Tag Archives: Andrew Wiggins

Thunder @ Timberwolves Preview (Game 64 of 82)

okc logo at twolves

  • When: Tuesday, 05 March 2019 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: MIN -2.0 | O/U: 236.5
  • Off Rating: OKC – 109.9 (15th) | MIN – 110.6 (12th)
  • Def Rating: OKC – 105.6 (3rd) | MIN – 111.0 (20th)

Injuries never come at a good time. Gordon Hayward got injured at the beginning of the season last year and Boston’s entire game plan had to change from that point on. It worked for them, as they made all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but a healthy Hayward, in his prime, may have pushed them even further. Continue reading Thunder @ Timberwolves Preview (Game 64 of 82)

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Thunder vs. Wolves preview (Game 5 of 82)

twolves vs. okc logo

  • When: Friday, 27 October 2017 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: NBATV/FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -1.5 | O/U – 218

A lot has been made about the Big 3 in Oklahoma City. And deservedly so. Anytime you combine a current MVP with two prolific wing scorers, it’s bound to draw a lot of attention. The results after four games can be summed up in three words: Work In Progress.

But lost in all the attention the Big 3 are garnering has been the play of fifth year center, Steven Adams. Four games in, Adams is averaging 13.8 points, 8.5 rebounds (5 on the offensive end!!!!), 2 steals, and 1.75 blocks per game. He’s starting to “call his own number” when he spots a mismatch on offense, and is anchoring a defense that ranks 5th in the league in defensive rating. If those defensive numbers continue, Adams may be in contention for defensive player of the year, a la Marc Gasol in 2013.  Continue reading Thunder vs. Wolves preview (Game 5 of 82)

NTTB Rumblings – 23 Oct 2017

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Tough one last night. But we move on…

Royce Young (ESPN) on the crazy finish from last night’s game: “It was the perfect finish, the ideal answer to the first crunch time test for the new look Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook remained the clutch-time king, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final five minutes. But in the biggest spot, after Karl-Anthony Towns put the Minnesota Timberwolves up two with 8.9 seconds remaining, Westbrook did what many within the team claimed he’d do, but many outside were skeptical of — he found the open man. He drove right at Carmelo Anthony’s defender, and dropped a pass off to an open Anthony, who splashed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left. Then, Andrew Wiggins went and messed it all up.”

Kent Youngblood (Star Tribune) gives a recap of the game from the other side: “Andrew Wiggins did not call glass. After the game was over, surrounded by reporters, taking all sorts of abuse from his teammates, Wiggins admitted that much. “No,” Wiggins said, smiling. “I did not.” A few lockers down, Karl-Anthony Towns laughed. “He called ‘game,’ ” Towns said.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 23 Oct 2017

Thunder lose on a Wiggins game winner, 115-113

BOX SCORE

Why does it always have to end like this? Whether it’s Anthony Davis double clutching one in at the buzzer or Stephen Curry shooting it from Gotebo, the Oklahoma City Thunder always seem to succumb to buzzer beaters that should count as 4-pointers.

This time it was Andrew Wiggins unleashing a 35-foot running banker that had MidFirst Bank wondering whether they should give him a $20,000 check or not. It was a shame too, because the Thunder finally started looking like Thunder after a 7-quarter slumber. Between the Utah game and the first three quarters of this game, the Thunder did not look anything like a team that featured three 20-point scorers. Instead they looked like a team that was completely unsure of how it should play with it’s plethora of talent.

But with the Thunder down by 13 heading into the 4th quarter, the light kind of started to turn on over the Thunder’s collective heads. It started with (duh!) getting stops on the defensive end. The Thunder went on a 12-2 run in the first three and a half minutes of the fourth. Once the Thunder brought it down to about 5, it became a game again. Continue reading Thunder lose on a Wiggins game winner, 115-113

Timberwolves vs. Thunder preview (Game 3 of 82)

twolves vs. okc logo

  • When: Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 6:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: FSOK
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
  • Line: OKC -4.0 | O/U – 210.5

Six points? Six points for current MVP, Russell Westbrook. Much of the credit needs to go to the Utah defense, who executed a great defensive game plan. But it didn’t much seem like Westbrook was trying to attack the defense, either. He almost looked like he was settling. And the words Westbrook and settling don’t necessarily go together in a sentence.

