Thunder GM Sam Presti shows up at Oklahoma State practice
By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Buzz continues to build around the Oklahoma State hoops program, with an impressive 5-0 start vaulting them up to 15th in the latest AP rankings.
And you can count Sam Presti as one of those interested in seeing what the sudden rise is about.
Oklahoma City’s general manager showed up in Stillwater on Thursday afternoon, planted himself in a Gallagher-Iba Arena seat and took in the Cowboys practice, as they prepare for Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech.
Presumably, Presti was there to scout Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash, OSU’s two stars who have been projected as potential first-round picks.
Smart’s the most intriguing of the pair, a talented freshman point guard who has completely changed the program’s culture since his arrival. He is averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks through his first five games, bringing immediate leadership and a defensive mentality that’s rubbed off on those around him.
It’s fair to say, even at his young age, Smart possesses the character traits that fit into the Thunder culture. And that alone likely piqued Presti’s interest, enticing him enough to make the hour trip up I-35 for an extended look.
And it also allows him a chance to scout Nash, a 6-foot-7 wing scorer who’s got an NBA body but questionable motor. Last season, his effort and body language were constantly scrutinized, lowering his draft stock and forcing the once ‘one-and-done lock’ to come back for another year.
But Nash has impressed so far through five games, averaging a consistent 19.4 points and 6.4 rebounds (at least 16 and 5 in every game). And his improved attitude has also been evident, with more defensive effort and a willingness to do the little things.
In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Nash was slated as the 12th best prospect. One Eastern Conference scout even told SI’s Chris Mannix ‘He has that Carmelo Anthony way of drawing contact. He could get half his points from the line this season.’
In next June’s draft, the Thunder could have up to three first-round draft picks. OKC has its own, Dallas’ (top-20 protected) and Toronto’s (top-3 and 15-30 protected).
There’s no guarantee either of these in-state underclassmen declare, Smart particularly. But if and when they do, OKC should have a prime chance to snag them.
And Sam Presti, as always, is hard at work figuring out if that option appeals to him.
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