Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thunder sign Raymond Felton

raymond felton

The Oklahoma City Thunder signed free agent point guard Raymond Felton to a one year deal on Friday. According to Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript, the deal is for the veteran minimum, which is around $2.3 million.

The 12-year vet played for the Los Angeles Clippers last year, primarily as Chris Paul’s back-up. He played in 80 games, starting in 11 of them. He averaged 6.7 points and 2.4 assists on 43% shooting from the field and 32% shooting from deep. Felton was a key stabilizing figure in the Clippers’ locker room, during a season that saw both Paul and Blake Griffin go down with significant injuries.

This will be the 7th team Felton has played for in his career. He will almost assuredly slide into the back-up point guard spot ahead of 2nd year player Semaj Christon, who’s team option the Thunder have yet to pick up. The Thunder have until July 15th to pick up Christon’s option. With this signing, the Thunder have 12 guaranteed contracts totaling about $125 million. The luxury tax line for the 2017-18 season sits at $119 million.

Seven things from Summer League

Charlotte Hornets v Oklahoma City Thunder

With Thursday’s loss in the 3rd place game, the Oklahoma City Thunder finished out the 2017 Orlando Pro Summer League with a record of 2-3. After winning their first 2 games of summer league, the Thunder went on to drop their next three to finish in the fourth position of the 8-team league.

There honestly isn’t much that can be gleaned from this year’s summer league team. When you are a perennial playoff team, summer leagues are usually to see what you have in the cupboard, as the main dishes of the team usually don’t have to play summer league. Of the 13 players who were available to play for the Thunder, only about five have realistic chances of playing in the league.

Here are seven things from summer league: Continue reading Seven things from Summer League

A look at the Thunder’s 2015-16 schedule

durant westbrook ibaka thunder

Click here for the Thunder’s full 2015-16 schedule.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Do you know what the above picture says? It says, just like the looks on their faces, “Can we please get this sh!t started?”

On Wednesday, August 12th, the NBA (finally!) released their schedule for the upcoming season. The Oklahoma City Thunder found themselves with 24 primetime games, second only to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, who each have 25 primetime games. The primetime games include any games on TNT, ABC, or ESPN. In addition, they also have 9 games scheduled to be aired on NBATV. Being a nationally popular team can be a gift and a curse. All that attention usually means the team is predicted to do well in that particular season. But it can also be taxing on the players who have to play a schedule with slight variations that makes it a bit more difficult. Every team plays 82 games, with the same basic format depending on what conference they play in. But not every team has to face a top notch opponent once or twice a week for the entirety of the season. The schedule makers normally don’t have to worry about where to slot the Charlotte Hornets or the Portland Trailblazers because those teams don’t move the needle like the the aforementioned Thunder, Cavaliers, and Warriors do. But for certain teams, the schedule makers have to plug in their primetime games first and then go on from there.

Road Schedule Imbalance

The first thing I noticed when I saw the schedule was the imbalance in road games from the first half of the season to the second half of the season. In the first 41 games, the Thunder play 16 road games. In the final 41 games, they play 25 road games. While some may look at this as a detriment, I see it as a benefit. A home-heavy schedule in the beginning of the season allows for more practice time, which, for a team that was never fully complete due to injuries last season, will be extremely beneficial. Many don’t realize that Kevin Durant never got to play with Enes Kanter, DJ Augustin, and Kyle Singler. By the time the Thunder traded for these players, Kevin Durant was in the beginning stages of being shut down for the season. By the time the second half of the season rolls around this year, the Thunder should be firing on all cylinders.

Injured Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, left, pumps his fist at teammates Enes Kanter, center, and Steven Adams, right, cheer in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City won 108-104. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

There’s an even greater imbalance after the All-Star break. In the 28 games post All-Star break, the Thunder will play 17 of those away from the Chesapeake Energy Arena. It’ll be imperative that the Thunder build up enough currency in terms of wins and losses before the All-Star break to help supplant the road-heavy schedule at the end of the season.

More rest in-season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it a priority to provide players with more rest during the season by extending the All-Star break, limiting the amounts of back to backs and 4 games in 5 days. Due to their geography, teams that are in the middle part of the country don’t have to embark on long road trips, which limits the amount of back to backs. The Thunder only have 15 back to backs this season, compared to the league average of 17.8. In addition, the Thunder, like most teams in the league, only have one 4 games in 5 nights stretch, and it happens in the first week of the season (Nov. 1 – Nov. 5).

