Tag Archives: Anthony Davis

Pelicans vs. Thunder Primer (Preseason Game 2)

pelicansvs. okc logo

  • When: Friday, 06 October 2017 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: okcthunder.com or the OKC Thunder app (stream)
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))

One preseason game down. Oklahoma City Thunder fans finally got to see what Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will look like in Thunder uniforms. It didn’t always flow smoothly, but the set-up for something bigger was there. The two of the Big 3 who played put their vast array of skills on display. George showed his overall ability (offense and defense) and Anthony showed his shot-making ability.

Were there hiccups? Of course. George and Anthony overpassed a little, leading to a couple turnovers. In addition, they seemed a little lost on how to use Steven Adams. The chemistry developed between Russell Westbrook and Adams took about two seasons to actually produce fruit. It would be foolish to think the new players on the team would have immediate chemistry with the old players on the team. Continue reading Pelicans vs. Thunder Primer (Preseason Game 2)

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Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans preview (game 49 of 82)

westbrook thunder gordon pelicans

  • When: Wednesday, 04 February 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

I believe this season comes down to the 12 games in February. Do anything less than 9-3, and it becomes harder and harder for the Thunder to catch up to the Pelicans and Suns. Here’s the catch, though. Those 3 losses cannot come against the Pelicans and Suns (2 games against New Orleans and 1 game against Phoenix this month). If the Thunder lose any of the two remaining games against the Pelicans, they lose the season series and essentially fall a game behind New Orleans if both teams finish with the same record. Conversely, they’ve won both games against the Suns and need one more victory to clinch the season series (and catch up to them in the standings). It’s go time. The excuse that the Thunder have plenty of time to catch up is quickly evaporating with every game.

This is the third of four games between these two teams. New Orleans has won the first two games of the series. In the first game, the Thunder’s rhythm was thrown off by the return of Kevin Durant to the line-up and they lost 104-112. In the second game, with Durant out with an ankle injury, the Thunder battled hard until late in the 4th quarter. But critical miscues by Russell Westbrook in that final quarter led to the team losing 99-101. Kevin Durant will be out for this one with a sprained left big toe.

The Opponent

davis asik evans pelicans

The Pelicans come into the game with a 26-22 record, currently good for 9th in the Western Conference. In their last game, the Pelicans defeated the Atlanta Hawks to bring the Hawk’s 19-game win streak to an end. New Orleans features a balanced team with interior scoring and perimeter shooters. They are middle of the pack in most statistical categories, but find ways to win close games, as evidenced by their small margin of victory (+1.4). They usually led by Jrue Holiday, but he has been out for the past 2 weeks with a stress reaction in his ankle. In his stead, New Orleans has used a combination of Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon in the backcourt. Gordon has remained relatively healthy since coming back from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss 21 games. Dante Cunningham has slid into the starting SF position and has put up 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in his last 10 games. Up front, Anthony Davis continues to play at an MVP-like pace and Omer Asik is still big. The bench features 6th Man of the Year candidate Ryan Anderson, sharpshooter Quincy Pondexter, and big man Alexis Ajinca.

Probable Starting Line-ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Tyreke Evans
  • SG – Eric Gordon
  • SF – Dante Cunningham
  • PF – Anthony Davis
  • C – Omer Asik

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans – In two games this season, Davis has absolutely dominated Serge Ibaka. He’s averaged 31.5 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3.5 blocks, and 3 steals per game in those two meetings. Davis has gone the Brow equivalent of Slim Reaper on the Thunder this season. For the team to have a chance with Durant, they are going to have to limit Davis somehow. Whether that’s by double teaming (something the Thunder never do) or by Ibaka just playing better man to man defense, something has to be done to prevent Davis from getting video game stat lines against us. Conversely, Evans has shredded the Thunder defense by getting into the paint at will. Whether its Westbrook, Roberson, or Waiters defending, they’ll have to do a better job of staying in front of Evans.

westbrook jackson adams ibaka thunder evans asik pelicans

2. Rebounding – The Pelicans are the fourth best offensive rebounding team in the league at 12.2 a game. Where they are most dangerous is when those extra opportunities lead to 3-point shots from Anderson, Gordon, or Pondexter while the defense is left scrambling. And it’s not just Davis and Asik. Tyreke Evans does a good job rebounding from the wing and Anderson and Ajinca do a good job of offensive rebounding off the bench. It’ll be very important for Ibaka, Adams, and Perkins to box out and not allow the Pelicans any more opportunities than necessary.

