Josh Huestis: The Intern

huestis summer league thunder

On July 19th, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman wrote a story suggesting the Oklahoma City Thunder were thinking about making rookie Josh Huestis to first domestic draft and stash player. Basically, Huestis would delay signing his guaranteed contract for one season while he plays in the D-League with the Oklahoma City (formerly Tulsa) 66ers. He would receive a D-League salary (currently about $25,000), and would train exclusively with the 66ers for the 2014-15 season.

Overseas draft and stash players are common practice in the NBA. Teams draft foreign players and allow them to continue to develop overseas. The player, while attached to their overseas team, does not count towards his NBA team’s salary cap or roster spot allotment. It’s a win/win for both sides involved with little to no risk. The player develops overseas on the foreign team’s dime at no cost to the NBA team, while also being a tradeable asset. Then, when the player is ready to come over, he informs the NBA team, and if he was picked in the first round, his salary scale starts from where he was drafted. Business as usual.

For some reason, though, the news of a domestic draft and stash caused a bit of an uproar around NBA media circles. The uproar was caused by not knowing whether the deal was predetermined or whether they negotiated this deal with Huestis after he was drafted. Kind of like, “Hey, we (the Thunder) did you a huge favor by drafting you in the first round, so this is what we need you to do for us.” That last statement almost sounds like the textbook definition of quid pro quo that is used in workplace sexual harassment videos. People in the national media were throwing around words like slimy and unethical, without even knowing what the parameters of the agreement between the Thunder and Huestis were.

Josh Huestis, Carrick Felix

In reality, the Thunder, Huestis, and Huestis’ agent Mitchell Butler, all agreed to this before draft night. What irks me the most is the media painting Huestis as this star-struck neophyte who was ripe for the picking by the big, bad Thunder organization. In fact, it was the complete opposite. This was a power move by an extremely intelligent young man. He turned what was going to be an unpredictable voyage as a 2nd rounder or undrafted free agent into a predictable journey to the NBA with guaranteed money waiting for him. In essence, he chose to be an intern with the organization that promised to pay him later, than to Frank Sinatra his way into the unknown (overseas, D-League, rejected training camp invite) by doing it his way.

If anything, Huestis should be applauded for his pragmatism. The stories are too numerous of players who give up their college eligibility based on pre-draft hype, which ends with them dropping into the 2nd round or worse. But this young man knew the reality of his situation, and snatched up a grand opportunity when it presented itself. Huestis was also pragmatic enough to understand that an extra year of tutelage may not be a bad thing for his NBA future. Huestis already has an NBA body and an NBA skill (defense). But complete players have lasting power in the NBA. So if Huestis is able to build his game in the D-League and, hopefully, become a future contributor on a championship contending team, then his stock rises that much more.

Huestis has taken a career that was destined for stops in Fort Wayne and the Philippines, and transformed it into one where he actually sees the NBA light at the end of the tunnel. He’s upped his earning potential immensely and now sits on the precipice of setting himself up for life. Huestis graduated from Stanford this May, and did what some of his fellow graduates did…got an internship. The difference is that his internship ends with him guaranteed to garner between $1.5 and $5 million dollars in the next 3-5 years. That, my friends, is a hell of a 5 year plan.

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Posted in D-League/Tulsa 66ers, Futures Report, Offseason Beat

The Truth Hurts: Oklahoma City and Free Agency

OKC-skyline

Oklahoma City has taken a bit of a bashing recently as the NBA’s free agency period has progressed. The Thunder have never really been a big player in free agency, and apparently, that was by design. Going into their 7th season, the Thunder have been all about development from within. Draft well, create a culture that values development, and reward the players that can be a part of a successful core. It has worked extremely well for the Thunder. Almost too well if you factor in the James Harden trade.

But this was the offseason where the Thunder would compete a bit in free agency. Because of their salary cap situation, the Thunder were never going to be big players in free agency. They were over the salary cap, which limited the amount the Thunder can give to perspective free agents. When a team is over the salary cap, the only way they can sign free agents is through the mid-level exception ($5.3 million per year) and the bi-annual exception ($2.077 million per year). With the luxury tax line increasing by over $5 million dollars, the Thunder had enough room under the luxury tax line to sign someone up to the mid-level exception.  After years of acting like 6th grade boys at a school dance, the Thunder were now ready to get off the wall and go onto the dance floor.

