Thunder Excited About Four Young Talents

On NBA Draft night, excitement buzzes through both ends of the phone as players and teams make their first communication to embark on a new chapter of their basketball lives.

For an organization that has been built primarily through the draft, the Thunder looks to the night every June when it can add new talent as an opportunity to enhance the team. That infusion of young players has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of the organization, which is why General Manager Sam Presti and Assistant General Manager Troy Weaver were so excited to acquire Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines and Grant Jerrett on Thursday night.

“As you look around professional sports and you look at the high performing organizations and the organizations we want to model, it’s consistent that they’re able to continually bring in and layer their rosters with young, developing talent,” Presti said. “It also creates a culture of development. We’re excited to have these young men as a part of the organization.”

Adams is a skilled, athletic 7-footer who possesses physicality and toughness, Roberson is an elite rebounder at 6-foot-7 with the ability to defend multiple positions, Abrines is a highly multi-talented guard playing for a prestigious European squad and Jerrett is a big forward with sharp-shooting ability from three-point land. What all of these players have in common are the physical characteristics that the Thunder looks for in every player. Length, size for position, quickness and athleticism are all traits that Presti and Weaver believe translate well to the NBA. With those skill sets in place, the Thunder can then help players grow and improve in its development system.

“We look at those things and we value those attributes,” Weaver said. “These guys lined up with that and we’re excited to have a chance with these guys. You look at the length of all of them, it’s plus. Size for the position, that’s a way that we’ve been able to build the team and quite frankly that’s the way we’re going to be able to sustain it.”

“We want to try to hit on specific areas that help us, help the player, put them in position to be successful and then ultimately allow them to help us win basketball games at a high level,” Presti said. “That’s part of the development process the organization has adopted. It’s a holistic thing.”

At 19 years old, Adams, Abrines and Jerrett all have youth on their side and an organization that values continual, daily improvement, while the 21-year old Roberson possesses a unique skill set that can augment the roster as it stands. In the years to come, all four players will have an opportunity to supplement the core of the Thunder squad. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka serving as the nucleus, Presti and his staff have found players whose abilities match up and can help the unit as a whole be more complete.

“One of the things about our team that we will always have to keep in mind is that the core group is really still evolving and growing,” Presti said. “We look at it as a real opportunity to be able to continue to bring in young players that we feel like fit our profile on and off the floor but also complement the core that we have in place.”

Regardless of whether these four young men spend their entire careers with the Thunder or just a short amount of time, each can say they were drafted by the Thunder and a vital component to the history of the franchise. After five years in Oklahoma City, the Thunder is still cementing itself as an organization and players like Adams, Roberson, Abrines and Jerrett will all have a say in the standards the team holds itself to on a daily basis for years to come. The mark they place on the city and the organization will be felt not only now but in the future.

“I believe that the draft is a big part of building your environment and your identity and your culture,” Presti said. “It’s even that much more important as you’re establishing an identity for an organization.”

While Abrines will remain in Spain, Adams, Roberson and Jerrett will all be officially introduced on Saturday. Each man will begin the process of getting acclimated to Oklahoma City, their coaching staff and new teammates as they prepare for a full summer of working out and honing their skills.

Starting with Summer League in Orlando, the latter trio will get the chance to work on their craft and be as well-prepared as possible for next season. No matter where or how much they play next season, Presti and his staff is confident that the four players they acquired on Thursday night will be focused and determined to play Thunder Basketball and be a member the Oklahoma City community.

“Each player has a clear expectation of what is expected of them walking in the door in the organization,” Presti said. “They’ll come in ready to work. I think they’ll come in understanding that being a part of the organization is also being a part of this community. That’s a very important part to playing here.”