Trades Sam Presti absolutely won: 3. Thunder acquire a Franchise player and the biggest draft pick haul ever
Following an MVP-caliber season and a disappointing first-round playoff exit with the Thunder, Paul George requested a trade to the LA Clippers in the 2019 offseason. While granting the wish of the All-NBA star, Sam Presti was able to acquire a massive pick haul for the Thunder along with a future franchise player.
For Paul George, the Thunder received Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a massive haul of draft picks including the Clippers’ unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026, along with 2021 (unprotected), and 2023 (protected) first-round selections via the Miami Heat and the option to swap picks in 2023 and 2025.
At the time of the trade, Gilgeous-Alexander was a solid rotation player for the Clippers in his rookie season, becoming a reliable contributor in an egalitarian offense playing off the likes of Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, and Danilo Gallinari. The No. 11 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft ended the 2018-19 regular averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. In his first playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, Shai upped his scoring average to 13.7 points along with 2.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.
In his first season with the Thunder, Shai showed steady improvement and they unexpectedly made the playoffs. Shai averaged 19 points per game, playing a pivotal part in the Thunder’s offense alongside guards Chris Paul, and Dennis Schoeder. While Shai’s first two years were impressive, his rise to superstardom in the following years is what has made this trade a homerun for Presti and the Thunder. After becoming the leader of the Thunder franchise, Shai has become an All-NBA first-team and put up a staggering 31.4 points per game in the 2022-23 season.
Gallinari had a fruitful stint with the Thunder in the 2019-20 season, playing a key role in the Thunder unexpectedly making the playoffs as he averaged an efficient 18.7 points per game while starting 62 out of 72 regular season (and all seven postseason) games.
Most of the picks traded by the Clippers weren’t expected to have a lot of value with the Clippers expected to be consistent contenders with the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading a deep team. However, due to injuries and illness to their star players, the Clippers ended the 2021-22 season just outside the playoff spots handing the Thunder a second lottery pick in the process.
With the No. 12 pick of the 2022 draft, via the LA Clippers, the Thunder selected Jalen Williams. In his rookie season, Williams was pivotal in the Thunder making their first postseason appearance since 2020 as he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
With the Clippers failing to reach their championship aspirations and time running out while the Thunder still await future picks from the trade with an already bright future, this trade may end up as Sam Presti’s biggest win as a front-office executive.