3. Dion Waiters – The “Dion Waiters as a starter” experiment got off to a rousing start in the last game. He scored 24 on 9-15 shooting and had a big part in Westbrook’s triple double in that game. He added a dimension to the starting line-up that is usually only seen when both Westbrook and Durant are healthy. He’ll likely have to have a similar game tonight for the Thunder to win.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Pelicans preview (Game 28 of 82)

adams lamb thunder davis asik pelicans

  • When: Sunday, 21 December 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder stand on the precipice of reaching the summit of the mountain that looked a lot more daunting at the beginning of the month than it does now. Staring at a 5-12 record on December 1st, and looking up in the standings, the Thunder found themselves in an unfamiliar position. After finally getting healthy, the Thunder have gone on to win 8 of their first 10 games in December, to push themselves within a half game of the 8th position in the Western Conference. This would be the first step in them climbing themselves out of the hole the injuries in the beginning of the season created.

This is the 2nd of 4 meetings between the Thunder and Pelicans. The Pelican won the first meeting of the year 112-104. That game was the first one to feature both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the same line-up. A horrible 2nd quarter doomed the Thunder in that game and they could never fully recover.

The Opponent

davis asik evans pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans are the classic “team growing into itself” team. They do great against lesser competition, but don’t have the experience yet to win the close games against the better teams. That’s the main reason for their 13-13 record. The teams they have victories against have a combined winning percentage of .390. In their losses, the victors are boasting a combined winning percentage of .706. Looking at that, it’s easy to say that the Pelicans are improving, but nowhere close to being elite yet. They have a top 5 offense according to offensive rating, but have the 25th ranked defense in terms of defensive rating. One step forward, one step back equals a .500 record. They are led by point guard Jrue Holiday, who is having a good season averaging nearly 16 points and 7 assists per game. Tyreke Evans and Luke Babbitt fill the wings and give defenders a contrasting look. While Evans is more of the slasher, Babbitt has made a career of being a good 3-point shooter (49.1% on 2.6 attempts per game). Up front, Anthony Davis has regressed a bit from supernova earlier this season down to superstar, but he is still a match-up nightmare on both ends of the court for the Thunder. Omer Asik has increased his rebounding and is currently grabbing 10.7 boards per game (3.8 of those offensive rebounds). Off the bench, Austin Rivers has been playing some of the most consistent basketball of his career, Ryan Anderson is shooting 34.7% from deep on 6.8 attempts per game and Dante Cunningham has been providing a spark since he joined the team 10 games ago.

Probable Starting Line-ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Jrue Holiday
  • SG – Tyreke Evans*
  • SF – Luke Babbitt
  • PF – Anthony Davis
  • C – Omer Asik

* – Tyreke Evans is dealing with a knee bruise and is on the 2nd game of a back to back. May be a candidate to sit out.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Perry Jones*
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

* – Kevin Durant will be a game-time decision with a sprained ankle.

COTN: oboy – here for #COTN

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – Anthony Davis and Omer Asik are averaging 21 rebounds per game between them and can turn a game with their offensive rebounding (6.6 per game). Even their wing players, Evans and Anderson average 5.3 boards per game each. Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and Nick Collison need to do their best to box out the Pelican big men and not give them extra opportunities.

Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams

2. Perimeter Defense – While the Pelicans aren’t necessarily known as a great 3-point shooting team, they have certain players (Anderson, Babbitt, Holiday) that can get hot and turn a game. In the last game, the score was tied at 43 midway through the 2nd quarter, before Luke Babbitt opened the flood gates with 2 consecutive 3-pointers. The Pelicans caught fire the rest of the first half and didn’t look back from there.

3. Team you need to beat – If injuries (hopefully small) are going to resurface throughout the season, then the Thunder may be in play for positions 6-10 in Western Conference. If this is the case, the Thunder need to beat those teams that they are battling against for those spots. Tie-breakers can be extremely important when you are battling for positioning at the end of the season. The Pelicans are already one up on the Thunder and would love nothing more than to force a split against them for the season series.

Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans preview (Game 18 of 82)

durant collison thunder rivers pelicans

  • When: Tuesday, 02 December 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

Now, the rest of the season begins. I used to make fun of teams that had high expectations at the beginning of the season, only to see their season crumple under a calamity of issues. The most recent example I can think of is the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. That was the first year of the Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Dwight Howard triumvirate that was supposed to bring a title back to LA. Of course, as we know, injuries and chemistry issues completely derailed that season. What was comical though, was every time the Lakers put a win streak together, the general theme in the postgame interviews was, “the season starts now.” Well, the Thunder are in that same boat now. Is it still early in the season? Yes. But in the extremely competitive Western Conference, you can’t fall too far behind, no matter when in the season it is.