But there’s a sort of awkwardness that happens whenever 6th grade boys first build up the courage to go out onto the dance floor. Their palms get sweaty, they start to stutter, and they begin to worry too much about how they look to other people. And sometimes, those fears are realized in the form of rejection and ridicule. With the draft out of the way, it became very apparent that the Thunder were in the market for a 3-point shooter. Luckily for the Thunder, there would be a crop of shooters from which the team could choose from. Players like Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, and Jodie Meeks were all set to be unrestricted free agents.

pau gasol bulls

But then something funny happens. The pretty girl that you’d always admired from afar, who recently broke up with her boyfriend, is suddenly eyeing you as you stroll onto the dance floor. (Side note: I know the thought of imagining Pau Gasol as a pretty girl is appalling to most, but let’s just stick to the metaphorical script here.) Her now ex-boyfriend is a rich kid who is also one of the most popular kids in the school. As you approach her, she never breaks eye contact with you and actually smiles. You start talking to her, but her friends keep interrupting, saying things like, “Ohh, look at so-and-so. His dad owns a bull farm” or “Oh wow, so-and-so is looking at you. I think his dad works on Wall Street”. Eventually, your insecurities start to creep up, but you keep talking to her anyway. Maybe she’ll see you as something different, something unique. But then, as you start to build some confidence up, she drops the bomb on you. “You know, I like you and think you are cute, but I don’t think you can provide me with what I need.”

And just like that, it’s over. She makes her way to the other side of the room and starts dancing with the kid whose dad owns a bull farm. Eventually you get over it, and start dancing with other girls, but none as pretty as the first one. You begin to fear that you’ll never be able to dance with the real pretty girls.

There you have it. That’s the feeling of most Oklahomans when it comes to NBA free agency. We are learning that, while we aren’t exactly an ugly duckling, the reality is that we aren’t as rich or as big as most other markets. We are a young city that is just now starting to grow, so we don’t have the history or nightlife the bigger markets have. It’s a problem that many other teams face (namely those team not located on either of the coasts), but this was the first time it has affected us so directly. The reality is when you are stacked up against the LA’s, New York’s, and Miami’s of the world, a place like Oklahoma City isn’t really that appealing to young millionaire athletes, especially for time frame of 3-4 years.

butler fisher durant jackson thunder

 

For this reason, the Thunder’s free agency activity is more heightened in February than it is in July. While the Thunder haven’t been players in free agency recently, they have been successful in attracting recently released veterans to join the team for late season playoff runs. Players like Derek Fisher and Caron Butler have been integral parts in recent playoff runs. This is why the Thunder usually have an open roster spot heading into the season. That roster flexibility is not only important heading into the trading deadline, but also afterwards when disgruntled vets are released. Players are more apt to join OKC during this time for two reasons: 1. Older players tend to be married and have kids, which makes OKC a little bit more appealing as a family friendly environment and 2. Even if OKC isn’t on their list as prime destinations, it’s only for a 3-4 month period and could come with a championship attached.

Luckily, the Thunder haven’t had to depend on free agency to build their team. They have literally built their team up from the bottom using the draft and player development. The Thunder didn’t come away empty handed this summer. They signed their shooter (Morrow), and ironically, one of the reasons he chose Oklahoma City is because of its family friendly environment. Maybe, in the end, there’s still hope for that 6th grade boy.

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Posted in Free Agency, Offseason Beat

Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins: Tread Carefully, Cleveland

love wiggins

The Cleveland Cavaliers have made every right decision this summer. They drafted Andrew Wiggins, won the LeBron James sweepstakes, and have begun to assemble a supporting cast similar to the one James had in Miami (even with the same players). But all those decisions were basically made for them. There was hardly any strategy involved in making those decisions.

When Joel Embiid injured his foot a week before the draft, the decision of whom to choose was parred down to Wiggins and Jabari Parker. With Parker doing everything possible to get drafted by Milwaukee (bad workout for the Cavs, back channel gossip that he didn’t want to go to Cleveland), the choice was made even easier for the Cavs. Of course, it WAS Cleveland with the first pick. There was always the possibility they would over think it and select Jusuf Nurkic with the number 1 pick. But with a selection this easy, they was hardly anything they could do to get it wrong.