Westbrook is known for his attacking nature and his ‘never say die’ style of play. But last night, he seemed almost content with passing the ball to Carmelo Anthony and Paul George and letting them shoot the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the rut they were in. The Westbrook from last season would have looked at the Westbrook from last night and wondered ‘what the hell are you doing?’.  Continue reading Timberwolves vs. Thunder preview (Game 3 of 82)

Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves preview (Game 82 of 82)

westbrook thunder hamilton wiggins twolves

  • When: Wednesday, 15 April 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

And it comes down to this. Eighty one games could not decide the future for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans. It all comes down to the 82nd and final game of the regular season. Considering everything that has happened to the Thunder this season, it is quite fitting that fans of Oklahoma City will be on pins and needles until about 9:30 PM CST tonight. It’s a position that is unfamiliar for Thunder fans. Even in their inaugural playoff season, the 8th-seeded Thunder finished 7 games ahead of the 9th-seeded Houston Rockets. There was never any late season drama other than their annual battle with the Spurs for the top two positions in the West. This season, though, the Thunder not only need to win their final game, but also have to depend on another team to extend their season. It almost feels like the Thunder are playing two road games tonight: their game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota and the Pelicans, at home, against the Spurs. Just like in real life, its kind of scary having to depend on other people.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two Northwest division rivals. The Thunder won the first three meetings by an average of 13.7 points.

The Opponent

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves currently finding themselves with a 16-65 record, good for the worst record in the NBA. They are riding an 11-game losing streak heading into this game and claim the best chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the next draft if they lose tonight. The Tiimberwolves have stuck to the tanking script for the past month, sitting veterans with nagging injuries and playing their young players the majority of the minutes. The Wolves are definitely playing for the future, and feature two rookies that could have a significant impact in years to come. Reigning slam dunk champ Zach LaVine has been manning the point in the last 5 games, averaging an impressive 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in that quintet of games. His back court mate, Kevin Martin, is shooting 38.7% from 3-point territory and averaging nearly 20 points a game. Kevin Martin is questionable for tonight’s game. If he misses, look for Chase Budinger to start in his place. On the wing, Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Wiggins is a developing franchise player in the Paul George/Tracy McGrady mold. Up front, rookie power forward Adreian Payne is just now starting to get significant minutes and Justin Hamilton is one of those “guys you sign to be a 3rd center off the bench” type guys. With so many guys out for this finale, the bench will feature Robbie Hummel, Lorenzo Brown, and Arinze Onuaku. Yeah, I don’t know too much about them either.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • PG – Zach LaVine
  • SG – Kevin Martin
  • SF – Andrew Wiggins
  • PF – Adreian Payne
  • C – Justin Hamilton

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Front offices tank, not players – The Timberwolves’ front office has done a good job of positioning itself to continue in its rebuilding process. They’ll like get a top-3 draft pick in this next draft, and have given their young players ample time to develop this season. You know who doesn’t care about Minnesota’s position in the next draft? Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. I, mean, they care, because they are invested in the continued success of their organization. But tonight, they aren’t thinking about Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony Towns. Tonight, Wiggins is only thinking about dropping 35 on Andre Roberson. Tonight, LaVine is only worried about getting a triple double against Westbrook.

If the Thunder treat this game like the Timberwolves are the worst team in the league, they may find this to be a competitive game heading in to the 4th quarter. The last thing you want if you are the Thunder is to give the Wolves hope heading into the closing quarter of the game. Minnesota has played their last two opponents (New Orleans and Golden State) close, and will likely treat this game like it is their Game 7. This would be their ultimate “feather in the cap” if they are able to beat the Thunder and ruin their playoff chances.

2. Play through the jitters – Westbrook and Nick Collison have been here before. They’ve been in pressure-packed games that mean something. Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, and Andre Roberson, on the other hand, haven’t. The team with all the pressure on them will be Oklahoma City. How will those players react if their first couple shots don’t fall? How will they react if Westbrook’s first couple shots don’t fall? Let’s just hope that doesn’t come into play.

westbrook waiters kanter thunder

3. Win – The only thing Oklahoma City can control is what it does in Minnesota. They can’t control what the Spurs do. They can’t control how the Pelicans will play. All you can do is win and hope for the best.

Thunder Up!

