The Future is Now for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Omar Zahran
6 min readNov 26, 2023

The Oklahoma City Thunder, once perpetually rebuilding, are now one of the top teams in the West, led by young stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren

On the night of July 5th, 2019 I went with my friend Drew to a hip hop show that featured Detroit rapper Elzhi. It was one of the longer shows I’ve been to, with a large collection of rappers performing well past midnight. This show is one that I will always remember because it was the only time that I was at a live show and NBA news broke. Because the early hours of that morning was when the Los Angeles Clippers struck a deal to acquire Paul George , which led to the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and formed the current era of Clippers basketball, for better or worse.

I remember talking about the trade with Drew immediately after the show, and we were both excited at what the Clippers were able to accomplish. But what we didn’t account for in the immediate aftermath is what the Clippers were giving up in point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The young guard from Kentucky went to Oklahoma City and has developed into a true superstar in the NBA 4 years later. And the Thunder as a result, appear to be the next great team in the Western Conference. After years of stockpiling assets it seems that the time is finally now in Oklahoma City.

Asset Hoarding

Being a general manager in the NBA is a job that is not defined by its security. Teams will often get rid of a general manager and a coach rather quickly when things go south during a season. A theory on how to keep your job as a GM in the NBA is to continue to acquire draft capital so that you can sell the future of what is to come as opposed to what is available today. Perhaps no general manager in the league has employed this strategy better than Sam Presti, the general manager of the Thunder.

Presti has been at the helm in Oklahoma City for 17 seasons, which is good for the longest tenure of any GM in the NBA today. His tenure has been so long in fact, that when he was hired the team still played in Seattle as the Supersonics. In that time, the Thunder have won 54%