The next step was to try and convince James to come back home. After getting to four straight NBA Finals on a veteran-laden team, the Heat were starting to crumble under the weight of how they were structured. The value of their aging veterans was diminishing, one of the Big 3 was starting to break down, and the Thor-like hammer of the CBA was finally starting to take its toll on the team. With James asking for his worth and requesting the full max, the Heat were at a financial crossroads in terms of what they could surround James with. Wade and Bosh wanted to come back, but weren’t going to take steep pay cuts to make it happen. With only Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier under contract, the Heat would be really hurting if they brought back the Big 3 with market-level contracts.

James, now more mature and savvy than he was four years ago, began to see the writing on the wall. When asked why he sometimes passes the ball in late game situations, James usually answers that he always makes the right basketball play. If ever there was an opportunity to not only right his most wrong, but also make the right basketball play, this would be it. With Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, a stable of young, relatively cheap players, and salary cap flexibility in the fold, Cleveland was beginning to look like the right choice. After hashing out any old grudges between himself and Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert, James signed with Cleveland for 2 years, with a player option after the first year. Again, a decision that was made for the Cavs by James.

kevin love lebron james

With James signed in, Cleveland went from being a punchline to being a destination city in NBA circles. Almost immediately, James’ ex-teammates like Mike Miller and James Jones joined the fray, with Ray Allen contemplating to make the same jump. Free agent decisions are always made by front offices, but with James in the mix, these decisions have basically been made for them. This has basically been the story of Cleveland’s offseason.

But now comes the big decisions. Cleveland as currently constructed is a young, up and coming team with the best player in the NBA. Think of the 2010 Oklahoma City Thunder with a 3rd year Kevin Durant, a 2nd year Russell Westbrook, and rookies James Harden and Serge Ibaka….Now add 2010 Kobe Bryant to that team. It would have been a dynamic mix that would’ve won 52-56 games in the regular season, but would’ve probably floundered in the later stages of the playoffs due to the inexperience of most of the core of that team. And therein lies the decision for the Cavs: do they cultivate the pieces they have around LeBron for the long haul or do they make a big splash now while the pieces are in place?

On Thursday, after weeks of denying that he was available, sources stated that Cleveland would be willing to include Wiggins in a deal for Kevin Love. A trio of Irving, James, and Love would immediately be one of the best trios in the league. But the question for Cleveland becomes, “What else would you have to give up for Love?” And therein lies the difficulty of the decision.

Any trade for Love would have to involve more pieces than Wiggins, due to Love’s $15.7 million dollar salary. This is where the decision making will come into play for the Cavaliers. The Timberwolves have already been down this road before. In 2007, they traded All-NBA power forward Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and 2 first round picks. Of all the players traded for Garnett, only Ratliff was over the age of 24 at the time of the trade. The number of the players involved in this trade was largely due to Garnett’s $22 million dollar salary at the time. Any trade for Love will be on a smaller scale due to him having a smaller salary than Garnett at the time of his trade from Minnesota. But the blueprint of the trade will likely be very similar.

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs

Any team that trades a superstar wants three things in return: a large expiring contract, young talent with potential, and future draft picks. Cleveland is flush with young assets that have loads of potential. Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters have all shown flashes, while still being on their rookie contracts. In the last three seasons, Anderson Varejao’s name has appeared repeatedly on two lists: the players that will potentially be traded at the trade deadline list and the injured list. Varejao will once again be on the “players that may be traded at the trade deadline” list with his expiring $9.7 million salary. And, the Cavs also have all the draft picks for the foreseeable future, plus a first rounder from Miami.

Say what you will about LeBron and loyalty, but if you are one of his guys, he’ll do everything in his power to keep you by his side. He did that with his closest friends, who are now his agent and top advisors. The only 2 players he ever had that kind of relationship with was Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Varejao. You can bet that Cleveland will try everything in its power to keep Andy in a Cavs uniform this season. So that leaves the Cavs trading two or, even three of their young players to Minnesota. And that’s where it gets perilous.

Trading your young core for a proven superstar is a great plan for the present. The combination of three extremely talented players with a veteran supporting cast has been a winning formula for the past 7 seasons. Boston and Miami have ridden that formula to be participants in 6 of the last 7 NBA Finals, with 3 championships coming out of that. The only problem is that it isn’t a sustainable formula. Superstar salaries eventually rise, veteran players get older and less effective, and the CBA eventually wins over time. Three years into the experiment, you’re right back to square one. And that’s if everyone stays relatively healthy.