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 65 of 82)

westbrook adams thunder pekovic dieng timberwolves

  • When: Friday, 13 March 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

A historic month by Russell Westbrook, victories in 12 of their last 17 games, and a great improvement in team chemistry. And yet with all that, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves in the same position they were in the first 3 months of the season: outside the top 8 in the Western Conference. After holding on to the 8th position for a couple weeks, the New Orleans Pelicans have retaken the last playoff spot in the West. With the Pelicans holding the tie-breaker against the Thunder, Oklahoma City have to find a way to win one more game than the New Orleans when it is all said and done.

This is the 3rd of 4 meetings between these two Northwest Division rivals.  The Thunder have won the first two games by an average of 13.5 points. The Wolves were missing Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio in both of the previous meetings.

The Opponent

garnett lavine dieng timberwolves

The Timberwolves currently have a record of 14-49, which puts them in last place in the Western Conference. They are currently in the beginning stages of a rebuild, having netted the last two No. 1 picks in a trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are a mix of inexperienced young players and high priced veterans. It is apparent when you look at the stats, that the Wolves are playing more for the future than for the present. They are 22nd in scoring (97.6 points per game), while giving up the most points per game in the league (105.4 ppg). The T-Wolves attack is led by PG Ricky Rubio who averages 9.1 assists per game. Both the wings are the catalyst on offense, with Kevin Martin averaging 19.9 points on 39.9% shooting from deep and rookie of the year candidate Andrew Wiggins averaging 15.7 points per game. Up front, Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic give the Wolves an experienced post tandem that, while slow, is experienced enough to play around their weaknesses. The bench is a smorgasbord of young players and veterans, mainly featuring Zach Lavine, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Gary Neal, and Chase Budinger.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • PG – Ricky Rubio
  • SG – Kevin Martin
  • SF – Andrew Wiggins
  • PF – Kevin Garnett
  • C – Nikola Pekovic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Dion Waiters
  • PF – Mitch McGary
  • C – Enes Kanter

Edit – Serge Ibaka (knee) – out tonight/day to day

Three Things

1. Defense – The Thunder have allowed 111.4 points per game in the last 7 games. Not surprisingly, their record in that stretch is 3-4. They’ve been bad at the two staples of good defense: containing penetration and defending the perimeter. While the Wolves don’t necessarily have a plethora of 3-point shooters, they do have wings that penetrate and draw the defense in. With the Thunder’s penchant for sinking into the paint on defense, it may becomes one of those games where Martin, Neal, or Wiggins go off for 4 or 5 three pointers.

augustin collison kanter morrow thunder

2. The Others – The Russell Westbrook Experience has been exhilarating this past month and a half. But with Kevin Durant still out, defenses are completely keying in on Westbrook, making it extremely difficult for him to get into the paint. In the last three games, Westbrook has averaged 8 turnovers per game, as defenses either pack the paint or have an extra defender shading over to where Westbrook might drive. Westbrook can’t do it alone, and may need more than one other teammate to step up.

3. Trash Talkin’ KG – Steven Adams may have awakened a sleeping beast with his recent comments regarding Garnett and his penchant for sanitary verbalizations. Although Adams was completely complimentary in his interview, Garnett may not take too kindly to his words. Or, he may have softened in his older age and give props to the young New Zealander.

Bonus – Must-win – While it isn’t a must-win game, it sure has the feeling of one. Darn you Anthony Davis 30-foot desperation shot.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Northwest Divison

Northwest Division

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

westbrook ibaka durant jackson jones thunder

Last season: 59-23 (1st in the Northwest Division, 2nd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Mitch McGary – Draft (No. 21 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Morrow – Free agent signing
  • Sebastian Telfair – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Thabo Sefolosha – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Caron Butler – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Derek Fisher – Retired (Head coach of the New York Knicks)
  • Hasheem Thabeet – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – After years of relying on internal improvement/development, the Thunder finally threw their hat into the free agency fray. They failed in getting Pau Gasol or Mike Miller to OKC, but did get the deep-range threat they coveted in Anthony Morrow. If healthy, this team is one of the best in the league. Sporting the current MVP and another top 5 players in Westbrook, the Thunder should benefit from their more versatile additions. When it comes to a team like the Thunder, though, its all about May and June. With the team’s shortcomings in the playoffs with such a talented roster, might this be the year that coach Scott Brooks starts to feel the heat?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Thunder win the championship