The Thunder have a collection of teams that they need to target in order to get into the playoff race. The Grizzlies, Spurs, Rockets, Trailblazers, and Warriors are probably too far ahead of the Thunder for them to worry about them at this point. It’s the team in the 6th – 11th positions, the Kings, Nuggets, Pelicans, Suns, Clippers, and Mavericks, that the Thunder need to chase. Every game against those teams from here on out is basically a must-win game.

This is the first of 4 meetings between the Thunder and the Pelicans this season. The Thunder won 2 of 3 meetings last season, with each team winning by at least 10 points.

The Opponent

NBA: Preseason-Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans currently find themselves at 7-8, riding a three game losing streak coming into this game. The got off to a 7-5 start, but feasted mainly on bottom tier teams. Their record against teams with a record of .500 or above is 2-8. They are middle of the road in most categories and are just now starting to find out who they really are. They have a bonafide superstar and MVP candidate in Anthony Davis and are starting to tailor a team around his strengths. Leading that charge is point guard Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an injury-plagued first season in New Orleans. He has bounced back well, averaging 15.5 points, 6.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this season. The wing positions have always been a source of trouble for these Pelicans. Eric Gordon is always hurt, Austin Rivers is not that good, and Tyreke Evans has bouts of inconsistency. Up front, the Pelicans have one of the more dynamic front courts in the league. In Davis, they have a 5-tool player who is top-10 in five of the six major statistical categories (points, rebounds, FG%, blocks, and steals) and leads the league in PER (33.4). Omer Asik’s biggest contribution to the team may be the fact that he allows Davis to play most of his minutes at PF, where he is most comfortable playing. Asik does a good job of being a big body and grabbing offensive rebounds. Off the bench, the Pelicans are a bit thin, even with Ryan Anderson being a 6th Man of the Year candidate.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Jrue Holiday
  • SG – Austin Rivers
  • SF – Tyreke Evans
  • PF – Anthony Davis
  • C – Omer Asik

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

5 Keys to the Game

1. Kevin Durant – Scott Brooks said Durant will start and will play about 30 minutes. As I said in the previous preview with Westbrook’s return: Welcome back. Now let’s napalm the league, sir.

2. Pack the Paint – If the Thunder have to pick their poison with this team, the best bet is to pack the paint. New Orleans doesn’t have any reliable 3-point shooters, outside of Ryan Anderson. Most of the offense is generated through Davis inside, Anderson shooting, and on Holiday and Evans dribble drives. While Evans, Holiday, and Rivers are capable shooters (all above 30% from 3-point territory), they are nowhere near as reliable as Anderson. Luckily, the Thunder’s specialty is defending the paint…..and unfortunately, leaving 3-point shooters open.

westbrook thunder rivers ajinca pelicans

3. Protect the ball – The Pelicans are the best ball protectors in the league. They only average 10.7 turnovers per game. In their wins, the difference in turnover has been a +5.6, in favor of the Pelicans. In their losses, the turnover difference has been in the Pelicans favor by only +1.8. New Orleans is going to take care of the ball. What you can’t do is allow them extra possessions because of your miscues.

4. The Returns of Lance Thomas and Anthony Morrow to New Orleans – Morrow and Thomas return back to the site where they played last season. One of the things that Durant’s return negates is Thomas’s “look at me now, New Orleans” moment as he is introduced in the opposing team’s starting line-up. Oh, what could’ve been. Enjoy the gumbo and beignets, gentlemen.

5. Never forget – Ahhh, look at Morrow being a good teammate.

House of (Lottery) Cards – The Thunder and the NBA Draft Reform

frank underwood house of cards

On Wednesday, the NBA Board of Governors will be voting on whether to change the format of the NBA Draft Lottery process. In the reform, the 14 non-playoff teams will still vie for lottery positioning in a lottery style system. What does change are the percentages to vie for the top 3 picks. In the current system, the team with the worst record has the highest chance (25%) of getting the number 1 pick, while the lottery team with the best record has the lowest chance (0.5%) of getting the number 1 pick. The basic gist of the current system is, the worser your record, the better your chances of obtaining a top 3 pick. In the proposed new system, the 4 teams with the worst records each have a 12% chance of getting the first pick, with the 5th worst team garnering an 11.5% chance, and the 6th worst team garnering a 10% chance, and on down the line. Even worse, in the new system, teams aren’t as protected as they are in the current system from free falling to a lower spot in the draft. Under the current system, the team with the worst record can not fall lower than the 4th pick. In the new proposed system, the team with the worst record has the possibility of falling all the way down to the 7th pick.