It’s just so strange though, because Cleveland has been down this road before. Last time around, Cleveland tried, at every turn, to surround LeBron with what they thought was the necessary talent to lead Cleveland to a championship. That led them to a bloated salary cap situation in which they were constantly cutting their nose to spite their face to retool and rebuild their team. Now that they have a team loaded with potential and a sustainable cap situation, they want to turn around and do it again. It needs to be brought up that Kevin Love has played the same amount of playoff games as Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson. While Love is proven, he’s also still unproven when it matters most. That Cleveland is putting so much stock on someone who is so unproven should not only scare LeBron, but also Cleveland.

 

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Posted in Around the League, NBA, News, Trade Talk

Ten Reasons why the Thunder are Winning this Offseason

durant ibaka jackson westbrook thunder

I have to hand it to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only were they blessed with the Number 1 pick in a loaded draft, but they were also lucky enough to land the Number 1 player in the NBA during free agency. Getting Andrew Wiggins and LeBron James in the same offseason is enough to give Cleveland the offseason championship, outright.

Despite what many Thunder fans may lead you to believe, the Thunder are having themselves a great summer. Many fans will focus on the fact the Thunder missed out on Pau Gasol, let a $6.6 million dollar traded player exception expire, and used a first round pick on someone named Josh Huestis. But, quietly, the Thunder are putting together a quality championship contender that may be more dangerous than last season’s team. Here are 10 reasons why the Thunder are winning this offseason.

10. The acquisition of Sebastian Telfair

There are a couple characteristics a team wants from a veteran 3rd string point guard. First of all, a team would like them to be cheap. Like, vet minimum cheap. Secondly, a team wants them to come in knowing that they are not competing for a starting job. The job application says “3rd string point guard” for a reason. And thirdly, a journeyman with a story would be a great addition for the youngsters on the roster.

Telfair: Check, Check, Check

After spending a season in the Chinese Basketball Association, Telfair turned down a far more lucrative extension to get back into the NBA. The deal is for the vet minimum and is currently non-guaranteed. That means it is basically a near risk free transaction for the Thunder. With that said, Telfair is still a serviceable player. He never quite reached the potential that was bestowed upon him for being a NY point guard legend out of high school and for being Stephon Marbury’s younger cousin, but he has put together a quality decade long NBA career.

Third string point guards usually only play in blowouts and in cases of injury. But with Reggie Jackson possibly starting, Telfair is still young enough (29) and skilled enough to be used as the primary back up point guard also. For that reason alone, Telfair is probably the perfect choice for 3rd string point guard.

9. Jeremy Lamb seemed more willing to absorb contact

Many people will focus on Lamb’s 3-point shooting (or lack thereof) during Summer League. He shot 4-23 (17.4%) from downtown. Not necessarily a number you want to see from someone you consider to be one of the few perimeter threats on the team. Take away the 3-point shot attempts, and Lamb shot a more respectable 12-27 (44.4%) from the field.

lamb thunder summer league

But the number I want to focus on is 20. That is the number of free throw attempts Lamb shot in the 3 games he played, good for a 6.7 per game average. One of the knocks on Lamb last season was the he shied away from contact too much and settled for too many jumpers. He only averaged 0.8 free throw attempts per game last season. Increase that to 3 FTAs per game, and his points per game average should increase also.

For comparison, let’s look at James Harden’s 2010 summer league stats: He shot a dismal 1-14 from 3-point territory, but averaged 12 free throw attempts per game for the 4 games that he played. When it comes to summer league, we never know what the organization says to the player going into summer league play. Maybe the coaches told Lamb to assert himself offensively, but also to work on driving into the lane and drawing contact. More than anything, we may be seeing the maturation of Lamb’s game.

8. Andre Roberson looked more comfortable offensively

Roberson was already working on his resume as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league last season. Anytime he was in the game, he caused havoc with his athleticism and length. But his offense (or lack thereof) was a liability and prevented him from staying in games for long stretches of time.

The Thunder envision Roberson as a Thabo Sefolosha replacement and even tried him out for 16 starts when Sefolosha injured his calf after the All Star break. The dream scenario would be for Roberson to develop a consistent 3-point shot, especially from the corners, while also providing All-NBA-type defense from the perimeter.

