OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — As he looks to rebuild the Oklahoma City Thunder into a NBA contender, general manager Sam Presti has brought in a handful of highly touted young players who have similar characteristics — long, good ball-handlers, capable shooters and international.
To a team that already includes current franchise cornerstone and point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Canada, Presti last year drafted 7-foot center Aleksej Pokesevski of Serbia and this week selected 6-foot-8 guard Josh Giddey of Australia with the No. 6 pick.
The 18-year-old Giddey was introduced Saturday along with Oklahoma City’s three other draftees — fellow first-rounder Tre Mann of Florida and second-rounders Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Villanova and Aaron Wiggins of Maryland — in the lobby of the newly renamed Paycom Arena.
Rather than looking for a particular skill set, Presti said he simply seeks good players in an attempt to return the Thunder to playoff contention, after the franchise relied for more than a decade on superstars including (at times) Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.
“The ability to anticipate and really process the game quickly is really important with the way that defenses are today and the way the game is officiated and the pace of the game,” Presti said. “We just want to play good basketball. Part of good basketball is playing together, anticipating where your teammates are going to be on the floor and putting each other in position to be successful.
“We have such a blank canvas. We’ve predominantly had, over the course of time, some truly amazing Hall of Fame-level players that… have helped us achieve the second-best record in the NBA over the past 10-plus years. But now we have a brand-new opportunity in front of us. That’s one of the most invigorating things for us as an organization.”