Free agency is to big market teams as the draft is to small market teams. Big market teams are at an advantage because they can not only build during free agency, but also in the draft if they are lucky enough. Unfortunately, small market teams can usually only build through the draft. For as great as Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Milwaukee are as metropolises, they pale in comparison to the global cultural centers that are New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The Thunder experienced this with Pau Gasol this offseason. While not necessarily a top 10 player, Gasol would have instantly made the Thunder the favorites to win the title in 2014-15. But when push came to shove, Gasol, having just completed a 7-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers, decided to go with the Chicago Bulls. One of the factors in his decision was the lack of cultural diversity in OKC. Whatever that is, when you compare OKC to Chicago, you kind of see what he is talking about. I don’t know when was the last time a small market team signed a marquee free agent (and by marquee, I mean a Top-20 player at the time of his free agency). The last one was probably when Peja Stojakovic signed with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in the 2006 offseason. At the time, Stojakovic was a fringe top 20-30 player in the league, but was beginning to show the signs of being injury-prone. The Hornets, of course, overpaid, and injuries were a major theme of Stojakovic’s term with the Hornets.

With this new draft reform, the NBA is essentially decreasing the life blood of talent to small market teams. The cycle of success to rebuild and back to success occurs a lot more regularly for small market teams than it does for big market teams. Small market teams have to rebuild when times get rough, and hope that they don’t make a big mistake. Big market teams can simply reload when the well runs dry. Is it always successful? No. But if the same mismanagement of funds that occurred with the New York Knicks from 2005-2012 would’ve happened to occur in Milwaukee, you can rest assured that Milwaukee would either be under new ownership or would be playing in a different city. The draft is the harbinger of hope for small market teams. And this new draft reform would lessen the opportunity for small market teams to nab a franchise talent like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, or Anthony Davis.

mcgary presti thunder

The ironic part of all this is that the team at the center of this change is a big market team. The visual tank job that has been the Philadelphia 76ers in the past season and a half is at the root of all the draft reform discussion. In the past 18 months, the 76ers have sent away any veteran asset they had for draft picks and cap space. And in the last two drafts, the Sixers have taken 3 players in the lottery that were either injured (Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid) or not intending to come to the NBA for at least two season (Dario Saric). Strategic tanking has always been a part of the rebuilding process. A rebuilding team wants to shed salary and obtain assets, while at the same time putting a “competitive” product on the floor. But Philadelphia has completely eschewed the competitive part of the equation, and has blatantly put a subpar product on the floor in order to build for the future. It is no different than other tank jobs, with the exception of the blatantness of it all.

With all this on the table, it would almost seem to be a given that at least 8 teams would be against this draft reform. Philadelphia, for sure, would be at the forefront. But stepping up to the podium has been Thunder GM Sam Presti. Surprisingly, Presti, of the championship contending Thunder, has been leading the charge against draft reform. You see, Presti knows what’s at stake. Under the current system, a couple seasons of drought can lead to gold if you draft well and spend your money wisely. But under the proposed system, those couple of seasons of drought can lead to gold or they can lead to iron pyrite. And while draft position is never an exact science, a lot more superstars are drafted in the top 5 picks than anywhere else in the draft. Presti is always looking ahead and knows that there will come a time when Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka will no longer be donning Thunder uniforms. It could be in the next 2-3 seasons, just like it could be in the next 10 seasons. But when that day comes, the Thunder will likely look to the draft to rebuild.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports, Presti is struggling to come up with the six extra votes to block the 3/4 majority needed to pass the draft reform. Which is absolutely asinine to me. If those small market teams would realize how much more difficult it will be for them to land franchise talent with this change, it would seem like an easy decision for them to make. If anything, this is an opportunity for small market teams to flex a little muscle. Like Frank Underwood of House of Cards says, “There is no solace above or below. Only us – small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray to myself, for myself.” I can definitely see Presti working the back channels tonight like Underwood in trying to get those necessary 6 votes. And after he gets the votes, I can see Presti going to his hotel, opening up his balcony window, and cooly smoking one lonely cigarette while staring into the night.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Southwest Division

Southwest Divison

1. San Antonio Spurs

spurs championship 2014

Last season: 62-20 (1st in the Southwest Division, 1st in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy after Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat

Key Additions:

  • Kyle Anderson – Draft (No. 30 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Aron Baynes – Unsigned