But that in-season resting may be a mirage. Due to the fact the Thunder are centrally located, it allows them to travel more often without racking up as many miles. The Thunder alternate between home and road in the first 8 games of the season, and don’t have their first multiple game road trip until December 21st. With so much travel, that feeling of rest may seem like a farce.

Opponents

Every team has their built in schedule (2 games each versus the teams in the opposite conference (30), 4 games each against division opponents (16), 4 games each against 6 other conference opponent (24), and 3 games each against another 4 conference opponents (12)). Luckily for the Thunder, the teams they only have to face three times out of the Western Conference are the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, and Phoenix Suns. When you are building up a record, the less you have to play great teams, the better. Unfortunately, two of the three games against the Warriors and Grizzlies will be on the road.

Toughest Stretch

January 5, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 117-91. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The toughest stretch for the Thunder will be a 15 game gamut from February 6th to March 12th that will see them face the world champion Warriors three times, the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans twice, and once against the San Antonio Spurs. Nine of those games will be on the road, including a stretch of 6 out of 7, with the Warriors being the home game in between. Its a stretch where finishing 8-7 will put a smile on your face.

Top Home Games

Oct. 28 – vs. San Antonio – First game of the season. Against the Thunder’s biggest rival/big brother. With (hopefully) a complete and healthy roster. Not enough has been written about how Durant looked in Las Vegas last week. While he didn’t participate in any 5 on 5 contact drills, he did participate in every other drill. And he looked like Kevin Durant. Which is great news.

Nov. 18 – vs. New Orleans – Welcome back, Kendrick Perkins. Say what you want about Perkins, but his voice is still resonates in the locker room. Although they understood the move, many on the team were not entirely thrilled that Perkins was traded. He was like the wise sage on the team, if a wise sage cursed and spoke with a southern drawl. In reality though, this game is more about seeing how Anthony Davis continues to develop. He knocked on the doorstep of greatness last season, and will likely kick down that door this season. If the Pelicans can continue to pick up pieces here and there, they may be a team to contend with in the future.

Nov. 27 – vs. Detroit – Good riddance, Reggie Jackson. If the previous game on this list was to welcome back an old friend, this game is to jeer what became a malcontent at the end of his run with the Thunder. Reggie Jackson could have stayed a Thunder. He could have taken the 4 year/$48 million dollar contract they offered him before his 4th season and been one of the top 6th men in the league. Instead, knowing he was good enough to be a starting point guard in the league, he decided to pout his way through the first 50 games of the season, when the Thunder were needing every able body they had on deck due to their plethora of injuries. It wasn’t that he wanted out, because I agreed that he had the talent to be a starter in the league, and it showed in the extension Detroit gave him (5 yrs/$80 million, ironically, the same exact extension James Harden received when he was traded). But it was in the manner that he conducted himself to meet that end. Because of that, he will likely face at lot of this in his first return to the ‘Peake:

It may reach Patrick Beverly-like levels before its all said and done.

Dec. 25 – vs. Chicago – Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook have not gone against each other in a regular season game since December 6th, 2010. Let that sink in for a minute. The two most athletically gifted specimens the point guard position has arguably ever seen have not faced each other in five full years!? The Christmas wish of a lot of NBA fans is that these two make it to this game in one piece and finally give us the show that has been five years in the making.

Feb. 21 – vs. Cleveland – Durant vs. LeBron. Westbrook vs. Irving. A possible Finals preview? Last season we were robbed of seeing these two teams at full strength in their two match-ups. LeBron James sat out the meeting in Oklahoma City, while Durant sat out the game in Cleveland with his injuries. Hopefully, the injury bugs turns away from these two games.

Feb. 27 – vs. Golden State – In the one game Oklahoma City was fully healthy against the Warriors, they beat them pretty convincingly. It always goes back to “what if?” when it comes to last season. In another meeting last season, Durant put on a show for the Oracle faithful, scoring 30 points in the first half before succumbing to a sprained ankle at the half.

Apr. 11 – vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Possibly the last time to see Kobe Bryant in a Lakers uniform. I’ve always said that the Spurs are who we modeled ourselves after, but the Lakers are who we wanted to beat. A lot of that has to do with the respect Durant and Westbrook have for Bryant, which he has verbally reciprocated time and time again.