Roberson did shoot 33.3% from 3-point territory in Summer League, but only on 6 attempts. He did average 9.5 points per game in 4 SL games on a variety of drives and put-backs. The most important thing was that he seemed confident with the ball in his hands. He’ll probably never be a play maker, but if he’s able to confidently drive to the basket, that can provide some semblance of an offense until he gets his shot figured out.

The only negative was his inconsistent free throw shooting. The good news is that he attempted 25 free throws in 4 games (6.3 a game). The bad news is that he only made 8 of those free throw attempts. That is a putrid 32% from the free throw line. For someone who shot 70% from the line in the regular season, here’s hoping that was just an anomaly.

7. Perry Jones was aggressive and attacking

The biggest knock on Jones coming into the 2012 NBA draft was his motor. His athletic tools made him better than most of his counterparts in high school and college, but he also had a tendency to disappear in games and not necessarily push the issue on offense. That, and a medical report on his knees (we’ll get to that later), scared teams from picking him in the first round until the Thunder took him at 28.

Jones hasn’t really done much in his 2 year career to alleviate those fears from draft day. He’s an athletic specimen, but seems content with just being there. Instead of attacking, he chooses to float around the perimeter and occasionally puts up shots. Last season, he showed the makings of a consistent 3-point shot and also showed the makings of a good defensive player. The job he did on LeBron James in January showed the type of potential Jones had.

In Summer League, Jones finally showed what he could do when he was aggressive and looking for his shot. He drove to the basket and shot the 3-point shot well (9-19). He kept on attacking even after missing a couple of shots. If he can translate into the regular season, the Thunder may have found themselves another dynamic weapon on the team.

Unfortunately, Jones had to have arthroscopic knee surgery after Summer League. He should be fine for training camp, but it is a bummer that he couldn’t continue to work on his game and improve upon his confidence in this offseason.

6. Steven Adams was a man among boys

Steven Adams was strong and played physical. Plus, he busted out a little jump hook. Nothing really different than what we saw in the regular season. Good enough for me.

5. Mitch McGary was a revelation

I know you are supposed to take Summer League performances with a grain of salt. But, oh man, was that grain tasty. I had no idea what to expect of McGary coming into Summer League. He was coming off back surgery and hadn’t played in an organized setting in over half a year. Hell, I didn’t even know whether he was going to suit up or not.

mcgary summer league thunder

But, play he did. And very well, at that. When names like Kevin Love and Bill Laimbeer are thrown around as comparisons, no matter how hyperbolic they may be, you know you have yourself a pretty good player. A more fitting comparison would be a more offensively apt Nick Collison. McGary averaged 14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 4 games. He shot 50% from the field and showed range out to 15-17 feet, even attempting (and missing) two 3-point attempts.

His greatest quality might be his hustle. It appears that we’ve once again gotten a player that isn’t afraid to do the dirty work, much like we got from Steven Adams last season. He shows great role player potential and appears to be ready to contribute this season.

4. The signing of Anthony Morrow

The goal all along was to sign a shooter. That much was certain when the Thunder drafted another big man and another perimeter oriented defender. Yes, when presented with the opportunity, the Thunder flirted (actually, lusted) with the idea of signing Pau Gasol. But that would’ve been a luxurious want. A shooter was always the necessary need.

The Thunder, a team predicated on the greatness of two perimeter oriented, dribble drive players, had no one on the team that shot over 40% from 3-point territory. Without a floor spacer, teams packed the paint and dared the team to beat them from the perimeter. Durant and Westbrook still registered great regular seasons, but their stats, especially Durant’s, suffered a bit during the playoffs.

Anthony Morrow

Once the flirtation of Gasol ended with him signing with Chicago, their attention was immediately turned to finding a shooter. The only available options for the Thunder were Mike Miller and Anthony Morrow. Once James signed with Cleveland, Miller going to the Cavs became an inevitability. The Thunder immediately set their sights on Morrow and signed him to a 3 year deal worth $10 million dollars. Not only is Morrow is a top 4 three point shooter in the league, but he was also signed for below market value for a top 10 shooter. The top 10 3-point shooters from last season will make an average of $4.77 million dollars next season.

