The Oklahoma City Thunder have recently emerged as one of the NBA’s models for consistency. In 13 seasons, the franchise has 10 playoff appearances and one Finals berth, while has drafting and trading for stars to remain competitive in the league’s tougher conference.
It takes a strong front office to successfully navigate the NBA’s unpredictability, year-in and year-out. Before becoming the Detroit Pistons’ general manager last June, Troy Weaver was a major part of Oklahoma City’s success. Weaver since joining the franchise in 2008 helped identify several players — Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Steven Adams among them — who set the team up for a decade-plus of winning.
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Weaver on Monday will make his first return to Oklahoma City as the Pistons travel to face the Thunder at 7 p.m. He will be reunited with Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who has led OKC since 2007 and considers Weaver to be one of his closest friends.
“We spent, I don’t know how many hours together,” Presti said. “Enough to finish each other’s sentences and know what the other person’s thinking. Whenever the opportunity came that he felt like was the right one for him, I had no doubt he would do an excellent job because he’s just got a great combination of qualities and talents that I think will serve him well. I wouldn’t say that it was a surprise that he would be doing a good job. I think he was going to do a good job whatever it was he decided that he found the right fit for him. And Detroit certainly is that.”
The Pistons had long considered Weaver to be a top candidate for their general manager position, initially attempting to lure him away from the Thunder in 2018 before they successfully did so last summer. His eye for talent was a major reason behind the appeal.
Westbrook and Adams weren’t considered to be home-run picks when Oklahoma City selected them fourth overall in 2008 and 12th overall in 2013, respectively. Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer, while Adams has long been one of the league’s best starting big men.
As an assistant coach with Syracuse, Weaver is credited with luring Carmelo Anthony to the program. Anthony averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Orange to their first NCAA title in 2003.
Weaver and Presti were already friends when Weaver was hired by the Thunder — then the Seattle Supersonics — as an assistant general manager in 2008. They both have backgrounds in scouting. Weaver had been with the Utah Jazz since 2004, while Presti cut his teeth with the San Antonio Spurs.
In Detroit, all four of Weaver’s 2020 draft picks have cracked the rotation, and his big free agency splash, Jerami Grant, was nearly an All-Star amid a career-best season.
“One of his best qualities, in my opinion, is that he’s very convicted,” Presti said. “He really believes in the direction he feels the game should be played and how it should be played. He really, really commits to that. It’s a strength because he doesn’t kind of straddle the middle on anything, and that’s one of the reasons why I think he’ll be special over the course of time.”
The Pistons are 14-35 overall, but the early signs in the first year of the rebuild have been good. Weaver took over a franchise with a high lottery pick and $30 million in cap space, which enabled him to immediately pull off a number of trades and signings. He aggressively reshaped the roster last summer; only one player, Sekou Doumbouya, remains from last year’s team. He’s spoken highly of the Pistons as a historic NBA power and laid out his vision for the future of the team, which will be built around defense.
It may be his first time being a general manager, but Weaver isn’t new to this. He helped guide the Thunder to 11 consecutive winning seasons as an assistant GM, something the Pistons have yet to do as a franchise (the Bad Boys came close with nine straight).
Weaver is writing a new chapter in Detroit, but his legacy in Oklahoma City is sealed.
“We’re still defining ourselves, quite frankly, but someone like Weave, because he was here from day one and was so influential in so many different things, his place in our history is secured at a very, very high level,” Presti said. “He’ll always be remembered for his contributions that go beyond just his personnel acumen.”
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