Another great season is ahead for NBA fans. The league has once again tabbed the Thunder in their upper echelon of teams. With that said, I only have one question: Is it October, yet?

The Thunder hire Monty Williams to be their top assistant coach

monty williams thunder

On Tuesday, Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan addressed the need for NBA experience on his bench by hiring former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams to be his top assistant. The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, but were quickly dispatched by the Finals-bound Golden State Warriors in a sweep. Although the series was a lot more competitive than many had thought, the Pelicans’ front office still felt it was time to move in different direction. Williams finished with a 173-221 record in his five seasons in New Orleans. He was 2-8 in the playoffs in that time.

While never heralded as a masterful tactician, Williams’ strengths as a coach lie more in building a special rapport with his players. For an example, read the Chris Ballard piece for Sports Illustrated on how Williams helped Pelicans’ forward Ryan Anderson deal with the passing of his girlfriend. Williams is the type of coach that players run through walls for. He’s the type of coach the can conform a malcontent, and turn him into an effective contributor.

Williams will likely be the ying to Donovan’s yang. Donovan and Thunder GM Sam Presti seem to be in lockstep in their love and understanding for how analytics can help a coach better understand the game. Williams, on the other hand, seems more like an “eye test/gut feeling” type of coach. That balance between coaching ideologies could be something that helps the Thunder finally get over the hump. Former Thunder head coach Scott Brooks never fully embraced the idea of analytics, and that was likely part of the reason why he was let go.

In addition, it’s always a plus to have an assistant coach that has keen insight into what will likely be one of the next great superstars in the league, in Anthony Davis. Having someone on the bench that knows Davis and his nuances will definitely be a positive moving forward. Another perk of having Williams on the OKC bench is that he has a history with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook through USA Basketball. As both players approach unrestricted free agency in the next two seasons, having a trusted voice on the bench may prove tantamount in retaining the two superstars.

This move likely completes the assistant coaching staff for the Thunder. Former Alabama Tide head coach Anthony Grant, who was an assistant for Donovan at Florida, has already been hired onto Donovan’s staff and will likely be the “defensive coordinator” of the team. Darko Rajakovic and Mark Bryant, who were assistant coaches under the Brooks regime, have also been retained.

Nick Collison signs a multi-year extension with the Thunder

nick collison thunder

When I first saw the headline, I thought it was a joke. Nick Collison re-signs with the Thunder. I thought it was a headline from 2010. But, apparently, the Oklahoma City Thunder have signed Nick Collison to a multi-year extension (reportedly 2-year, $8 million dollars). Collison’s current deal was set to expire after this season. The organization values the experience and the locker room presence that Collison brings to the team. In 41 games this season, Collison has averaged 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16 minutes per game.

The biggest question I keep getting from this signing is “Why?”. The answer to that is two-fold. First off, the organization is extremely high on what Collison brings to the table. He has been with the organization since it was located in the Pacific Northwest and still has enough game left to be useful on the court in spurts. Secondly, with the salary cap increasing, possibly by $10 million or more dollars in each of the next two seasons, Collison’s upcoming $4 million dollar salary will look very similar to the cap-friendly deal he currently has.

Early Training Camp Stories

durant media day thunder

With Monday’s media day out of the way, the Oklahoma City Thunder started their journey into the 2014-15 NBA season. Like every other training camp before this one, there are questions and issues that need to be settled before the season begins. Luckily, the Thunder don’t have to contend with any roster-shattering trades or major injury issues like they have in the last two training camps. The Thunder come into camp basically intact and healthy. Here are some of the issues the Thunder are hoping to settle before October 29th.

1. Reggie Jackson

Probably the biggest question mark heading into the season is the contract situation of Reggie Jackson. The Thunder have until October 31st to work out an extension with Jackson. If no deal is done by then, Jackson will enter restricted free agency next offseason. Thunder GM Sam Presti, in his address to the media, said Jackson was a “core member” of the team and that the team was working hard in trying to secure an extension.