Season Preview – Everyone keeps waiting for the Spurs to age, but every year, they come back wiser and better. The reigning NBA champs come back with the entire team basically intact. While chemistry won’t be an issue, a couple of the main players are coming back from injury. Manu Ginobili spent most of the offseason nursing a stress fracture in his leg and Patty Mills had rotator cuff surgery that will keep him out half the season. But as is the Spurs, they will turn that into a positive as Mills will be very well rested when the playoffs start next April.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Spurs repeat as champions

Projected 2014-15 Record: 59-23

2. Memphis Grizzlies

prince gasol allen conley randolph grizzlies

Last season: 50-32 (3rd in the Southwest Division, 7th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions:

  • Jordan Adams – Draft (No. 22 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Vince Carter – Free agent signing
  • Jarnell Stokes – Draft (No. 35 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Jamaal Franklin – Waived
  • Ed Davis – Signed with the Los Angeles Lakers
  • Mike Miller – Signed with the Chicago Bulls
  • James Johnson – Signed with the Toronto Raptors

Season Preview – The Grizzlies have slowly put together a balanced team that doesn’t entirely depend on the post play of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The additions of Jordan Adams and Vince Carter, and the return of Quincy Pondexter from injury should help spread the floor for the big man duo to operate a little easier in the interior. Mike Conley remains one of the more underrated floor generals in the league and Tony Allen is still a premier defensive menace, as we saw in last season’s playoff series against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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

Projected 2014-15 Record: 54-28

3. Dallas Mavericks

nowitzki ellis mavericks

Last season: 49-33 (4th in the Southwest Division, 8th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Al Farouq Aminu – Signed free agent
  • Tyson Chandler – Obtained in a trade with the New York Knicks
  • Raymond Felton – Obtained in a trade with the New York Knicks
  • Richard Jefferson – Signed free agent
  • Ivan Johnson – Signed free agent
  • Jameer Nelson – Signed free agent
  • Chandler Parsons – Signed free agent
  • Greg Smith – Obtained in a trade with the Chicago Bulls

Key Departures:

  • Jose Calderon – Traded to the New York Knicks
  • Shane Larkin – Traded to the New York Knicks
  • Shawn Marion – Signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Samuel Dalembert – Traded to the New York Knicks
  • Vince Carter – Signed with the Memphis Grizzlies
  • DeJuan Blair – Sign and traded to the Washington Wizards

Season Preview – Other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Mavericks probably had the most player movement of any team in the leauge. The team that took the eventual champs to 7 games in the first round, got their defensive stopper in the lane (Chandler), and got an up-and-coming star in Chandler Parsons. The Mavs should be a little better balanced defensively, but that all depends on the health of Chandler. If he misses a big chunk of the season (15-20+ games), the Mavericks could be in trouble defensively. The point guard position is also a question mark, as each of the three possibilities (Felton, Nelson, and Devin Harris) have been starters in the past, but also have glaring weaknesses.

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

Projected 2014-15 Record: 53-29

4. Houston Rockets

harden howard rockets

Last season: 54-28 (2nd in the Southwest Division, 4th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers

Key Additions:

  • Jeff Adrien – Free agent signing
  • Trevor Ariza – Free agent signing
  • Clint Capela – Draft (No. 25 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jason Terry – Obtained in a trade with the Sacramento Kings
  • Joey Dorsey – Free agent signing
  • Ish Smith – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Jeremy Lin – Traded to the Los Angeles Lakers
  • Omer Asik – Traded to the New Orleans Pelicans
  • Chandler Parsons – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Jordan Hamilton – Signed with the Toronto Raptors

Season Preview – After striking gold in the last two offseasons, Rockets GM Daryl Morey hit a rough patch this offseason. He traded away 2 of this team’s top 5 players (Asik and Lin) for basically nothing, and failed to resign Parsons, even though the Rockets held his Bird Rights. The reasons they made these moves was an “all in” attempt at either Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. By the time those two players had re-signed with their respective teams, the damage had already been done to the Rockets’ roster. The Rockets salvaged a little life this offseason by signing Trevor Ariza. The Rockets will still win games due to the talent of James Harden and Dwight Howard. But depth will be an issue, and any injury to any of the major players on the Rockets will be a huge blow to the team’s playoff chances.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Rockets make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 47-35

5. New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday, Tony Wroten, Anthony Davis

Last season: 34-48 (5th in the Southwest Division, 12th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Omer Asik – Obtained in a trade with the Houston Rockets
  • Jimmer Fredette – Free agent signing
  • John Salmons – Free agent signing
  • Russ Smith – Draft (No. 47 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Patric Young – Rookie free agent signing (Undrafted)

