Thunder Prepares for Draft with Diligence

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Year after year, the Thunder has approached its work on the basketball court with a process over outcome mentality. The work put in today will pay dividends for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.

That strategy has panned out and then some as the Thunder has gone to four Western Conference Finals in the past six seasons, but it’s not just a philosophy that the players utilize. It’s the modus operandi for the entire organization. On Thursday night, the Thunder enters the 2016 NBA Draft without any selections, but General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti has ensured that his staff is just as prepared as ever for one of the most exciting nights of the NBA calendar.

Still, it’s a new and unique circumstance for the Thunder, but one that the team is using constructively to maintain its processes.

“We're truly an organization of firsts,” Presti quipped. “We're still not 10 years old, and we haven't encountered the situation yet.”

The reason the Thunder doesn’t have selections in this draft is because of two trades made over the past two seasons, both of which netted guards that played heavy minutes in the Thunder’s eight-man rotation in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors and in the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.

Back in 2015, the Thunder traded its 2016 first round selection (number 26 overall) for Dion Waiters, who averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Thunder in the regular season. In the playoffs, Waiters averaged 8.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 27.3 minutes per game while shooting 37.5 percent from the three-point line. His distinct toughness, attitude and intensity allowed Waiters to stay on the floor against high level opponents for long stretches of time.

This February, the Thunder traded its two second round picks (numbers 53 and 56 overall) when it acquired Randy Foye. The veteran guard served as both backup point guard and as a shooting guard for the Thunder over the final four months of the season, providing leadership, physicality and ball-handling. In the regular season, Foye averaged 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 21.2 minutes per game. In the postseason, Foye played 11.9 minutes per game, filling in during some crucial times as he averaged 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.

“We felt like that was the right decision for us, and I think it'll be fun to prepare for a draft with we have to be more creative,” Presti said.

“I'm actually kind of excited by it because it's an opportunity to approach the draft in a different way,” Presti added. “It's a way to use our creativity and imagination in ways we haven't. So I'm kind of excited to see where it leads us.”

Regardless of the number of selections the Thunder has coming into the draft, its preparation is the same. Presti’s staff diligently gathers and sifts through all available information in order to make the best possible decisions, and that will be in action once again on Thursday night. Regardless of whether the Thunder makes a move to get into the draft or not, the team is poised to act on its intel and trust in the process that has bred success year after year.

“We will prepare for the draft like we're picking 60 times, no different than we've ever done or prepared for any draft,” Presti further explained. “But we can use our minds a little bit differently, trying to decide how to get in, and if we were to get in and who to get in and who to get in for. I'm kind of looking forward to that.”

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The 2016 NBA Draft begins at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday night and will be broadcast live on ESPN. 

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