Many people will hark back to how the Thunder handled (or didn’t handle) the James Harden extension. As has been rehashed many times over, Harden and the Thunder couldn’t get an extension worked out and Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets four days before the beginning of the season. But there are two major differences between the two situations. The first difference is that Jackson is not a max player. While NBA teams have been giving out very generous contracts to “upper middle class” type players in the past few offseasons, Jackson unfortunately plays a position of excess in the NBA. Many teams already either have their point guard or aren’t necessarily in the market to pay max money for a “middle class” player. The second major difference is the Thunder’s financial situation. Due to the Harden trade, the Thunder were able to maintain their salary cap flexibility and, even with 3 max or near max deals, are in great financial shape. With the salary cap set to greatly increase in the next 2-3 seasons, the Thunder can offer Jackson a reasonable contract without endangering their ability to extend Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka.

The Thunder have everything in their favor to re-sign Jackson. But like many other situations in life, the events we think will be solved in a straight line, usually become roller coasters before we reach the finish line. The monkey wrench in this situation is Jackson’s adamant desire to be a starter. He planted the seed during exit interviews at the end of last season. And his tone didn’t change throughout the offseason. As Jackson stated during media day, “I can’t remember any great that wasn’t a starter. All the greats have started. I just want to be great. I want a chance to be great. I can’t recall a superstar Sixth Man.” The problem is that Jackson is point guard sized, and the Thunder have an opening at shooting guard, a position usually reserved on the Thunder for a long-winged defender that can (hopefully) make spot-up 3-pointers.

The Thunder got a sneak peak at what a Westbrook/Jackson back court would look like in the last four games of the Western Conference Finals. While the results were positive, the Thunder will probably choose to go the traditional route for the regular season. Whether its a ploy by Jackson to leverage the Thunder into more money or whether Jackson truly wants to be a starter in the league, this monkey wrench is probably a long ways away from getting resolved. Look for Jackson to head into the season without an extension.

2. Starting Shooting Guard

For the first time in five seasons, someone other than Thabo Sefolosha will start at SG for the Thunder on opening night. Sefolosha signed with the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, thus opening the 2-guard spot. Sefolosha struggled in his final season with the Thunder and was relegated to bench duty at times in two of the Thunder’s three playoff series. The Thunder have a bevy of candidates that could possibly start at shooting guard.

Andre Roberson started 16 games for the Thunder as a rookie when Sefolosha was out with a calf strain in the 2nd half of the season. He has shown flashes of being the prototypical wing defender that the Thunder love to use at the 2-guard position, but is a developing work in progress on the offensive end. In 40 games total last season, Roberson only attempted 13 3-pointers, making only 2 in the process. He knows his limitations offensively and usually defers to his more offensively minded teammates.

Jeremy Lamb was viewed as being the heir-apparent to James Harden after the trade two seasons ago. He could shoot like Harden and was long and rangy enough to be made into an adequate defender. He showed flashes last season, averaging nearly 10 points per game until he hit the “rookie” wall in the second half of the season. Last season was Lamb’s second, but it was his first playing significant minutes. By the end of the season, Lamb’s minutes were going to veterans Caron Butler and Derek Fisher. The Thunder seem to really like what Lamb brings to the team and may look to him to be their version of Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs.

lamb jones thunder

Reggie Jackson is another option. He started the final four games of the Western Conference Finals with Westbrook to positive results. But the Thunder probably view Jackson as their firepower off the bench and one of their closers. While Jackson has been adamant that he would like to start, his best role on this team may be that of his current role as a sixth man.

The dark horse in this competition is Perry Jones. He started six games for the Thunder at SG and did a memorable job defensively on LeBron James in the Thunder’s victory in Miami against the Heat last season. He’s the median between Roberson and Lamb. He can hit the corner 3 pretty consistently and has the tools and ability to be a good defender. The question is whether he has the motor and “want to” to beat out the other candidates?

In the end, I think Lamb comes out of the fray with the starting position. His ability to space the floor will give the Thunder a dimension in their starting line-up they have been severely lacking. The onus will be on Lamb to improve defensively. The Thunder preach defense, and if Lamb is not up to task, there are at least 3 guys in the wings that can replace him.

3. Starting Center

With Kendrick Perkins nursing a quad strain, Steven Adams has an opportunity to supplant the veteran as the team’s starting center. The signs have been pointing towards Adams being the center of the future for this team. But Adams’ play last season may have fast-forwarded that development to this season. Adams started 20 games last season when Perkins was out and developed consistently as the season progressed. In the playoffs, Adams averaged nearly 4 more minutes per game than Perkins after Game 5 of the first round.

