise is approaching the upcoming NBA season.
The common theme throughout the lengthy opening statement centered around patience and process. Presti really leaned on the fact that the team is incredibly young, saying, “We project to be probably about the second youngest team in the history of the NBA,” the Thunder GM said. “I don’t think anybody would say that we’re not a work in progress.”
Indeed, the Thunder are a work in progress after finishing last in the league in various statistics that measure team success. The average age of the current active roster is 23.2 years old. If you remove the two oldest players from the equation, veterans Mike Muscala and Derrick Favors, that number drops to just 22.2 – an age that is lower than some players who are drafted. And if last season is any indication, Favors and Muscala do not project to play a significant amount of minutes.
When discussing the challenges that will face the Thunder this season, Presti made sure to emphasize that he wants the team to focus on competing physically, mentally, and emotionally, noting exactly how difficult it is for younger professionals to do so year in and year out. The general manager then brought forth the topic of distractions, calling them “headwinds for younger teams in sports.” He also cautioned his players to not get overly concerned with statistics and accomplishment, sharing how those might fit within the framework of the team.
Presti also explained how communication can affect Oklahoma City’s younger players.
“They communicate with people who aren’t with the team those people’s incentives may not be what’s best for the team,” and warned against “letting other people set the agenda for what’s important or what the priorities should be."
The 44-year-old executive turned his sights to social media calling it great and saying it can be positive before exclaiming that, “it really has nothing to do with winning basketball games. If anything, it’s probably more directed towards luring you away from that.”
Presti added that he thought the sooner a young teams understand that distraction, the better, and called avoiding it, “the price of admission for being an NBA player.”
As this iteration of the Thunder prepares for the start of the season, it appears the organization is working proactively to face these challenges and keep the team’s focus on basketball. With the uptick in social media use and mental health awareness in the modern NBA, the franchise has its work cut out for them. Presti didn’t appear to be too worried about distractions, however. “I think our guys are spot on with this stuff.”
The general manager also made it clear that he thinks he has a pretty long runway with this particular team, sharing his excitement about the prospects of Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren’s tenures overlapping with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s upcoming prime. Presti says some of the players have improved physically over the summer and implored media members to take note of that. He also made it clear that he thinks the team can succeed in the short-term if they prepare and prioritize the right things, stating, “I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”