General manager Sam Presti had a 14 1/2 minute teleconference following Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery. The Thunder moved up a spot and got the third pick in the draft, and Presti talked about the prospects that are expected to be available at No. 3, whether he’s open to trading the pick, whether to move up or down, and what it was like to be locked in the room where all the magic happened. The transcript is quite long, but I’ll post it in its entirity.
SP: Well first, we’re thrilled as an organization to be picking third. We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us to add a player that we think can grow with our team as we continue to build the franchise. It’s a great day for our fans. We’re truly excited for them as well because this will be their inaugural draft. We’ll welcome another player into the Thunder family, and our fans have been incredibly supportive throughout the season and continue to be. So we’re ready to start to get to work, get to know this group of players on a more intimate level and we’re thrilled that we moved up a spot.
Q: What is the likelihood that you will examine a trade, whether up or down?
A: At this point in the year we’re charged with examining everything. We’ll take calls. We’ll make calls. It’s like that every year. This year we’ll approach it the same way that we have every year, which is we’ll take a look at everything and ultimately decide what’s best for the organization.
Q: What are your early impressions of Hasheem Thabeet and do you think he could be what this team needs as far as interior defense?
A: We’ve followed him as we have all the players in the draft and we’ll continue to study him more. He’s had a nice career in college and he’s someone that we’ll look at in the group of players that we continue to study. Much will be said up until the draft about players will go here and players will go there. I can tell you that we won’t have it all figured out. We continue to do our work, collect information and on the 25th we’ll be ready to make a pick.
Q: Is comparing Thabeet to Tyson Chandler a fair comparison?
A: I really don’t get into comparing guys from college with guys that have been in the league for a long time. I think we just have to continue to evaluate the players on their own merit. And we’ll take a look at what fits for our organization and our team. As I’ve said before we’re pretty excited about the fact that we’re going to add a player that we feel like has the opportunity to grow with our team and our organization. So tonight was a pretty exciting night having moved up a spot in the lottery.
Q: What was it like behind the scenes being locked in the room?
A: It was an interesting experience with how the process is done. It’s a lot of numbers (laughs). But it’s exciting because you walk out of the room and you have clarity on where you’re picking. And it’s a great starting point for our staff. We’ve got a great scouting staff, a group of people that are concentrating on finding players that fit our organization and fit our identity. And I’m really excited to work with them as the draft really begins to pick up steam now.
Q: Knowing where you were picking, did you have any empathy for Scott Brooks who is thinking he might get No. 1?
A: It was kind of funny knowing the outcome ahead of time. It was kind of tough. But once you get into that top three in any draft you know that you’re having a good night. I was excited for Scott. I think he represents so many of the things that we want to be. And he has passion for this organization, especially his passion for the vision of this basketball team. Knowing that we’re going to add a player that he’s going to have a chance to coach and build a relationship with and put in the mix with our other players, it was fun to watch him on stage.
Q: Can you speak to the leverage the third pick could possibly give you if you wanted to make a trade and move up?
A: I don’t want to sound too obvious, but having the third pick is a lot better than having the fourth. And when you have three you wish you had two. But this is definitely a great position for us to be in. I think we’ll definitely get some phone calls and we’ll have some options. We also like the group of players that will be there. I’m excited because this is a fun time of year for our organization. We feel like we have a good energy to what we’re doing, and having a chance to pick third only helps push the momentum behind what we’re trying to accomplish in Oklahoma City.
Q: Can you give me your impressions of Jordan Hill and James Harden?
A: Both are good players, had good college careers. We’re excited to meet those guys in addition to Hasheem. And we’ll look at several other players. But in terms of getting into the specifics, clearly that’s not something that we can do. I’m sure you guys will have plenty to say and write about that in the next couple of weeks. But we’re just excited to be in the position that we are.
Q: Can you speak to how those two, especially Harden, might fit on this team?
A: No. I think that we’ll continue to evaluate the players and we’ll do that internally.
Q: Where do you think this draft ranks compared to some of the others?
A: I wish I had the answers like that. We’re really focused on finding the best player for us at that pick. Is it a weak draft or a strong draft? It’s not our job to really evaluate that as much as it is to evaluate what the best thing to do is with that pick at three in this particular season. We like the draft. It’s a chance to add a player. It’s a chance to add a talented young player that can grow with your team and your organization. And that’s not just with the third pick, that’s with any pick. In any draft these picks have value. We’ll explore what we can do with this pick and where it’ll help make us a better team.
Q: Now that you know where you’re picking and know what caliber of player you can invite for workouts, how will the evaluation process play out now that you know where you are?
A: We’ll get on the phone and start to try to get a group of guys to come into town that we want to work with and get to know. It’s going to be coupled with the information that we’ve gathered over the years on them as players and people. And it’s just another piece of information that we’ll use to make our decision. But you’ve got to ultimately make a decision with the best information you have at that time. The workouts allow that and for a little bit of additional information. We’ll take it all in stride and go from here.
Q: Is Rubio definitely in this draft?
A: That’s probably a question for him. It’s not something that I can really answer. In the coming weeks I’m sure we’ll get more clarity as to ultimately what specific players’ plans are. Right now, that’s probably a question that’s better posed to him.
Q: You’re in a position to go big or small. Which way are you leaning right now?
A: Again, we have to go through the process. We just have to continue to evaluate the players that are going to be on the board at that point. We can’t predict what happens so we have to be ready for every scenario. That’s what we’ll work through with our staff and we’ll have that answer on the 25th as to what we do with the pick in order to make us a better basketball team moving forward.
Q: Do you anticipate this being the last year for awhile where you go into the lottery with a decent chance at a high pick?
A: Our goal every year is to continue to win ball games, improve and get better. You don’t want to be in that situation consistently. But what we’ve been focused on from Day One is building a team that we feel plays together well, competes on both ends of the floor and can grow together. I don’t want to put any limitations on the group that we have because I know that it’s a hard-working group. It’s a group that cares about getting better, and we’re hopeful that we continue to grow and move forward.
Q: Do you anticipate any scenario by which, if you did have a trade situation, you would move one of your core players?
A: We really like the core of our group. We think that they continue to grow together and have shown progress each step of the way. It’s the NBA so you never know what potentially can happen. But we feel pretty strongly about those guys and we feel like they’re our type of guys. And we look forward to looking at this draft and trying to add someone to that group. But it just would be irresponsible for me to say this will never happen. You just don’t know what happens in the draft. But we like our group. We think we’re going in the right direction and we’re excited about adding someone to that group.
Q: Can you speak to the process of the lottery? Are you a fan of the way the system works?
A: I don’t think you’ll ever find anything that’s going to make everybody happy. But I think that’s the case in every business in some respect. It’s a random thing, and we could have easily walked out of here with the seventh pick. And tonight we walked out of here with the third and moved up. But it’s not something that we can really control. It’s the process that’s in place and we’ll take the results of it each year and how the draft works and we’ll move from there.
Q: How soon will you start to bring more players in for draft workouts?
A: It’s something that takes a little bit of time just because there are logistics involved and coordination involved. Our group is going to start on that immediately. It doesn’t mean that everybody you schedule comes in the following week because players have to see several different teams. But we’re very confident that we’ll have a chance to look at the players that will be evaluated for our pick. It may not be the first week or the second week, but we’ll get a look at everyone, get to know them as people and have enough time to evaluate what the best use of our draft pick is this year. But again, starting the evening, to go from four to three is a great thing for our organization. It’s great for our fans. I’m really excited about what June 25 holds for us and also for our fans in our community. So we’re ready to get to work.