It’s the biggest night of the season for the Oklahoma City Thunder: the NBA Draft Lottery. The drawing netted the Thunder picks #2 and #12 (via the Clippers) in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft. They’ll also be drafting at #30 via the Suns pick owed to OKC, which was not affected by the lottery.
This will be the first top-5 selection GM Sam Presti gets to make since 2009, when he filled out the first Thunder rebuild by taking James Harden. It’s a much better outcome than last season, when the Thunder dropped to #6 in the lottery after a bottom-4 finish in the standings. The full results for the draft can be seen here.
Sam Presti, just as he did last season, held a press conference two hours before the ping pong balls randomly decided the Thunder’s draft night fate. I’ll cut and paste the best bits from the media Draft Lottery media call and let you interpret them however you see fit.
I’m on record as saying that the lottery is a pretty unique night in the league. I think it’s one of the few nights that materially affects the future of the league in a way that’s pretty significant. It’s definitely a big night, not just for the Thunder but for the entire league and everyone that’s involved with it. With that being said, I think everybody understands that we have absolutely no control over how this night is going to go or how it’s going to play out, and in this case, the outcome matters a lot more than the odds. There are odds and there’s probabilities, but they matter very little because it’s not like they’re running the lottery simulation a hundred, 10, 15 times. They’re doing it once. The outcomes matter more than the odds here. We’ve had some experience with that.
This was how Presti opened his half-hour presser. My favorite bit is Sammy’s subtle acknowledgment that he knows Thunder fans are spending countless hours on Tankathon.com running simulations hundreds of times. But the real story is how Presti decided to temper expectations right away and say that this is all just luck and despite the Thunder having good odds at a top 5 pick, it’s hard to trust those ping pong balls.
There’s these big swings that can happen. You can be picking as low as eight, you could be picking as high as one. We just have to kind of understand that we have no control over that, and we’ll just roll with whatever the outcome is and make the most of it because that’s the system that we have. I do think it’s worth noting that since the last time we drafted in the top 5, it’s 2009, 80 percent of the league has drafted in the top 5, and beyond that, half of the league has drafted twice in the top 5, and one third of the league has drafted three times in that span, and I believe one team has drafted eight times in the top 5 since that point in time.
Take that, Justin Termine. Presti has got to be tired of blog boys and NBA social media accusing the Thunder of being the black-eye tankers of the league when they are a part of the 20% of the league that hasn’t had a top 5 pick in 13 years. If I’m Presti, I’m still reeling from the fact that OKC had a 75% chance at one top 5 pick and a 25% chance at two top 5 picks last season and ended up at #6 and #18. So tonight’s 58.5% chance at one top 5 pick is far from a guarantee of anything.
The NBA is not really like a chess game. In a chess game, everybody starts from the same place, have the same number of pieces, and you get to the end of the game and you start over and everybody goes back to the same square, goes back to the same starting point. The NBA is more like poker, where you get a very random hand and you have to play the hand that you’re given. Those hands can be dealt to you in different ways. Could be the outcome of the lottery, could be different things. I think the real skill comes in being able to play the hands that you’ve been dealt over time to the best of your ability and to be able to stay in the game to continue to have future hands. A lot of times I think chess is a really good example of things that go well, but I think in relation to the NBA, I think the NBA is more like poker because of the uncertainties and the fact that so much of it is out of your hand, and everyone is starting from a different starting point.
First off, let’s give credit where it’s due. This sounds like a razor sharp monologue straight out of The Wire. Presti just randomly dropping bars in the middle of a lottery press conference. But the bigger point, once again, is how this is all luck and chance. And it all seems to be doused with a bit of after shock skepticism that the Thunder will be dealt a winning hand by the ping pong balls.
I think the number one thing that we’ve learned is that no matter what happens in any scenario as an organization, we’re never going to let a bad night drag us down. We’re going to just keep persisting. We’re going to keep thinking, we’re going to keep grinding away.
Is it just me, or does anyone else feel their season-long hope and optimism of a top 4 lottery pick slowly slipping away?
As we set out to reposition, replenish and ultimately rebuild our team, we knew that it would be a series of drafts. We didn’t know where those draft picks would be, but this is our second — this is going to be our second draft, and it’s a big night for us to just find out where it is we’re going to be drafting from. We’re really excited about that.
Don’t do that. Don’t give me hope.
Regardless of the outcome tonight. We know we don’t have any ownership of it, even if it goes well. We don’t have any control over it if it goes poorly. But it’s a great experience, and I think it’s something that all of our fans should embrace and everybody should embrace for what it is, which is a pretty — it’s kind of a pretty wacky way to help teams or have any type of strategy attached to it in terms of team building or business building. But that’s the system, and experience for what it is.
Okay thank you, hope for a top 5 pick officially waning again.
Luck and chance play a huge role of success in sports. Luck plays a much bigger role in all our lives than we’d like to admit. It puts an enormous amount of weight on something that is not skill based.
Once again, Presti is spitting facts. Unpopular ones at that. And once again, tempering expectations for lucky ping pong balls tonight.
But let’s end this with the best quote of the night and the one that should rekindle any and every Thunder fan’s inner optimist. Here is Sam Presti explaining why he chose Nick Collison to represent OKC at the Draft Lottery:
He guaranteed a successful evening. It only cost me a statue. I said that’s fine, but the statue won’t be of you playing, it’ll be of you holding up a card.
I mean, surely Mr. Thunder will stay true to a personal guarantee, right? Here’s hoping we see construction on a card-carrying Collison outside the Paycom Center come 2023.