OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti met with reporters at the conclusion of Thursday night's NBA Draft. Here is the complete transcript of his press conference:
SAM PRESTI: So first thing, I always want to try to recognize the hard work of our evaluators and everybody that helps us prepare for the draft, draft night in general. It's really a year-long process and it also is something that so many people contribute to.
I just have so much respect for the people in our organization that spend their time evaluating talent all over the world, making extra trips, checking on obscure players at every level. That's what allows us to walk into nights like tonight feeling prepared and excited because this isn't just an evaluation of tonight, but it's also the beginning of a process of evaluating this entire draft class.
Troy Weaver, Will Dawkins, Brandon Miller. I always forget. But it's an incredible group of people to work with. I'm very fortunate.
With respect to Terrance, we're thrilled to have him, add him to the Thunder. He represents I think a few things that attract us to him. Obviously it's rare to find a player at his age that has the experience that he's gained by being in different environments, the USA Basketball experience he's had, the success he's had there, and obviously overseas experience in Australia.
He has a speed, a size, a length, athleticism, obviously an ability to shoot the ball from range that makes him an exciting piece to bring into the organization and continue to help grow.
He's also a guy that has a great disposition. He's just a really pleasant kid, and a kid that I think is really excited about what's in front of him, wants to put the time and the work in. So we're excited to have him.
With that, I'll open it to any questions you guys have.
Q. Is there one particular trait that he exhibits that stands out above the rest?
SAM PRESTI: To answer that question, I think the fact that there isn't one specific thing is really the reason why we were attracted to him as a player. At his size and length, he's able to play both sides of the ball, but he also has the speed that I think is really important with our team.
I think it's a combination of things, including his experience overseas, then the ability to play as part of a team where he wasn't just, you know, the person getting all the opportunities on the offensive end. That never really had an effect on his defensive intensity and the disruption that he's able to create with his size and length.
Q. Is there a challenge in scouting a guy who didn't play a lot over there, he was playing against guys who were much older?
SAM PRESTI: I mean, I don't think it's necessarily a challenge. I think maybe in some ways it was helpful because you got to see him in pretty physical environments, playing against a certain physicality.
But also, remember, the people that he was playing high school with, AAU, his class, they're freshmen this year. He was technically supposed to be a freshman. But he was thrust into a role where he had to find his way as part of a team and accept that, figure out how to contribute to that.
So I thought in some ways it was an advantage. Our scouts did an excellent job I think kind of navigating through that, not just looking at this season, but also his high school career, USA Basketball career, as I said earlier.
Interesting, but I think in some ways we got some answers in a positive way from that particular experience. In addition, I would also add, just the choice to take that challenge on, you know, knowing that it was not going to be the easiest path or a path maybe more standard, right?
I know from speaking with him, it wasn't easy, and there were difficult circumstances, there were times where it was a challenge.
Q. When you got to 21, it seemed like there were several options for you. You ultimately decided to pick Terrance. Sounds like he's both a defensive and potentially a deep-threat guy. How much did that play in the decision to go with him?
SAM PRESTI: Well, I mean, I think all those things. As I said earlier, when you find a guy his age, 19 years old, that has played in a pro environment, has shown he's willing and understands how to play a role on a successful team, obviously making shots off the catch, but disruptive offensively.
Any time we draft any player, we're not drafting a player for where he is today, we're also drafting a player because we feel like we want to walk hand-in-hand with them through their development. This is really a beginning point.
I say this to all the players that we spent time with before the draft. A lot of people see the draft as an end point. In reality what it really is, it's a launching pad for all of these players. They have accomplished a great deal, they've worked very hard to get to the NBA. But at the end of the day, wherever you're picked, everyone is starting from the same place.
So now we see out of these 60 players who is going to merge. It never goes one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. In fact, it's pretty tapered off.
We'll see. We're hopeful he's the type of player that will emerge over time and be a contributor at the NBA level.
Q. Do you see him maybe as a little closer than some other guys his age because of the fact he played some professional ball?
SAM PRESTI: I mean, I think it's an advantage. But I wouldn't say that it's -- I wouldn't say it's a huge difference. I think one thing people really sometimes have a hard time with is, you know, where you start, not everyone gets the same opportunity, right? I mean, it's very rare that a guy like Sabonis finds his way into the starting lineup on a playoff team, you know what I mean, at 20. That's a unique thing.
What allowed Sabonis to do that, a lot of it's makeup, a lot of it's savvy, a lot of it's resilience, obviously a skill level. But it happened to work out for him. But there's a lot of really talented guys that get drafted that it doesn't happen immediately, so there has to be a process.
Fortunately for us, we've had some guys over the years that have been able to get opportunities. Abrines, when he arrived here as a rookie, a lot of people saw him as a developmental player. But he had played in significantly big games in Europe, had a lot of experience and found his way to minutes over time.
I don't know what will happen with Terrance, but I wouldn't put limitations on him. At the same time so much of it is what's opportunity and placement, then development, how much hard work he puts in. The coaching staff has a vision for him, put him in position to be successful.
Q. How much of a struggle was it for you? Historically you'll go out there and try to draft based on best player available, whatever you believe, not necessarily for need. Your organization is in a different place this year both financially and where you rank in the West. Was it a struggle for you to go against -- you didn't end up going against, but did you think about drafting more for need, take that more into account?
