Tag Archives: Cameron Payne

Daily Thunder Rumblings – 31 August 2017

img_4133-5End of the month. Man, August felt long. On to September and training camp. Here are the Rumblings.

Vegas has projected the Thunder to win 51.5 games. Here’s a rundown from NewsOK of the odds for the entire league.

The deadline to waive a player and use the stretch provision expires today. Brett Dawson says, “Don’t expect the Thunder to use it this season.”

GQ chronicled Westbrook and his dad sneakers: “Why not? Those might be Russell Westbrook’s favorite words, appended to most of the all-world guard’s Instagram posts. They explain his explosive on-court style (Why not slalom through five defenders?), and his off-court style, too. Why not wear an ab-bearing t-shirt? Why not wear overalls? Why not wear a pair of Nike Air Monarch IVs, the Swoosh’s famously ugly dad sneakers?” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 31 August 2017

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Daily Thunder Rumblings – 10 August 2017

It’s the day of Thor. Where’s my hammer? Here are the Rumblings.

Nooooooo!!!!!! We all knew this day would come, but it still feels weird: “Have the Thunder’s ’Stache Bros been reduced to an only child? That was the indication on Thursday, when one half of Oklahoma City’s mustachioed duo, Enes Kanter, posted a Twitter picture of teammate Steven Adams sporting a clean-shaven face (though still with his trademark long hair). Assuming it’s a current photo, Kanter is a solo Bro.”

It’s official: The Thunder will play in their first neutral site regular season game on foreign soil (not including Canada): “We’re excited to be asked to participate in the NBA Mexico City Games 2017 as the NBA expands its global reach,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. “As we enter only our 10th season of Thunder Basketball in Oklahoma City, we feel incredibly fortunate that our team and fan base will get to experience our first regular-season‎ game abroad.” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 10 August 2017

Thunder sign Semaj Christon

christon

On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder signed guard Semaj Christon. The 2014 2nd rounder played last season with Consultinvest VL Pesaro of Lega Basket Serie A, the top professional league in Italy. While there, he averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in 33.2 minutes of playing time. Previous to that, he spent his first two professional seasons with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Blue. In addition, he has also been a member of the Thunder’s summer league team the last three seasons.

The 6’3″ point guard out of Xavier has shown a penchant for getting into the lane and causing havoc once he gets there. His sturdy frame and long arms allow him to finish in traffic, while his floor game allows him to find teammates for higher percentage shots. His jumper, while not the best, has improved over the past 3 seasons to the point where he has a pretty solid mid-range game.

With the signing of Ronnie Price earlier this offseason, the Thunder’s roster currently sits at 15 guaranteed contracts, with 3 of those contracts belonging to point guards (Russell Westbrook, Cameron Payne, and Price). So why did the Thunder sign Christon, if their roster is already at max capacity with contracts and points guards? The reasoning for that could be two-fold. Number one, the Thunder don’t appear to be done wheeling and dealing. The roster, as it currently stands, is a weird mixture of bruising big men, offensively challenged wings, and athletic guards who aren’t great at shooting. They have a sizable expiring contract in Ersan Ilyasova, and a young big they may be ready to move on from in Mitch McGary. If the right deal comes along, they could also feature Payne, who could net something substantial from a point guard starved team.

The second reason for signing Christon is to play the long game with him. While his contract can’t be guaranteed because of the Thunder’s 15 other commitments, there could be guaranteed money attached to it if he gets waived before the season starts. Then the Thunder could sign Christon to the Blue and see how the season plays out in terms of roster moves. If the trade deadline leaves the Thunder with an open roster spot, you can almost guarantee that spot will go to Christon. Another issue that is clouding the water in terms of Christon’s future is whether Price’s 2nd year is fully guaranteed.

If anything, the Thunder have secured themselves another weapon to throw at guard happy teams, while maintaining roster flexibility. Christon’s strength and wing-span could make him an asset on the defensive end of the floor, similar to what the Thunder saw from Dion Waiters in the playoffs last season. And while Christon’s offensive repertoire may not necessarily be what the Thunder need, it’s not like he’s offensively challenged. In the end, his contract is not currently guaranteed, and the Thunder have time to see how everything plays out in these next two months before the season starts.

