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Why Sam Presti, OKC Thunder traded up for Ousmane Dieng in 2022 NBA Draft

The Oklahoman logo The Oklahoman 6/28/2022 Joe Mussatto, Oklahoman

The Thunder’s acquisition of Ousmane Dieng with the No. 11 pick last Thursday was a Sam Presti-esque deal in reverse. 

On the night of the 2021 NBA Draft, Presti traded the Thunder’s 16th pick (Alperen Sengun) to the Rockets in exchange for two future protected first-round picks via the Pistons and Wizards. 

One year later, Presti flipped those same Pistons and Wizards picks — the first top-18 protected and the second lottery-protected in 2023 — plus a 2023 lottery-protected Nuggets pick to the Knicks for the No. 11 pick. 

Thunder draft pick Ousmane Dieng speaks to the media during a press conference Saturday in Oklahoma City. © BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN Thunder draft pick Ousmane Dieng speaks to the media during a press conference Saturday in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder drafted Dieng at No. 11 while keeping its pick at No. 12, which it used to select Jalen Williams out of Santa Clara. 

Dealing three future first-rounders, even with those protections, was a handsome price to pay for the No. 11 pick, especially when the Thunder already had a pick at No. 12. 

Why did the Thunder do it?

OKC Thunder changing with the times. Just look at Sam Presti's strategy in NBA Draft.

“We wanted both players,” Presti said. “It was a way to get both players as much as it was to get one.” 

In other words, the names Ousmane Dieng and Jalen Williams are interchangeable when it comes to breaking down the trade. If OKC doesn’t make the move, it only ends up with one of the two.  

The Knicks were shopping the No. 11 pick, and both the Thunder and Cavaliers were interested in Dieng, a 6-foot-10 wing from France. OKC, using its plethora of future picks, put together the winning trade package. 

Last year, Presti and the Thunder believed two future first-round picks was too much to turn down for the No. 16 pick — no matter how high the Thunder might have been on Sengun. It all came down to the historical valuation of that draft slot. 

The Knicks must have felt similarly about the 11th pick this year. Three future first-rounders — all of which aren’t guaranteed to convey — were too valuable to pass up. 

But if any team is equipped to make a perceived overpay, it’s the Thunder. 

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Dieng, who just turned 19, has a raw but intriguing skill set. He’s a supersized wing with impressive instincts as a ball handler and playmaker. On the defensive end, he has the length to be incredibly disruptive. 

The glaring hole in Dieng’s game is his jump shot. Playing for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League, Dieng shot below 40% from the floor, including 27% from 3-point range. 

Presti, who first scouted Dieng when Dieng was 16, said he admired Dieng’s decision to play a year in the NBL, a grown-man’s league. 

“I think the easiest decision would have been to stay in a comfort zone, and he pushed himself out of that, and it wasn’t always the easiest situation for him,” Presti said. “But we know some people, teammates that he had, and they just spoke glowingly about his work ethic.” 

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If Dieng becomes a good rotation player, the trade will be deemed a success. But if Dieng is a bust, years from now it’ll look like the Thunder was fleeced. 

That’s the risk of taking swings. 

By making the trade, Presti gave us a first look at how he might use all of the picks the Thunder has hoarded. Rather than packaging three first-rounders to go out and get an established veteran, Presti instead bought another lottery ticket in Ousmane Dieng. 

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Why Sam Presti, OKC Thunder traded up for Ousmane Dieng in 2022 NBA Draft


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