Projected 2014-15 Record: 61-21

2. Portland Trailblazers

aldridge batum lopez matthews lillard trailblazers

Last season: 54-28 (2nd in the Northwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Steve Blake – Free agent signing
  • Chris Kaman – Free agent signing
  • James Southerland – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Mo Williams – Signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Earl Watson – Unsigned

Season Preview – The Trailblazers basically bring back the same team as last season, but with a little bit more veteran presence. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake should help shore up some of the inexperience off the bench. With that said, the Blazers’ Achilles heel this season will be the same as last season’s: lack of bench production. Second year guard CJ Mccollum will be expected to fill the production provided by Mo Williams. They were lucky the injury bug didn’t bite that hard last season. They will need similar health next season to produce the same output.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Blazers make it to the Western Conference Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 52-30

3. Denver Nuggets

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

Last season: 36-46 (4th in the Northwest Division, 11th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Arron Afflalo – Obtained in a trade with the Orlando Magic
  • Gary Harris – Draft (No. 19 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jusuf Nurkic – Draft (No. 16 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Evan Fournier – Traded to the Orlando Magic
  • Jan Vesely – Signed overseas
  • Anthony Randolph – Signed overseas
  • Aaron Brooks – Signed with the Chicago Bulls

Season Preview – I only wrote three names on the “Key Additions” section, but with half the team coming back from injury, you could easily add about 5 players to that section. Now, half the team is a bit of an exaggeration, but the players who are coming back are core members of the rotation. JaVale McGee, Danilo Galinari, JJ Hickson, and Nate Robinson all missed time last season with surgery necessitating injuries. With all those key players coming back and Kenneth Faried coming off a great showing in the FIBA World Cup, Denver becomes the wild card in the Western Conference. Two seasons ago, they were the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with many of these players on the team. It may take Denver a bit to gel, but I could definitely see them being a nuisance come the second half of the season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Nuggets make it to the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 40-42

4. Utah Jazz

burke hayward favors jazz

Last season: 25-57 (5th in the Northwest Division,  15th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Trevor Booker – Free agent signing
  • Dante Exum – Draft (No. 5 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Rodney Hood – Draft (No. 23 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Steve Novak – Obtained in a trade with the Toronto Raptors

Key Departures:

  • Richard Jefferson – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Marvin Williams – Signed with the Charlotte Hornets
  • Brandon Rush – Signed with the Golden State Warriors
  • Diante Garrett – Traded to the Toronto Raptors

Season Preview – The Jazz are probably at the midway point of their rebuild. Their young guys from 2-3 seasons ago are starting to come up for extensions and they have yet to show much fruit. They had to pay Gordon Hayward max money in order to keep him away from Charlotte. And their backcourt consists of a rookie (Exum) and a 2nd year player (Trey Burke). I think the Jazz take a step this season. Not necessarily a big one, but a 5-7 win improvement through the internal development of Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke. Show improvement and the team probably stays the course. But, flounder again, and the team may be looking at a smaller rebuild for the future.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Jazz win 35 games

Projected 2014-15 Record: 31-51

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

"blg 04 wolves state fair"

Last season: 40-42 (3rd in the Northwest Division, 10th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Anthony Bennett – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Zach Lavine – Draft (No. 13 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Glenn Robinson III – Draft (No. 40 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Andrew Wiggins – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Mo Williams – Free agent signing
  • Thaddeus Young – Obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers

Key Departures:

  • Kevin Love – Traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Alexey Shved – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – The Timberwolves seem to have a problem holding on to great power forwards. Kevin Garnett about seven years ago and Kevin Love this offseason. But they got a much better haul this time around for Love than they did for Garnett. Wiggins has franchise player potential and Bennett has match-up problems potential if he is healthy this season. Thaddeus Young is a good veteran stopgap at the forward spot, but is also young enough to grow with this group. I believe this team will surprise some people. Rubio is made to be a fast break point guard and now has the horses to let loose his talent. In the end though, this team is extremely young and will have plenty of growing pains this season. Luckily, they’ll also be exciting as hell.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Timberwolves’ young players show development throughout the season, and they still garner a Top 5 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 30-52

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.

 

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.