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire Randy Foye from the Denver Nuggets

foye

The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Randy Foye from the Denver Nuggets on the trade deadline. The Thunder gave up DJ Augustin, Steve Novak, and both of their 2016 2nd round picks (theirs and Charlotte’s, which was acquired in the Jeremy Lamb trade this past offseason). In Foye, the Thunder get a combo guard who is a good (not great) defender and someone who can knock down open shots. This season, Foye is averaging 6 points and 2.1 assists in nearly 20 minutes of action per game. He is shooting only 29.6% from deep, but has shot 37% from that distance over his career. He shoots much better when he is wide open. He rarely got that opportunity in Denver, but will get a lot more looks in Oklahoma City with attention grabbers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the floor.

The Thunder’s M.O. is usually to have three point guards on the roster. Foye is a good enough ball-handler to be a 3rd string point guard, while also being a good enough shooter to be a spacer off the bench. He will help the bench unit defensively and will add another ball-handler to that line-up. But his biggest value may be as a go-between for Cameron Payne as he gains experience in this, his rookie season. Payne has performed well this season, but when the lights were brightest (the Warriors game) he looked wide-eyed and shaky. Which is exactly what you’d expect from a rookie. The Thunder trust Payne, but if the stage gets too big for him come April, Foye is the perfect back-up plan to bridge the gap between this season and next season.

Many people will pan this trade, but I thought it was a good play by the Thunder. Augustin and Novak were out of the rotation and on expiring deals. Instead of just sitting on that, the Thunder decided to get a player that could possibly have an impact in the near future who was also on an expiring deal. In addition, the move generated a $3.75 million dollar traded player exception (TPE) and opened up a valuable roster spot for the Thunder.

That roster spot could be used on a buyout candidate later in the season. Names that have been thrown out as buy-0ut candidates are Kevin Martin, Joe Johnson, Lance Stephenson, and Andrea Bargnani. Players that won’t necessarily take over a starting spot, but could play a role for a playoff team.

In addition to the roster spot, the move also shaves off over $8 million dollars from the Thunder luxury tax bill. There was never going to be a move that brought the Thunder above the tax line. But any move that could lessen the blow a bit was always welcomed.

In the end, the Thunder felt they were good enough to stand where they currently were. The addition of Foye could prove to be the type of move that helps them against a Golden State in the postseason or it could just be a lateral move where the Thunder traded away two end of the bench players for another end of the bench player. Either way, what the Thunder received outside of Foye (the roster spot, the TPE, the smaller tax bill) could have bigger ramifications for the Thunder moving forward.

Ten Prospects for the Thunder in the 2015 NBA Draft

ibaka durant westbrook thunder

After a disappointing 2014-15 season that was riddled with injuries, the Oklahoma City Thunder enter the 2015 NBA Draft with a sense of optimism. If Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka can remain relatively healthy next season, then this team is still a championship contender. With that said, the Thunder are basically playing with house money when it comes to this draft. Will they be drafting an integral piece to the present championship puzzle? Maybe. Or maybe they’ll be drafting a piece that won’t pay dividends for another year or two. Or maybe they won’t be drafting anyone at all. There are a ton of options at the Thunder’s disposal and this draft is shaping up to be one of the most active for the team. Here’s a look at 10 prospects the Thunder may draft at different stages in the draft.

The Trade-Up Prospects

There have already been rumors that the Thunder are looking to trade Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and Steve Novak ahead of the draft. While this group of players isn’t necessarily attractive to most teams, to a team needing perimeter shooting, this haul may be a steal. There are two teams in the draft that are desperate for shooting and have already made moves this offseason to shore up that need. Detroit, under the direction of Stan Van Gundy, is looking to surround Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond with perimeter shooters, a la Dwight Howard in his Magic days. While Detroit already obtained Ersan Ilyasova from Milwaukee, they may want some more shooting at a cheap price. A likely deal would be Lamb, Jones, and No. 14 & 48 for Anthony Tolliver (who has a partially guaranteed contract) and No. 8. Detroit could use a wing defender and may be able to find one at 14.

