The race for Shai is on
More creative trades for NBA contenders
BY DAVID THORPE
I first heard the name “Sam Presti” about 25 years ago.
A former student at my basketball academy had just started his freshman year at Emerson College. One day, his family began telling me about his new roommate: an intelligent and serious young man named Sam.
Two decades later, that same Sam was managing the Oklahoma City Thunder, and soon became an executive noted in basketball circles for playing his cards very close to his chest. After all, the more people who know a deal is being developed, the more likely a leak can spoil a potential agreement.
Then I saw, up close, the deep extent of his commitment to privacy. In the summer of 2012, Sam Presti traded James Harden to the Rockets for elite shooter-scorer Kevin Martin, who is like a son to me. Executives from half the league had asked me about Kevin. Sam and I had spoken many times prior to that deal; so when it went down without him calling for my opinion on Kevin, it was a big sign that Sam … does things differently. Sam never gave an inkling that the deal (or any other) would transpire—he didn’t even inform Kevin’s agent until the deal was finished.
My point is, you sure as hell won't read it in the paper if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on the market. I don't expect a drop of information to leak from the OKC camp unless Sam Presti wants someone to know. There won't be any Donovan Mitchell media drama.
Last week, we saw how real NBA poker is played as the Cavs put down a hell of a bet and became the first movers in this late-summer drama, trading for the best player on the market. Earlier this summer, the Timberwolves pulled off the Rudy Gobert deal in the same fashion. Given how close the top 20 teams are this year, we know more deals are coming.
That makes me think: Contenders need to act fast. Here are some creative ideas about how good teams can end up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, OG Anunoby, Mo Bamba, and Anfernee Simons—and how Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving might even play a role:
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