3. The Thunder still have money under the tax line

Even with 16 contracts on file, the Thunder are still around $500K under the luxury tax line. Hasheem Thabeet, Sebastian Telfair, and Grant Jerrett all have non-guaranteed contracts. With one of those three likely on the chopping block, the Thunder are actually around $1.5 million under the tax line. Where this will help the Thunder is at the trade deadline. With two expiring contracts in Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, the Thunder will be able to be a player at the deadline with the ability to absorb an extra $1.5 million in salary.

2. Most contending teams got worse.

Most of the teams that contended last season have gotten worse, some significantly.

  • Miami Heat – Lost LeBron James. ‘Nuff said.
  • Houston Rockets – Lost Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. Signed Trevor Ariza, but lost a ton of depth. Plus, there are some rumblings that the two superstars on the team aren’t very well liked in the locker room.
  • San Antonio Spurs – Basically have the same squad, but they are a year older and recovering from surgery-necessitating injuries (Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili)
  • Brooklyn Nets – Lost Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston and still feature the oft-injured Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez.
  • Golden State Warriors – May have improved a bit with the Livingston signing, but may be embroiled for much of the season in the Kevin Love sweepstakes.

1. The Thunder still have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (and Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson)

With the Miami Heat losing LeBron James, it’s always good to remember the Thunder still have a young, and still improving quartet that features the current MVP, possibly the top point guard in the league, the best two way PF in the league, and a dynamic 6th man/combo guard.

 

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Posted in Free Agency, Offseason Beat

OKC Thunder: 5 Things to watch for in Summer League

reggie jackson summer league thunder

Summer League is one of my favorite parts of the NBA year. It’s a fan’s first chance to see what the rookies can do with some of the their more veteran, but still young future teammates. It’s a chance to see how those 2nd and 3rd year players have improved over the offseason. And it’s a chance to see some relative unknowns scrap and fight for the chance to make it onto a training camp roster.

Here are 5 things I’ll be for in this Summer League:

1. The “Veterans”

Four of the players on the Summer League roster have NBA experience, with 3 of them having started games for the Thunder last season. If Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Jackson are what make the Thunder great, then Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson, Perry Jones, and Steven Adams are what makes them contenders. Superstars are superstars, but they still need help. And that’s where these four players come into play. Their continued development is tantamount to the success of the team.

From Perry Jones, I would like to see some offensive aggressiveness. When Jones was on the floor last season, he seemed content with taking what the defense gave him. But his physical tools are made for an offensive attacker. Length, agility, and other-worldly athleticism would make him a nightmare for a defense. Add to that the fact that he showed the ability to knock down an open 3-pointer, and you have all the makings of someone that can score consistently in the league….if he wants to.

From Jeremy Lamb, I would like to see him attack the basket and draw contact. Lamb showed the ability to make shots from the perimeter, but settled too many times for jumpers or floaters in order to avoid contact. If Lamb were more inclined to absorb contact, he may see his scoring average jump from the increase in free throw attempts. Also, I’d like to see Lamb improve on his one on one defense.

adams jones roberson thunder

From Andre Roberson, I’d like to see him hit a corner three consistently. But more importantly, I’d like to see him diversify his offensive game. If the shot isn’t falling, work on getting to the basket. I truly see a Tony Allen dimension to Roberson’s game, and that’s not a bad thing.

One of the reasons why people laud Steven Adams when comparing him to Kendrick Perkins is because Adams has the tools to develop an offensive repertoire. I would like to see how Adams has worked on his offensive game in the post. Is he developing a go to shot (i.e. jump hook) or a consistent jumper from 5-15 feet out? Also, I’d like to see him defend without fouling as much.

2. The Rookies

Summer league was made to showcase young players, especially the rookies. The Thunder, for the 2nd year in a row, bring three drafted rookies into Orlando. Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, and Semaj Christon will all get a chance to showcase their skills surrounded by players that will be on the roster with them. This becomes the great unknown of the summer league equation. You get a sense of what these rookies play like, but when the collegiate shackles come off, it can be an entirely different story.

mitch mcgary michigan thunder

I’m interested to see how McGary plays coming off the back injury. Will he be limited or rusty? I remember what he did in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but didn’t see much of him last season. As far as Huestis goes, I still can’t find a decent scouting video (shame on your DraftExpress). I have no idea what to expect from him.

But I’m most interested in Semaj Christon. Not necessarily because of him, but more because I know the other two rookies are on guaranteed contracts. I see a lot of the same physical attributes in Christon as I see in Jackson and Westbrook. Maybe not the brute explosiveness, but definitely the length and athleticism. If Christon can somehow impress, will the Thunder take a similar approach with him as they did with Grant Jerrett last season? Stashing him in Tulsa will allow the Thunder to develop him, without taking up a roster spot.

