NBA Draft 2020 – Q&A with Sam Presti
Over his 13 years running basketball operations for the Thunder, General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti has been extremely active in terms of transactions and making the most out of draft night. What that means, however, is that oftentimes any moves that are made during the draft cannot be discussed immediately after the draft ends. Instead, they must go through league approval and be officially announced through the Thunder organization.
As a result, Presti used the early morning hours on Thursday to discuss a wider view of draft night. That started with the physical – under the safety protocols required at the Thunder ION to remain safe from COVID-19, the Thunder’s draft room and set up looked strikingly different than it typically does. Thunder scout Ryan Lambert and the Thunder’s Vice President of Human & Player Performance Donnie Strack collaborated to ensure the building was set up for a successful draft night.
“We had tremendous contributions from our IT group tonight and our medical group tonight, just to keep the environment in a way that allowed everyone to partake in it safely,” Presti said.
A room that’s usually jam-packed with scouts from all over the world had just seven people in it on Wednesday night, and the Thunder’s new head coach, Mark Daigneault was in the building as well. Another five staffers dialed in over video conference from the bullpen in a different section of the building, while another few were set up in the theater room where the Thunder watches film. To prevent unnecessary travel during a global pandemic, international scouts like Massimo Biasin, stationed in Italy, joined a very busy draft conference call from across seven time zones and the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the circumstances, the Thunder felt confident coming out of the 2020 Draft, and grateful for the people in the organization that helped it all come together.
“Each time we have a draft night, obviously a lot of time culminates into one singular day, but the teamwork of the staff up and down the entire organization, but especially with the scouting department and the strategy group and the medical group, everyone involved in the draft, it's really a special thing to be a part of,” Presti said.
Presti’s opening statement:
“It's a continuation of the things that we've talked about since last summer, which is continually trying to reposition the team after 12 years of extremely high performance results, and ultimately continuing to try to replenish our flexibility and tools for us to continue to build a platform for an elite team going forward but full well knowing that that's going to take time.”
On the goals heading into the draft:
“You're looking to generate value for the organization. That can be future value or present value. You're looking to create options for yourself as a team … You do your best to kind of shift the odds in your favor to try to find someone that can be an NBA player. Finding NBA players is really hard, especially on the first try. The more opportunities you have at that, generally the better.”
On how international scouting has changed:
“There are great players overseas and great American players that are playing overseas that absolutely can play in the NBA. There's a lot of talent over there. But I can't say that there's one thing that's changed, but I just think there's really good players all over the world, and we're seeing that all the time in the NBA.”
On Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque, who were acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns:
“Ty Jerome is a very, very skilled and very cerebral player. He is like a dogged worker and just a guy that really understands the game at an extremely high level. And he's a great shooter, so he does a lot of things well.”
“Lecque is a young player with tremendous, tremendous athleticism. He's got a lot of force to his game ... I'm looking forward to getting to know him a little bit better. He’s a young player, and we have to get him here and kind of get a baseline to where he is with everything, get a sense of what the plan will be for him.”
On the percentage of drafted players who actually become NBA rotation players:
“We're always trying to shift the odds with as much information as possible, and we're not afraid to take some risk. I think risk is an important part of trying to gain advantage, and we've always been willing to take some of that and realize that -- anyone that thinks you're going to be hitting like 50 percent is not really familiar with the NBA Draft or draft history in general. You're going to always be able to name a lot more guys that probably don't pan than do. But if you can get a couple that can be with you for a really long time and help build a foundation, then you have a chance to do something in this league that's really hard to do, which is sustain something. There's a lot of hard work that has to go into that and a lot of things have to line up.”
"Finding NBA players is really hard, especially on the first try. The more opportunities you have at that, generally the better."
Return to okcthunder.com for additional updates as draft night transactions become officially announced as well as for more information about the start of 2020 training camp in December and the start of the upcoming season.