By George! Presti Does It Again
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti is the NBA version of the stealth bomber, never showing up on radar until the bomb drops.
And until Presti closed the deal to bring 4-time All-Star Paul George to Oklahoma City to be Russell Westbrook's running mate the Thunder weren't thought to be involved.
They were supposed to be trying to get a meeting with Blake Griffin, or maybe work a deal with Rudy Gay.
And Paul George seemed a bit out of reach...the Cavaliers had tried to get him away from Indiana, Boston was working on a deal and even the Lakers were hoping to get him in LA a year early.
Afterall George had made it clear he wanted to end up playing for his hometown Lakers in 2018 and the Thunder aren't exactly known as a team willing to roll the dice on what could be a one year rental.
Presti had preached the long game over the years, not the quick fix, not the big name free agent.
But with Kevin Durant having burned the organization exactly a year ago and with Westbrook's future in the balance Presti and Thunder chairman Clay Bennett decided sending young guns Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis to Indiana for Paul George was a deal too good to pass up, even if it turns out just to be one year rental.
George is one of the league's best two-way players. An excellent defender and a career 37 percent 3-point shooter. This past season was his best, averaging 23.7 points on 46.1 percent shooting overall and 39.3 percent on threes. He also grabbed 6.6 rebounds and handed out 3.3 assists per game.
The Thunder also end up saving money on the deal. With Oladipo's new $21 million a year contract kicking in but coming off the books and Sabonis' salary also leaving, OKC will save about $4 million. Money that could be used to bring restricted free agent Andre Roberson back in the fold and OKC can still use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (about $8.5 million) to sign a free agent even though they are over the salary cap.
George is scheduled to make $19.5 million this coming season and then he can and apparently will, opt-out of his contract next summer.
Meantime the Thunder will have 12 months to convince him that Oklahoma City will be a better place, at least over the next 2 to 3 years, to make a longer playoff run than Los Angeles.
And if George decides to leave for La-La Land the Thunder will have some financial room to maneuver.
The move is being hailed around the NBA as the deal of the day, or year or century depending on who you're following on Twitter.
No question the Thunder will be better this coming season and it's believed (at this writing) they are still in the running for Rudy Gay to possibly use as a stretch-4.
Also the Thunder have officially offered the "SuperMax" deal to Westbrook and most people believe he will sign it.
Presti and the Thunder have at least done something to show the MVP they're serious about doing whatever it takes to get back toward the top of the Western Conference.