Watching the Boston-Orlando playoff series has to make Oklahoma City’s NBA fans daydream. Ray Allen and Big Baby Davis in Boston Celtic green against Orlando’s Rashard Lewis. All three were Seattle SuperSonics, the Thunder’s ancestors, until novice general manager Sam Presti blew up the roster two summers ago.
What would the Thunder look like today had Presti not charted that course? Well, the Sonics/Thunder wouldn’t have checked in with win totals of 20 and 23 the past two seasons. More like 35 and 38, which would have made the inaugural OKC season easier to digest. But the future would not have been as exotic. The Thunder would have a low ceiling. Presti would have been settling. Sure, it would have been fun to watch Allen and Lewis team with Kevin Durant. Thunder? More like rainbows, with long 3-pointers the name of OKC’s game. Allen made 199 3-pointers this season, second-best in the league. Lewis was first, with 220. Allen turns 34 in July but remains the league’s sweetest shooter. He averaged 18.2 points a game for the Celtics this year and dropped 51 on the Bulls two weeks ago in that epic double-overtime playoff game. Lewis turns 30 in August and averaged 17.7 for the Magic this season and shot 40 percent from 3-point range. But the Thunder still would be overmatched inside. Most games might be 141-127, with no defensive relief in sight. Presti’s deals basically boil down to two great scorers and Big Baby for Jeff Green, better draft picks and tons of payroll space. Presti took on bloated contracts, paying Kurt Thomas $8 million a year and Wally Szczerbiak $13 million, then trading them off. Having cap space and using cap space are two different things, and spending that money wisely is something different completely.
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Sam Presti's deals
What the Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis deals meant bottom-line to the Thunder today: →General manager Sam Presti traded Allen and the just-drafted Glen "Big Baby” Davis to Boston for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the just-drafted Jeff Green. West and Szczerbiak eventually were traded to Cleveland for Donyell Marshall, Ira Newbie and Adrian Griffin. Presti eventually waived Marshall and Newbie, then included Griffin as a throw-in in the deal that sent Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee for Desmond Mason and Joe Smith. So in reality, it was Allen and Davis for Green and lots of payroll cap space. →After the Allen trade, Lewis, who was a free agent, made it clear he had no desire to return to Seattle. Orlando wanted Lewis, and Presti worked out a sign-and-trade deal that sent Lewis to the Magic and gave the Sonics a second-round draft pick and a $9-million trade exemption. Trade exemptions allow teams to make trades that can circumvent the payroll cap, and Presti used the Magic’s to trade Phoenix that second-round draft pick for veteran Kurt Thomas and the Suns’ first-round picks in the 2008 and 2010 drafts, the first of which was used to take Serge Ibaka, who is not yet ready for the NBA. Presti traded Thomas to San Antonio for Brent Barry, whom he released; Francisco Elson, who left via free agency after last season; and a 2009 first-round draft pick.