Sam Presti on Sunday afternoon was asked a two-part question that shell-shocked Thunder fans near and far are still trying to figure out.
What will be missed most following the trade of James Harden to Houston, and how does Kevin Martin address some of those losses?
Presti immediately stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park.
“I think one of the things in sports in general that sometimes is tricky is when there are changes sometimes we get fixated on trying to replicate things,” Presti said. “I think we'll be different. I think we'll look a little different … But I think we've got to let it play itself out a little bit.”
Give it time.
That's the best thing Thunder fans can do following Saturday's blockbuster trade that shocked basketball enthusiasts and potentially shook up the NBA landscape.
But while some Harden supporters needed less than 24 hours to detach themselves from their lovable lefty, it seemed they still couldn't quite wrap their minds around how the Thunder will march on without him.
“Clearly, James is a very talented player,” Presti said while discussing the deal at a news conference. “If he wasn't, we wouldn't have been able to get Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and several valuable draft picks back.”
But life goes on.
The Thunder will still contend.
Martin is career 18.4 point scorer and, when at the top of is game, is one of the most efficient scorers in the league. He's a sharpshooting guard who is as adept at coming off curls as he is working his way to the foul line. With those traits, Martin possesses the potential to give the Thunder a different type of threat with his ability to play off the ball. Harden, by contrast, was best with the ball in his hands, which naturally took away from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant at times.
As Martin gets acclimated to the Thunder, he is expected to slide into Harden's old role as sixth man. OKC won't get nearly as much of the playmaking out of Martin as we came to expect with Harden. But with the return of Eric Maynor from last season's knee injury, the Thunder got back its top setup man at the point guard spot. Along with Martin, Maynor can captain the second unit with Nick Collison much like Harden did.
Someone just needs to get word to Scotty Brooks to get Martin and Collison working on that chemistry that Collison had Harden shared.
“That is one of the things I think our coaching staff has done a great job with is maximizing the group, understanding the skill-sets and the traits of the particular players and putting them in positions to be successful,” Presti said. “And I think Kevin Martin is a guy that is very versatile in terms of not necessarily needing the ball all the time to create plays.”
Remember, too, that the Thunder has precocious parts waiting their turn.
Reggie Jackson. Perry Jones III. Lamb.
“As with any team,” Presti said, “when there's changes other people emerge. And I'm looking forward to seeing the development of different pieces of our roster.”
Keep this in mind. Harden never would have bloomed into the bearded man beloved league wide had it not been for the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston. That deal opened up playing time and, eventually, leading roles for both Harden and Serge Ibaka, who showed phenomenal growth this preseason and should help compensate for any potential slippage brought by Harden's departure.
“I'm excited to see how our group responds,” Presti said. “But with the maturity of Russell and Kevin and the way that they're impacting our team on and off the floor right now, I'm confident in the guys.”