SAM PRESTI: I don't understand exactly what you're saying.
Q. You can draft for need in that situation when you might need shooting, a wing, a backup point guard. You end up going with a younger guy who might take a little more time to develop. Because you're finishing six in the West, you're strapped for cash, you can get cheap labor here, was it a struggle not to draft for need in that situation?
SAM PRESTI: No, it wasn't. I mean, I don't necessarily agree exactly with what you're saying.
I think what we're looking at is we're looking at who will be the best Thunder players. So to me it's the combination of. A lot of people say you draft for fit or best player. To me it's, like, the best player for the Thunder is the player you should try to draft, knowing that in the 20s the odds are significantly against, you know, a lot of -- more than a few of these guys going on and succeeding at a high level.
Therefore, I don't think you can be too selective about that. I think you need to find people and players that can thrive in your environment, that you can help. Sometimes that's with playing time. Sometimes that's with development time.
I don't know that he will play. Like, I wouldn't have predicted that Sabonis would have found his way to the type of role he was having as a first-year player. So that's why, you know, we'll get to work with him right away and see where he is.
I think the coaching staff will have a plan for him. We'll see where it goes.
Q. Is there a player that you feel his skill set resembles now?
SAM PRESTI: I'm really hesitant comparing players. It's, like, there's so many biases that you have immediately. Most of them just go to like more physical body type and the way people look, stuff like that. I don't think there's a really good competent way to do that.
I think guys that are 6'7", put major heat on the defense in transition, can knock some shots down, like, that's sort of the type of player you hope he can become. But, you know, he does a lot of things that I think are pretty useful with our team, has the athleticism to play with our team.
It's a team that gets up the floor because we have a guy that gets up the floor quick, then generates a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunity. Terrance is another guy that can potentially do that.
Q. You made a lot of moves around the draft time historically. A lot of moves out there in this draft. How active were things? Were you close on anything?
SAM PRESTI: You know, the only people that know if you're close are the guys on the other end of the phone. You know what I mean? You might think you are, but you might be one of 25 things they have going.
You just try to put yourself in position as much as possible to pursue as many different ideas and concepts. That's one of the great things I like about working with the other people in these jobs, other teams, is the opportunity to try to understand what they're trying to do, how they're trying to do it, trying to figure out if there's a way to make a deal that works for everybody.
So, you know, I enjoy that part of it most of the time. Most of the time they don't work out, you know what I mean, because it's hard to find common ground for everybody.
We're involved in everything. We're going to pursue everything. Don't be upset just because it's not spewing out of this building, that we're not pursuing the same things that you read about on the Internet. We're going to make all those calls. We're going to pursue all those things.
I mean, we want to make sure we're as thorough as possible to put the best team together now and in the future. I would say, as you said earlier, we certainly haven't been complacent just based on our history, what we're trying to accomplish.
Q. (No microphone.)
SAM PRESTI: That would be the plan. First thing that has to happen is we have to get a physical, all the different things that have to take place. The plan would be he would be a participant in summer league, yes.
Q. Did you have discussions about potentially taking a pick later in the draft? If so, how did those talks good?
SAM PRESTI: Obviously they weren't fruitful. But we talked.
I guess the best way to explain it is we try to get every pick. Every team does. It's not just us. Everyone's trying to find ways to get in. Tonight, just based on the values of the different picks, we didn't find something that we felt was justifiable for trying to accomplish.
But we looked at all that stuff, had a lot of tough conversations. I thought there were some really good players in the second round that teams were able to get. It's harder to get in.
But, you know, that's a three-minute window. Michael Winger, who I think some of you know, he's the best there is at navigating that period of time where you're trying to find opportunities into the second round as possible.
You know, there were some people that were interested. We have a Chicago second-round pick next season. There's teams interested in that kind of an arrangement. But it had to be the right thing for us.
We feel good about what we were able to get done with Terrance.
Q. You might have touched on this a little bit, but what role did (indiscernible) play in Terrence's development?
SAM PRESTI: You know, I'm hesitant to say this is how this guy's first season is going to go. I'm hesitant to say. I don't know how the first month is going to go.
What we've always tried to do is look at summer league as just basically - I don't know the right word - maybe more like, Where are we starting? You have a vision for a player, but you can't try to solve it all at the same time. I think that's one of the reasons why Adams has progressed as he is, trying to be very specific, intentional on a few different things, then try to add onto that.
Terrance is the same thing. Let him go out, compete, play, see where he is, come back as a staff, coaches will assess where we want to start with this.
I'm glad you said the (indiscernible), because I would have said the dealy (laughter). Anyway, we've used it a lot. We've used it for a lot of different reasons. We've had a lot of guys have success. But that's not necessarily -- I don't look at it and say (indiscernible). I have no idea how his development will go. We have a really long time before we get to training, if you really think about it. Hopefully we'll be able to get started, get off on the right foot, have a good summer coming into camp, and see where we're at.
This guy, he competes. I don't want to put any limitations on what he's capable of doing. He makes shots. He's got great, great length and speed. So those are things that generally are valued in our building. We'll see where it goes.