Key Departures:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Greg Stiemsma – Signed with the Toronto Raptors
  • Jason Smith – Signed with the New York Knicks
  • Anthony Morrow – Signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Brian Roberts – Signed with the Charlotte Hornets

Season Preview – After a great showing in the FIBA World Cup, Anthony Davis is ready to finally take his team to another level. The acquisition of Asik will allow Davis to play his natural position of power forward. On the outside, Ryan Anderson returns from neck surgery and should help space the floor for Davis and Jrue Holiday to operate. The depth of this team is worrisome, and if the injury bug hits again, they could once again struggle to stay above water.

2014-15 will be succesful if: The Pelican make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 42-40

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 79 of 82)

durant ibaka defense thunder pelicans

  • When: Friday, 11 April 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The magic number for the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs is now 1, after their defeat of the Dallas Mavericks. While it is still mathematically possible for the Thunder to get the No. 1 seed from San Antonio, they would require a ton of help. Namely, for the Spurs to lose the rest of their games and for the Thunder to win the rest of theirs. Not impossible, but not entirely probable, either. Instead, with their position firmly entrenched in the No. 2 spot, look for the Thunder to start resting their players. This will be especially helpful for Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson, and Serge Ibaka, who have had to shoulder the load  all season while Russell Westbrook and others have been out with injuries.

This will be the 2nd of 3 meeting between these two teams. The Thunder have won 9 in a row against the Pelicans, dating all the way back to the 2nd half of the 2010-11 season. You can say that the upsurge of the Thunder has coincided with the downslide of the Hornets/Pelicans since the Chris Paul trade.

The Opponent

evans pelicans

The Pelicans are currently 32-46 and sit in the 12th spot in the West. While they’ve already improved from last season, injuries have derailed what may have been an even greater improvement. Point guard Jrue Holiday, who was obtained in a deal on draft day last June (and will probably cost the Pelicans a lottery pick in the next draft), has only suited up for 34 games. Anthony Davis, the foundation of the franchise, has played in 67 games and will not be available for the rest of the season. Ryan Anderson, the stretch four who was brought in to space the floor, played in only 22 games before a herniated disc killed his season. Injuries are one of those things that can kill a rebuild quick. With the possibility of the team having no first rounder in this next draft, the Pelicans will be dependent on their key players coming into next season healthy. Of the players who are still healthy, only Tyreke Evans averages in double figures (14.0 points per game).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

New Orleans Pelicans

  • PG – Brian Roberts
  • SG – Tyreke Evans
  • SF – Darius Miller
  • PF – Al-Farouq Aminu
  • C – Greg Stiemsma

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Reverse Obama – Don’t give them hope. Take it all away. Do it in the first quarter, if possible. I want the starters off the floor by the middle of the third quarter.

2. Continue working on rhythm – IF the regular starting line-up plays, use this game as a pre-season game and continue to work on rhythm and continuity.

ibaka durant westbrook sefolosha

3. Bench – The Bench Mob should get plenty of run in this game. Here’s hoping newly signed rookie Grant Jerrett gets some reps in. He may have a future as a stretch 4 for the Thunder.

New Orleans Hornets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 57 of 82)

Austin Rivers, Robin Lopez, Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook

  • When: Wednesday, 27 February 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Home, sweet home. After suffering their first 3-game losing streak since last season’s Finals, the Thunder were looking to rebound with three straight home games. And rebound they have, winning the first two games of the home stand by an average of 23 points. While Kevin Durant continues to be mired in a slight slump, Russell Westbrook has stepped his game up to the tune of 25.1 points, 6.4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals per game in the month of February, while shooting 50.6% from the field and 45.8% from the 3-point line. Serge Ibaka has also been much more impactful in his play during the home stand which has provided the Thunder with some semblance of a post presence.

Reggie Jackson, Xavier Henry

The Thunder and New Orleans Hornets have met 3 times this season, with OKC coming out on top in the first two games by an average of 18 points. In the third meeting, the Thunder needed a late second half spark from then seldom used point guard Reggie Jackson to come back and win a close game, 92-88. Since that game, Jackson has solidified himself as the back-up point guard for the team, supplanting Eric Maynor.