Perkins’ contract is up after this season and the team is probably ready to move on from it. While Perkins has been a great locker room presence, his play on the court has not merited his hefty salary. But if the Thunder start Adams, they run into a bit of a conundrum. Perkins’ value is as a starter. He is great defensively against traditional post players, most of whom start. As a bench player though, the little value Perkins does have gets muted. The team could always trade Perkins, as a $9 million dollar expiring contract is a commodity during the trade deadline, but the depth at center suffered a bit when the team traded Hasheem Thabeet. Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, and Mitch McGary can all play center, but are better suited for power forward.

What I see happening is a repeat of last season’s playoffs. Perkins will get the starts, but Adams will get the lion’s share of minutes.

4. 15th Spot

The Thunder do have a roster spot open, but have always preferred to keep that spot open until the trade deadline in February. An open roster spots becomes more attractive to a team looking to trade more players than they are receiving. Also, after the deadline, expiring veterans on lottery bound teams are usually bought out so they have the ability to latch onto a playoff-bound team for the stretch run. The Thunder have used this roster spot in recent years to sign Derek Fisher and Caron Butler for late season playoff pushes. In conclusion, I see the Thunder going into the season with an open roster spot.

5. The Semaj Christon Situation

Christon, the Thunder’s 2nd round pick from the 2014 NBA Draft, will apparently be getting the Grant Jerrett treatment. Jerrett was the Thunder’s 2nd round pick from last season’s draft. Instead of inviting him to training camp and being forced to offer him a training camp contract, the Thunder, instead, renounced their rights to him and made him the first pick in that year’s D-League draft. He played the entire season with the Tulsa 66ers, and then signed with the Thunder in the final week of the NBA season. The Thunder then included him on their playoff roster. That inclusion allowed Jerrett to get paid the playoff bonus that all the other players received. The Thunder rewarded Jerrett’s loyalty by offering him a multiyear contract this offseason.

semaj christon thunder blue

According to Christon’s agent Doug Neustadt, he will begin his career with the Thunder’s renamed D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. Christon has the physical attributes to be a Thunder-type point guard (long, athletic, able to drive and finish). On the Blue, he’ll probably be tasked with running the team and becoming a better shooter. If the Thunder have an open roster spot near the end of the season, look for them to reward Christon for his loyalty and patience.

6. Hot seat for Scott Brooks?

Is this the season that the coaching seat starts to warm up for Brooks. He has probably his most talented roster yet, and will be measured by whether he wins a championship or not. Injuries have had a big hand in deciding the Thunder’s fate the last two postseasons, but Brooks has also been to blame due to his lack of an offensive system and his stubbornness to make rotational changes whenever necessary. Brooks is a great ego-managing coach. He’s nursed the Thunder’s core players from “all-potential” to “all-production”. That is not an easy thing to do in the NBA. But now, its “put up or shut up” time. The team is primed for a championship run and their core players are just now entering their prime. Will Brooks rise above the fray, or will he, once again, be a game too late in making the right adjustments?

7. Is Russell Westbrook the best point guard in the league?

Yes! He outplayed Mike Conley, Chris Paul, and Tony Parker on head to head match-ups in last year’s playoffs. He was probably the 2nd or 3rd best player in the playoffs. And for a 10 game stretch before he necessitated another surgery on his knee in December, he averaged 21.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per game on 46.5% shooting. Is he the best pure point guard in the league? Probably not. That title still belongs to Chris Paul. But pound for pound, bringing everything to the table, I’m taking Westbrook every time.

8. Steven Adams’ mustache

The Lord giveth…..

adams thunder 2

…And the Lord taketh away (just a day later – no ‘stache)

 adams practice

#SadFace

9. Will Serge Ibaka ever learn who Mitch McGary is?

OH, the outrage when it was discovered that Serge Ibaka didn’t know who Mitch McGary. How dare Ibaka not know who one of his teammates are? Until you consider that Ibaka was probably just enjoying his time in Spain representing the host country in the FIBA World Cup. Fans tend to think the players are as passionate about the roster makeup of their team as they are. American-born players are used to waking up watching SportsCenter and knowing the ins and outs of the league. Foreign-born players don’t have the same routines as American-born players, so they probably don’t necessarily keep track with all the happenings around the league. Plus, Serge was extremely busy this summer, so its understandable. And besides, he’ll have plenty of time to get to know McGary this season.

