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The Presti Plan in action

How Thunder GM Sam Presti has made the most of his team's salary cap space and built a potential NBA power in the most unconventional of ways.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 1, 2011

Go back as far as July 11, 2007, when Presti pulled the trigger on his first major move as GM and orchestrated a sign-and-trade with Orlando to send Rashard Lewis to the Magic. You'll find maneuvers like those still have a lasting impact today.

Serge Ibaka, Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens are here today because of Presti's ability to gain a $9.5 million trade exception for Lewis rather than overpaying him with a $100 million contract.

Thabo Sefolosha is now the Thunder's starting shooting guard because of another under-the-radar deal that sent Johan Petro to Denver in exchange for Chucky Atkins in January 2009. Because the Thunder had cap space, it could take Atkins' contract off Denver's hands. But Presti plucked another first-round pick as well. The pick was later dealt to Chicago to acquire Sefolosha. The Thunder then re-signed Sefolosha at a very reasonable $13.8 million over four years before the deadline that would make him a restricted free agent. It saved the team money both in the short and long term.

In the summer of 2009, Presti packaged Atkins and Damien Wilkins to Minnesota for two 2010 second-round picks. One of those second-round picks eventually netted the Thunder Daequan Cook and a first-round draft pick from Miami. That first-round selection from the Heat was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers for a future pick, and that future pick was the final piece of the deal that brought Perkins to town last week.

In December 2009, the Thunder again used its salary cap to land reserve point guard Eric Maynor in a trade with Utah. Because OKC was under the cap, it could take on injured forward Matt Harpring's expiring $6.5 million deal to provide financial relief for the Jazz.

The final stroke of salary cap wizardry came when the Thunder used space to ink Nick Collison to a heavily front-loaded extension this past November. Roughly $6.5 million under the cap at the time, Presti offered Collison a raise of that amount to bump his current deal to more than $13 million. Collison agreed to an additional four-year extension worth $11 million.

Perkins' deal was structured the same way, and it could be the final piece that turns the Thunder into a power.