3. Grant Jerrett

Speaking of Grant Jerrett, he’ll also be on the team. The team decided not to opt into his team option for next season, but, apparently, that was just so they can give him a guaranteed raise. The team probably won’t do that until they figure out who they are signing in free agency (Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, etc). Also, the team may be wanting to see how Jerrett has improved over this past season. A great showing by him may make the need for a 3-point shooter a moot point.

4. Defend the championship

summer league thunder champions

In case you don’t remember, the Thunder won the Orlando Summer League last season. They went a perfect 5-0 and got to take a picture with cool hats when it was all said and done. The good thing about it was that none of the games were complete blow-outs. The Thunder won their games by an average of 6.6 points. In my opinion, other than individual player development, the most important thing about summer league is placing the players in tight game situations, and seeing how they react to that pressure.

5. Other players

I’m a fan of the Thunder, but I’m also a fan of the league. Summer league allows me to see young players on other teams. It allows me to scout the other teams’ rookies and young players. Here’s a list of players from other teams that I will be interested to see:

  • Boston Celtics – Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and James Young
  • Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee
  • Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, and ex-Thunder DeAndre Liggins
  • Houston Rockets – Isaiah Canaan
  • Indiana Pacers – Roger Mason Jr. (Why is this veteran playing in summer league?)
  • Miami Heat – Shabazz Napier
  • Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton
  • Philadelphia 76ers – Nerlens Noel and Pierre Jackson
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Posted in D-League/Tulsa 66ers, Draft, Futures Report, Offseason Beat

OKC Thunder: Orlando Summer League Roster and Schedule Released

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s roster and schedule were released via NBA.com.

The roster will contain all of the Thunder players that are currently on rookie contracts, sans Reggie Jackson, and some unsigned free agents.

Roster

Number Name Position Height Weight College
12 Steven Adams* C 7’0 255 Pittsburgh / New Zealand
22 Semaj Christon G 6’3 190 Xavier
30 Fuquan Edwin G/F 6’6 215 Seton Hall
14 Josh Huestis* F 6’7 230 Stanford
7 Grant Jerrett F 6’10 232 Arizona
3 Perry Jones* F 6’11 235 Baylor
11 Jeremy Lamb* G 6’5 180 UConn
31 Marcus Lewis F 6’8 245 Oral Roberts
23 Mario Little G 6’6 218 Kansas
33 Mitch McGary* F 6’10 255 Michigan
21 Andre Roberson* F 6’7 210 Colorado
2 Nolan Smith G 6’2 190 Duke
6 Michael Stockton G 6’1 178 Westminster
44 Maurice Sutton C 6’11 220 Villanova

* – currently on the Thunder’s active roster

A couple things about the roster:

  • Michael Stockton is the son of NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton.
  • No Tibor Pleiss or Alex Abrines (the Thunder’s Euro-stashes).

Schedule

Day Date Time (CST) Opponent
Saturday July 5th, 2014 4:00 PM Memphis Grizzlies
Sunday July 6th, 2014 4:00 PM Philadelphia 76ers
Monday July 7th, 2014 6:00 PM Brooklyn Nets
Wednesday July 9th, 2014 2:00 PM Indiana Pacers
Friday* July 11th, 2014 TBD TBD

* – The last game is championship day, and teams will be matched up on how they did in their first 4 games.

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Posted in News, Offseason Beat

Thunder sign Sebastian Telfair

sebastian telfair thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed PG Sebastian Telfair to a non-guaranteed veteran minimum contract. Telfair played last season for the Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.0 steals on 36.9% shooting from 3-point range in 35 games. Prior to that, Telfair played for seven teams in nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 assists.

Telfair will earn $1.3 million if he stays on the roster the entire season, but will count only $915,000 towards the cap. Telfair will slide into the veteran, 3rd point guard role previously held by Kevin Ollie and Royal Ivey.

While not as sexy a name as Pau Gasol or Mike Miller, this is a good team-building move. Telfair is a veteran that has seen the ups and downs the NBA has to offer and will, hopefully, be a good locker room presence. He’s a good creator and floor general and will be a great asset to have on the bench.

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Posted in News, Offseason Beat
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