In the end, Ibaka could have just been trolling everyone, though.

10. Was this the longest offseason in Thunder history?

Yes!

Thunder trade Hasheem Thabeet to the Philadelphia 76ers

Hasheem Thabeet, Maalik Wayns

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded center Hasheem Thabeet (along with cash considerations) to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. In return, the Thunder received a protected 2nd round pick (likely highly protected) and a $1.4 million dollar Traded Player Exception as the 76ers are severely under the cap and didn’t need to send the Thunder a player back. The 76ers will likely to waive Thabeet.

The Thunder like to go into the season with at least one roster spot available. This allows them more flexibility for possible trades or to sign a disgruntled veteran for a late season playoff run after the trade deadline. The Thunder had until the 1st of September to do something with Thabeet, as his salary would have become fully guaranteed after that date.

I don’t usually care too much about third string players, but Thabeet was a great locker room presence and the ultimate team guy. His positive attitude rubbed off on anyone he met and he performed well enough on the court whenever he was called upon. I will always the remember the ejection that was rescinded 5 minutes later in James Harden’s first game back in Oklahoma City as a member of the Houston Rockets. Best wishes on your future endeavors Hash.

Money in the bank: The Increase in Salary Cap and the Thunder

presti thunder

On Friday, the league sent a memo to all the teams in the league that the salary cap will increase by about $5 million dollars and the luxury tax line will follow suit. For teams beckoning for free agents, this is like manna from the heavens. But for teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who already have their top 3 players under contract, this type of financial relief will allow them to not only to stay out of the luxury tax, but also to remain competitive in the free agency department.

If the Thunder doesn’t trade anyone during the draft or during the offseason, here are the players that are under contract for the 2014-15 NBA season

  • Kevin Durant
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Kendrick Perkins
  • Nick Collison
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Jeremy Lamb
  • Perry Jones
  • Andre Roberson
  • Steven Adams
  • Hasheem Thabeet has a team option for $1.25 million. The team picking up his option is probably dependent on whether they bring Tibor Pleiss over from Europe.
  • While still unknown, it is believed that Grant Jerrett also has a team option for the next two seasons.
  • Thabo Sefolosha, Caron Butler, and Derek Fisher will be unrestricted free agents.

With 10 players under contract, that leaves 5 possible roster spots to play with. The Thunder will not be under the salary cap for the foreseeable future, but their biggest battle is staying under the luxury tax to avoid its punitive penalties. With the increase in the luxury tax line, the Thunder are about $9 million dollars under the line. Here are 5 possible things the team may do with this increase in the luxury tax line:

1. Sign Reggie Jackson to an extension

It may not be this offseason, but with the increase in revenue, the team will make it a priority to keep Jackson in their camp. The reasons for resigning Jackson are threefold: First, he provides the necessary scoring and play-making off the bench that would seriously be lacking if he weren’t on the team. Secondly, he works great with Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka as a 3rd/4th option in the crunchtime line-up. Third, and most importantly, he is a great insurance policy to have if Westbrook’s knee issues ever creep up again. The great unknown is how Westbrook’s knee injury will affect him for the next 3 seasons that he is under contract with the Thunder. Will the team have to maintain their rest policy on back to backs for the rest of his career? Will Westbrook have sporadic bouts with knee tendinitis that may keep him out for a couple games at a time? Will Westbrook have to have arthroscopic scopes from time to time to clean out any debris that will keep him out for 6-8 weeks at a time? These are all issues that will be alleviated if the team resigns Jackson in these next two offseasons.

reggie jackson thunder

This will not be another James Harden situation. For as good as Jackson is, he is not a top 10 player in the league. And the Thunder are in a much better position now to offer their current sixth man a sizeable contract than they were two seasons ago. Let’s not forget, the Thunder offered Harden a near max contract (somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years/ $52 million) that would have put them over the luxury tax line had he signed it. The Thunder are willing to go over the tax line, but only for the right player and for the right price. I’m not saying that Reggie Jackson’s extension will push them into luxury tax territory because this extension will coincide with Kendrick Perkins’ and (sadness) Nick Collison’s contracts expiring. A 4 year/$26-28 million dollar contract would probably be what the Thunder are shooting for.

