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3 takeaways from Sam Presti’s 2020-21 exit interview

3 takeaways from Sam Presti’s 2020-21 exit interview

Thunder general manager Sam Presti met with the media on Thursday morning.

Here are three takeaways from that session:

This rebuild will take time

If some fans were expecting next year’s squad to push for the postseason, Presti re-iterated that OKC will not take shortcuts in this rebuild.

“When we do get back to the postseason, we want it to be an arrival, not an appearance,” Presti said. “We’re not interested in lowering our aspirations. We’ve been here for 13 years and have averaged about 50 wins a season. It takes time to retool. And the lottery will play a role with that.”

Oklahoma City’s first round pick next season is owed to Atlanta (from the Carmelo Anthony/Dennis Schroder trade), but it is lottery protected. Even if OKC lands a top-5 pick or two in this year’s draft, the Thunder will likely want to hold on to that pick to continue building out their young core.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander update

Presti was very complimentary of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s second season with the Thunder. Shai averaged a career-high 23.7 points per game and was one of the most efficient guards in the league.

“We created a pathway for him to lead the team,” Presti said. “He did exceptional with that opportunity. He helped a lot of our guys to improve. And that got much tougher without him on the court. That’s a sign of a great player. His best basketball is still in front of him.”

This is a big offseason for SGA, and for multiple reasons. First, he might play for Team Canada this summer depending on his health. Second, he’s eligible for a contract extension with OKC.

Presti said he was “excited” to get those conversations going about signing Shai to a longterm deal. The Thunder are expected to offer Shai the max as he enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2021-22.

Presti also sounded optimistic that Shai will be able to avoid surgery on his plantar fascia. He missed the second half of the season due to plantar fasciitis and only played in 35 games this season.

Draft strategy

Oklahoma City will find out its fate for the upcoming draft during the lottery on June 22. The Thunder have two potential top-5 picks.

There’s a 47.9 percent chance the Thunder will have the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, via the Rockets. OKC also has a 45.1 percent chance of its own pick landing in the top-4.

Presti said the Thunder will look at trading up or trading back, depending on how lottery night goes.

With OKC’s treasure chest of picks in future years (17 first rounders in the next seven drafts), consolidation by trading up makes more than trading back. But if there’s anything to take away from Presti’s press conference today, it’s that patience will be important moving forward.

The 2021 NBA Draft is on July 29.