Opinions still vary on the soon-to-be newest Thunder player, Cole Aldrich, but on one item there can be no debate.
General manager Sam Presti has a plan. He has not, does not, will not deviate from the plan. Presti's blueprint is to build a franchise on solid rock. High character, selfless, defensive-minded.
That pretty well sums up Aldrich, the Kansas ox who some say will be a defensive difference-maker and others say will be a career role player but no one says ever will be a malcontent.
Aldrich has the Thunder's DNA, a favorite term around Camp Presti.
I guess you could quibble with Presti's plan, though I don't know why anyone would. But just having a plan puts the Thunder way ahead of the game.
Some NBA franchises wake up in a new world every day. Some gut their roster on the pipedream of signing superstars, because that's easier than actually scouting ballplayers or knowing what you're doing. Some can't handle a plan; the Trail Blazers fired general manager Kevin Pritchard the other day even though he has resurrected the Portland franchise with a model that even Presti envies.
Every move since Presti took over three Junes ago has been calculated, with DNA and salary cap considerations always in the foreground.
As for this draft, personally, I would have been thrilled by any Thunder draft that didn't include trading away Jeff Green. You kept hearing rumblings that Green might be available for swap, but we never should have worried, because again, that would have gone against the plan.
Green is a tremendous athlete who plays defense, doesn't seem to mind that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are options A and B, and is very popular in the clubhouse.
Presti's plan is to fill the roster with guys like Green, not get rid of them.
And that's why we should have seen the Aldrich pick coming. It combined the two tenets of Presti's regime: a high quality person and assets obtained with sleight of hand.
The Thunder started the week with four picks: 21, 26, 32 and 51. Without trading a ballplayer or a future first-round draft pick, Presti turned those pedestrian selections into Aldrich with the 11th overall pick; Daequan Cook, a Heat sharpshooter as recently as 2008-09; old pro Morris Peterson, who probably won't be asked to join the roster but you never know; 7-foot German project Tibor Pleiss; second-round draft picks Ryan Reid of Florida State and Latavious Williams of Tulsa's D-League team; and a future first-round Clippers pick.
Talk about producing something out of nothing. This was a Stone Soup draft, whether or not the Thunder hits the mother lode with Aldrich.
The mother lode would be Kendrick Perkins. That's who the Thunder brass hopes Aldrich can become. The 6-foot-10 Perkins is the Celtics' rugged paint protector; one of the league's best defensive centers.
Aldrich is listed at 6-11 and measures 6-9, but either way, he's only an inch difference from Perkins and comes into the league with much more expectation and experience. Perkins was a high school entry, drafted 27th overall in 2003 by Memphis for Boston. He didn't play much his first two years but has been an underrated cornerstone of the Celtic Renaissance.
If Aldrich is Kendrick Perkins, hurry up, OKC, and build that downtown park. We're going to need it for an NBA title celebration.
Of course, I'll be happy if Aldrich just becomes another Nick Collison.
Collison went 12th overall in the loaded 2003 draft of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Boris Diaw, Travis Outlaw, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard and Perkins.
So Collison clearly came into the league as ballyhooed as Aldrich. And the hard-nosed Collison, maybe the ultimate Presti player, is a Thunder favorite.
If Aldrich can just be another Collison, the Thunder will be fine.
Presti seems to be lining up replacements for the second generation Boomers. Durant, Westbrook and hopefully Green figure to be around a long time, but Presti now has drafted potential eventual replacements for Nenad Krstic (Byron Mullens) and Collison (Aldrich).
Plus he's got Surging Serge Ibaka and the hope that Aldrich is more Kendrick Perkins than Collison.
The plan remains on track.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.