2. Keep Kendrick Perkins

If the tax line would have stayed the same for next season, I could have seen a scenario where Perkins would have either been amnestied or traded. Highly unlikely, but still probable. With the tax line bumped up, though, the organization probably sees no reason to let go of the big man at the moment. Say what you want about Perkins, but the team has a great winning percentage when he plays and looks a bit lost defensively in the games that he doesn’t. Is he offensive napalm? Yes. But he’s also a great communicator on the defensive end and holds his teammates accountable when they are not where they are supposed to be on that side of the floor. I don’t know if the Thunder are yet ready to head into a championship contending season with 2nd year center Steven Adams as their starter and Hasheem Thabeet/Tibor Pleiss as his back-up.

3. Use the Kevin Martin Traded Player Exception (TPE)

Many fans, me included, were disappointed when the team didn’t use the Eric Maynor TPE at the trade deadline this season. I thought the team could have used Maynor’s TPE (about $2.2 million) on a shooter from a team that was out of playoff contention. Players like CJ Miles of Cleveland or Anthony Morrow of New Orleans fit into that category. Instead the team let the TPE expire and got nothing from the Maynor deal other than the rights to a European player with a cool name that will never make the trek across the Atlantic.

When the Thunder convinced the Minnesota Timberwolves to do a sign and trade for Kevin Martin, the team obtained a $6.6 million dollar TPE. With the increase in the tax line, Thunder GM Sam Presti should be able to use some or all of the TPE to get a player they covet.

How will they use it? The few teams that are vying for Carmelo Anthony’s services will have to shed salary to obtain him. Those teams will be looking to shed salary without taking any salary back. The Thunder could deal with a team like Chicago to obtain Mike Dunleavy, whose $3 million salary fits nicely within the parameters of the TPE. The trade could work as follows:

  • Bulls get – Thunder’s 1st round pick (29th pick) and a $3.4 million dollar TPE
  • Thunder get – Mike Dunleavy and the Bobcats 1st round pick (via Chicago, No. 16)

The Bulls still end up with 2 first rounders, but the cost is less, which allows them more money under the cap to attempt to sign Carmelo Anthony. Dunleavy is an expiring contract and probably wouldn’t have been on the Bulls past next season.

4. Resign Caron Butler

butler durant westbrook ibaka lamb thunder

Caron Butler seems to be working out well in his short stint with the team. With Derek Fisher “retiring” and the possibility of Thabo Sefolosha not returning after this season, keeping a guy like Butler could shore up many of those intangibles that will be missing if those two guys leave. Butler would have to take a significant pay cut to stay on the team, but if he values playing for a contender, that may be a possibility.

5. Prepare for the next extension for the Big 3.

Presti is always looking 3 or 4 steps ahead. Durant has 2 years left on is current deal after this season, and Westbrook and Ibaka have 3 years left. If the Thunder really follow the Spurs’ model, they’ll be looking to keep this trio together. The next deals for Durant and Westbrook could take them in to the $20 million per season category. The Thunder may need Durant and Westbrook to make sacrifices in order to not only keep the team competitive, but also keep the core together.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers preview (Game 80 of 82)

westbrook collison west hibbert thunder pacers

  • When: Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 12:00 PM CST
  • Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

“We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!” That will be Oklahoma City’s battle cry heading into the playoffs. Hopefully they won’t be saying that in June. The San Antonio Spurs took care of business in their last two games, and locked in their No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The only thing still left to see is who the Thunder will face in the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies all have the possibility of finishing with the 7th seed.

The team the Thunder are facing are trying to avoid the same fate as the Thunder. The Indiana Pacers are currently tied with the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but hold the tie-breaker by virtue of their conference record. With two games remaining for both, the ball is entirely in the Pacers’ court. Finish with the same record as the Heat and they end up with the No. 1 seed. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pacers. The Thunder won the first meeting early in the season, 118-94.