The Opponent

hornets

The New Orleans Hornets come into the game 20-38 record, good for 13th in the conference. The Hornets are in the midst of a rebuilding project following the Chris Paul/David West years. Statistically, they rank in the bottom half of the league in nearly every category. Offensively, they only score 94.5 points per game (22nd in the league), and defensively, they allow a respectable 97.3 points per game (13th in the league). They are paced by point guard Greivis Vasquez, who is averaging 13.7 points, 9.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Shooting guard Eric Gordon, oft injured since being acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers last season, has come back in the past 20 games, and is averaging 16.7 points while working his way back from knee surgery. Although Al-Farouq Aminu is given a bad rap as having a low basketball IQ, he is the glue of the team, providing anything from points to boards to defense. Up front, the team depends on rookie Anthony Davis and center Robin Lopez who supply respectable post defense and rebounding. Off the bench, the Hornets are led by stretch power forward Ryan Anderson, one of the premier 3-point shooters in the league. The rest of the bench is inconsistent with rookies Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts being one of the focuses of the rebuilding project.

Probable Starter

New Orleans Hornets

  • PG – Greivis Vasquez
  • SG – Eric Gordon
  • SF – Al-Farouq Aminu
  • PF – Anthony Davis
  • C – Robin Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Tempo – With this being the 2nd game of a back to back for the Hornets, the Thunder need to push the pace, and get out in transition whenever possible. It’s very surprising that the Hornets, while being a very young team, do not push the tempo. They are very similar to the Memphis Grizzlies in that respect. Also, the 2nd team for the Thunder will be chopping at the bit with new additions Ronnie Brewer and Derek Fisher ready to play in their first game of the season for the Thunder.

brewer fisher

2. Perimeter defense – With Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson on the floor, the Hornets have guys that can catch fire quickly from the perimeter. While Lopez and Davis are of some threat to score down low, the Thunder defense does not need to sink in on most possessions to help out.

martin hornets

3. Kevin Martin – For some reason, Martin loves playing against the Hornets. He averages 21 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game against the Hornets, by far, his best statistical team split of the season.

The Eric Maynor Sweepstake

bench maynor

With Eric Maynor’s DNP-CD on Wednesday night, in a blowout of the Denver Nuggets, it was quite apparent that his run with the Oklahoma City Thunder is over. Ten months after suffering a torn right ACL, Maynor’s athleticism and confidence seemed to be wavering to the point that 2nd year guard Reggie Jackson took over sole possession of the back-up point guard duties on the team 25 games into the season. While Maynor’s numbers were never that impressive, his command of the 2nd unit (and sometimes, the 1st unit) showed he had the potential to run his own team.

Back about two years ago, Maynor was being hailed at the best back-up point guard in the league. He led one of the best benches in the league, along with James Harden and Nick Collison. In hindsight, though, it seems that a lot of Maynor’s success was due in large part to James Harden. The former Thunder guard is now the 4th leading scorer in the NBA, with a 26.3 points per game average. The skills that he is currently exhibiting now as a Houston Rocket, were on full display during his first 3 seasons in the league, the last of which culminated with the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year award.

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Maynor’s game was never dependent on athleticism. He was a prober that constantly tried to find the open man or an open lane, and rarely turned the ball over. After the knee injury, though, what little athleticism Maynor did have was sapped, as was his confidence. Maynor began to drive less and shoot more, leading to career lows in FG% (30%) and assists per game (2.1). Though he was never touted for his defense, that part of Maynor’s game suffered greatly after the injury. He was constantly getting beat off the dribble, which led to either leads dwindling or deficits increasing. After 24 games, the Thunder decided to try Reggie Jackson as their primary back-up point guard. Though not the floor general that Maynor is, Jackson’s athleticism and physical tools lend him to be a better defender and more of a driving threat on offense.

Reggie Jackson, Markeiff Morris

Being that Maynor is a free agent after this season, the Thunder would still like to get some value for him before the trading deadline. Maynor can still play the game, and maybe a change of scenery will help get his confidence back. Maynor’s value may not be that high, but the Thunder can package him with any number of assets to get a necessary piece to their championship puzzle. The Thunder are loaded with picks (Toronto’s top 3 protected, Dallas’s top 20 protected, and Charlotte’s 2013 2nd rounder) and young talent (Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, DeAndre Liggins, and Daniel Orton) that would be very attractive in a deal. I, for one, am not in favor of dealing Lamb, Jones, or Liggins. With the current cost of the top half of the roster, the Thunder will need good, cheap talent to stay in championship contention.

That would leave Maynor and Orton, plus the picks, as the only tradable assets I see on the roster. Being that the only feasible need I see for the Thunder is another bench scorer, hopefully a 3/4 tweener, I’ve decided to become armchair GM for the day, and see what moves I can come up with. Move over Sam Presti, my shine is too bright for the both of us.

