With the 2009 NBA Draft over with, let’s continue our post mortem here on Sports Radio Interviews by checking in with Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti. The Thunder were one of the league’s worst teams in 2008-2009, winning just 23 games. Considering the start they had though in November and December, they actually weren’t that bad for most of the year. One thing they lacked though was a true point guard and a true shooting guard to play alongside young studs Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Many thought that international sensation Ricky Rubio was a fantastic fit for the Thunder. And for good reason.
The thought of Rubio setting up Durant for easy buckets would undoubtedly have been fun to watch for Thunder fans. The team went in another direction though, drafting Arizona State shooting guard James Harden further cementing Russell Westbrook as the point guard of the future. Sam Presti joined The Tirico and Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio last Friday to talk about the rationale of passing on Rubio and taking the smooth, left-handed scorer.
On James Harden and his career at Arizona State:
“We’re always looking at the body of work; what a player has done over his career, how he approaches the game, how he approaches practice. With James, there’s a lot of things I like but primarily just the fact that this is a guy that can get in the paint and he’s an unselfish player. He brings a real team component and a skill level and he’s someone we think is going to fit very well with Westbrook and Durant and some of the other players we have.”
On not drafting Ricky Rubio:
“We have to make decisions based on basketball and what we think is best for our basketball team. I think Ricky Rubio is going to be a very good player but for us, it’s less about him or the players on the board, it’s more about James Harden and just the fact that when we look at James, we saw somebody that we felt fit with our team, with our culture and was able to address some needs that we feel we’re going to need to address moving forward.”
On this year’s draft class and whether or not he feels there were any ‘steals’ or winners in the crop:
“Anytime that you walk away from a draft, you have an opportunity to add players to your organization, people to your vision, you feel good. We as an organization have a long way to go to continue to improve and get better but we feel that last night was a step in the right direction because we got a player in James that we feel very strongly about, B.J. and Vaden as well. We’re excited for a big summer. We’re excited to get to work with those guys.”