The Opponent

hibbert west george pacers

The Pacers come into the game with a 54-26 record, and tied for first in the Eastern Conference. In the first 54 games of the season, the Pacers started hot with a 41-13 record. Since then, they are 13-13, with only 2 of those victories against playoff teams. Many theories abound as to what happened to the Pacers since February 20th. That day coincided with the Danny Granger for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen trade. It may be coincidence, but Granger was a veteran who was finally making his way back into the rotation from a knee injury that had robbed the past 1.5 seasons from him. With the trade, the Pacers lost a valuable locker room presence that may have helped in a locker room that may have already been fracturing. But the real issue at hand, may be the lack of offense. While never a high scoring outfit, the Pacers have slipped to near anemic levels, scoring only 96.6 points per game, which is the least of any of the playoffs team not named Chicago or Memphis. The lack of offense has coincided more with the regression to the mean for Paul George and Roy Hibbert. They probably played a bit over their heads in the first half of the season and have failed to reach that sort of production since.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Indiana Pacers

  • PG – George Hill
  • SG – Lance Stephenson
  • SF – Paul George
  • PF – David West
  • C – Roy Hibbert

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Meaning of the Game – The Thunder are basically locked into the No. 2 spot in their conference. But the Pacers will be fighting and clawing in their last two games to try and maintain the No. 1 seeding. In appearance, this game seems to mean more to the Pacers. But don’t be surprised if the Thunder use this game to send a message: We don’t care if it’s Miami or Indiana, and we’re not helping one or the other.

westbrook hibbert perkins thunder pacers

2. Paint defense – The Pacers weaknesses fall right into the Thunder’s wheel-well. The Pacers’ lack of 3-point shooting causes them to lose the dish part of “drive and dish”. The Thunder are great at packing the paint and hoping their length will bother the opponents on the perimeter.

3. Offense – The notion that the Pacers are great defensively could be a bit of an illusion. Only 5 of the Eastern Conference teams score over 100 points per game. With so little offense in their conference, the Pacers have been feasting on offensively anemic teams. Against the top 9 teams in the West, the Pacers are only 7-10, with their last victory happening on February 7th, against the Trailblazers. With the Thunder at full strength, the Thunder should not have any problem outscoring the Pacers.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns preview (Game 76 of 82)

Westbrook dragic suns thunder

  • When: Sunday, 06 April 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

As the Thunder head into the postseason, the one thing they will be able to appreciate is, hopefully, having a predictable rotation in every game. With Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins resting on one of the two games of back to backs, and with Thabo Sefolosha still out with his calf injury, the Thunder have yet to trot out a complete roster that also features Caron Butler. It will be interesting to see how Scott Brooks handles an influx of players in a time when you should have your rotations down pat.

This will the rubber match between these two team. The Thunder won a close one early in the season and the Suns won a barn-burner in their last meeting. The Suns remind me a lot of the Don Nelson-coached Golden State Warriors. A lot of good offensive players that are currently riding a wave.

The Opponent

bledsoe dragic morris plumlee hornacek suns

The Phoenix Suns come into the game with a 45-31 record, tied for 8th place in the Western Conference playoff race. Unfortunately, the other team they are tied with, the Memphis Grizzlies, hold the tie-breaker between the two teams, and currently hold the 8th, and final, spot in the playoff chase. The Suns have won 9 of their last 12 games, and play the two teams they are chasing in the final week of the regular season. The team stumbled a bit after the All-Star break, but found their footing when combo guard Eric Bledsoe came back from his knee injury. The combination of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic makes for a lethal backcourt. The dribble drive of these guards is helped by the spacing provided by a bevy of shooters (Gerald Green, Channing Frye, and Markieff Morris). Up front, Miles Plumlee’s athleticism and energy can get teams fits.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Phoenix Suns

  • PG – Goran Dragic
  • SG – Eric Bledsoe
  • SF – PJ Tucker
  • PF – Channing Frye
  • C – Miles Plumlee

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF- Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Front court defense – Phoenix doesn’t really have traditional post players. Plumlee is the only one that could classify as a traditional post player. Fyre and the Morris twins are perimeter oriented big men that usually stay outside the paint. How will the Thunder, with their bevy of paint protectors, counter this? Prepare to see a lot of small ball lineups with Ibaka/Collison at the 5, and KD at the 4.

2. Perimeter defense – The Suns have 6 players who play over 22 minutes a game and shoot over 34% from 3-point territory. This is how the Thunder got burned last game. Look for the Thunder to stay with a shooters a lot more in this game.

durant tucker suns thunder

3. Durant – It was struggle in the last game for Durant to keep the streak going. But, he tied the streak in that game and will be going for the modern day record in this game. Fellow Texas alum PJ Tucker will be tasked with the job of guarding Durant, and you can bet that he will give Durant all he has.