How Much Blame Does Presti Deserve for Mavs Gafford Addition?

Post by Matt Ravis “The Drive” host + Thunder Radio Network Co-Host | @MattRavis on X

In life, and in sports, there are gambles. 

The Thunder made a few of them this year: acquiring Gordon Hayward and helping the Mavericks land Daniel Gafford.

Sam Presti, in a rare admission from a general manager, admitted he whiffed on Hayward:

“I missed on that. That’s on me,” said Presti at his annual postseason press conference, in which he spent over two-and-a-half hours addressing the media’s questions.

But arguably the bigger gamble was helping facilitate the trade of Gafford to the Mavericks, who appear to be on the cusp of the NBA Finals. The Thunder sent what would ultimately be the 26th pick in the upcoming draft to the Wizards in exchange for a 1st round swap with the Mavs in 2028.

Yes, it is fair to say the Thunder had a hand in their own undoing. Gafford helped transform the Mavs into a great defensive team and gave them another lob threat and interior presence. 

Although his measured impact wasn’t quite to the level of Dereck Lively’s (the Mavs are +109 with Lively on the floor in the playoffs vs. -56 with Gafford), his arrival enabled them to stagger the two bigs to maximum effect.

Not that Gafford would have necessarily fit on this Thunder team. It would alter their five-out style, which led them to the best offensive season in Thunder history and one of the five best offenses the league has ever seen. It made no sense to change their approach.

But is it fair to question Presti’s gamble – that helping the Mavs acquire Gafford would not come back to bite them?

Sure, but context is needed. And hindsight is worth very little. GMs operate without the benefit of it.

Think back to the trade deadline – what probability would you have given the Mavs to make the NBA Finals? BetMGM had the odds of the Mavs winning it all at +4000 or greater. That’s an implied probability of just 2.4%. 

Their odds also did not change from 1/30 to 2/9 despite the moves for Gafford and PJ Washington. 

Fast forward to March 1st: Dallas is 34-26 and 8th in the West. Their odds to win the conference? +1500, or 6.25%. This team was more likely to make the play-in tournament than the West finals.

Odds were, literally, that the Mavs weren’t going to advance to the NBA Finals or even the Conference Finals this season. 

To their credit, they rounded into form, in no small part thanks to their acquisitions of Gafford and PJ Washington. They deserve their flowers, but it was not obvious this was the form they were headed towards. Again, credit to the Mavs for identifying their needs and finding solutions.

For those who claim it was obvious, I’m curious why you didn’t bet the farm on the Mavs. You could’ve cashed out!

None of this will lessen the sting for Thunder fans because of the reality of the situation: the Thunder might have been able to prevent their own undoing. And there is no guarantee for any team despite their seemingly bright future.

But perspective needs to be kept as well. Trade deadline exceptions that help win titles are the exception, not the rule.

Presti and company erred in their judgment, that much needs to be said. He and the organization are not above reproach. But don’t let hindsight let you lose perspective: this Dallas team has defied the odds. 

OKC played the probabilities and lost.

-Watch or listen to the end of season press conference from Sam Presti below!

There is no custom code to display.