Disclaimer: All moves have been approved on ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine. Any move involving Daniel Orton would need to get done after January 31st.

Deal 1

  •  Houston get Eric Maynor and the Thunder’s 2014 2nd rounder.
  • Oklahoma City gets Royce White and the rights to either Sergio Llull or Furkan Aldemir.

furkan

Why Houston makes the deal – Houston is loaded with PnR-reliant guards in Jeremy Lin, James Harden, and Toney Douglas. If a defense knows how to defend the PnR effectively, it cuts off the Rocket’s first plan of attack. Having a traditional point guard would be a change of pace for the Rockets and will allow them to exploit other facets of their offense, such as Omer Asik’s post game and Chandler Parson’s 3 point shooting. Also, Houston gets rid of a headache in White. The verbal/social media sparring that has gone on between White and the Rockets is well documented concerning his mental health.

Why Oklahoma City makes the deal – While this eschews the notion of obtaining a bench scorer now, having the rights to either Llull or Aldemir would be a steal. Llull is the premier combo guard in Euroleague and would fit immediately into the Thunder’s rotation. Aldemir is great on the boards and would really help the Thunder in the post. Presti would probably tell White to stay at home and would negotiate a buy-out with his agent.

Deal 2

  • Milwaukee gets Eric Maynor, Daniel Orton, and the Mavericks top 20 protected pick.
  • Oklahoma City gets Mike Dunleavy

Why Milwaukee makes the deal – Milwaukee will be in a state of flux after the season. Their top two point guards, Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih, are both free agents, though Jennings is restricted. The Bucks have been on record as saying they will retain Brandon Jennings, no matter what. A large enough extension would make retaining Udrih, currently making $7.8 million, nearly impossible. A cheap replacement like Maynor, who would sign for far less, would be more feasible. They could test drive Orton for half a season as all of their true centers are also free agents at the end of the season. The draft pick is just a sweetner.

mike-dunleavy-jr

Why Oklahoma City makes the deal – Mike Dunleavy would immediately have an impact on the 2nd team as a scorer and shooter. The dribble and drive ability of Jackson would open up even more with Dunleavy and Kevin Martin on the floor together.

Deal 3

  • New Orleans gets Eric Maynor and the Thunder 2013 draft pick
  • Oklahoma City gets Al-Farouq Aminu

Why New Orleans makes the deal – With Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Robin Lopez on the front line, Aminu becomes the odd man out. His inconsistent play has been a source of ire from the Hornet’s fan base. A veteran point guard would help this young roster out and an extra first rounder will help in the Hornet’s rebuilding process.

aminu

Why Oklahoma City makes the deal – Aminu is exactly the type of player that the Thunder covet. A 3/4 tweener with possible upside and a long wingspan (7’3!!). In the right system, he could be a valuable contributor off the bench.

Deal 4

  • Phoenix gets Eric Maynor, Daniel Orton, the right to swap either of their lottery picks (theirs or the Lakers’) lottery picks if it benefits the Suns, and the Thunder’s 2013 pick.
  • Oklahoma City gets Jared Dudley

Why Phoenix makes the deal – Let’s face it. Phoenix is rebuilding and is not interested in long-term role player contracts. Dudley still has 2 years at $4.25 million guaranteed after this season, plus a player option for the same amount. Phoenix could flip Dudley for a young center, a possible better lottery pick, and a late first rounder.

dudley

Why Oklahoma City makes the deal – The Thunder get a great role player with a good contract for the next 2-3 seasons. Plus, a player like Dudley has value and can possibly be flipped for other assets.

Deal 5

  • Cleveland gets Eric Maynor and Dallas top 20 protected pick.
  • Oklahoma City gets CJ Miles

cj miles

Why Cleveland makes the deal – It isn’t the Anderson Varejao deal, but Cleveland still gets a future first rounder for a role player that’s a free agent after this season. Plus, Maynor could dispense some veteran wisdom onto Kyrie Irving.

Why Oklahoma City makes the deal – The Thunder get a good role player that can shoot and stretch the floor. Plus, they don’t give up much.

kevin-durant-eric-maynor-2011-2-6-0-1-11

As a fan, I would hate to see Maynor go. He’s grown with this team and was a big part of its development. But, as we’ve seen with the Jeff Green and Harden trades, it is also a business in which every team is trying their hardest to get better. If a move can be made, and it is advantageous to the team, then it’s a deal that must be made. When the inevitable happens, I wish Maynor nothing but the best. He’s been a consummate professional and has a long career ahead of him.