Conversely, Charlotte is another team in serious need of perimeter shooting. The Hornets finished with the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the league. Earlier in the offseason, they traded Lance Stephenson for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes. But if they can get more perimeter shooting, it may completely transform the dynamic of their team. A likely deal would be Lamb, Jones, Novak, and No. 14 for Gerald Henderson (1 year at $6 million) and No. 9.

Edit: The Hornets traded Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh to the Portland Trailblazers for Nic Batum. And, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, the Thunder traded Jeremy Lamb to the Hornets for Matt Barnes. So there goes that theory!

So if the Thunder move, who do they take?

1. Stanley Johnson – Arizona/Freshman/6’7″ (6’11” wingspan)/240 lbs

One of the best two-way wings in the draft. Compares favorably to Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls. Great size for a wing, and has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways (transition, 3-point shooting, shooting out of the pick and roll). Needs some seasoning. Struggles with finishing at the rim. Likely won’t contribute too much in rookie season.

stanley johnson arizona

2. Devin Booker – Kentucky/Freshman/6’6″ (6’8″ wingspan)/210 lbs

One of the best, if not the best, shooter in the draft. Shot over 40% from 3-point land on 3.7 attempts per game. Great from deep and from mid-range. Compares favorably to Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Pelicans. Good size for  a wing. Youngest player in the draft. Not a high flyer or overly athletic. Extremely low steal rate. Likely won’t contribute too much in rookie season.

3. Mario Hezonja – International/FC Barcelona/6’8″ /210 lbs

Doubtful Super Mario falls to the No. 8 or 9 spot. But if he’s there and the Thunder have traded up, they may seriously consider drafting Hezonja. Gifted with a great jump shot, athleticism, and unabashed confidence, Hezonja plays a lot like the Thunder’s own Russell Westbrook. He has great size for a wing and has the potential to be good on the defensive end. Consistency is the biggest issue with Hezonja. He’s had games where he looks like the best player on the floor, and then he has games where he disappears for long stretches.

Prospects at 14

There could be a possibility that the Thunder like a player they can draft at the 14th spot. The draft has a weird way of shaking out sometimes, and players that you thought wouldn’t be available at your spot, suddenly become available. Here are the prospects the Thunder could pick at their spot.

1. Kelly Oubre Jr. – Kansas/Freshman/6’7″ (7’2″wingspan)/205 lbs

GREAT size for a wing. Can likely develop into a good defensive player based on his physical attributes alone. Compares favorably to James Posey or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Shot the ball well from 3-point territory in his freshman year (36% on 2.6 attempts per game). Good mid-range game. Solid defensive rebounder from the wing, with an ability to keep balls alive on the offensive end. Strong, wiry frame that can easily add 10-15 lbs of muscle. Struggles with creating offensive (only 0.8 assists per game) and consistency. Likely won’t contribute immediately, and may benefit from some time in the D-League.

kelly oubre kansas

2. Cameron Payne – Murray State/Sophomore/6’2″ (6’7″ wingspan)/185 lbs

Playmaking point guard that can score in a variety of ways. Compares favorably to Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks. Has good size for a point guard with a wingspan that will help him immensely on the defensive end (nearly 2 steals per game in college). Does a great job of changing speeds to keep defenses off balance. Did a great job of balancing his playmaking and scoring, dishing out 6 assists per game, while scoring 20 points. Has a good, but not great shot. Needs to put on more weight. Struggles finishing at the rim, instead choosing to shoot floaters (nearly 3 per game,which led all college players). Small school competition stigma.

3. Bobby Portis – Arkansas/Sophomore/6’10.5″ (7’2″ wingspan)/245 lbs

A high energy player with a relentless motor, Portis reminds me of Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. The SEC Player of the Year led the Razorbacks in points (17.5) and rebounds (8.9) per game. He gets most of his points off his energy in transition and put backs. But he is a very skilled all-around player, shooting 53.6% from the field overall and 46.7% from 3-point territory on nearly one attempt per game. His major downfall is that he isn’t overly athletic. His game stays closer to the ground than most NBA scouts would like. He is actually my darkhorse for this pick.

4. Sam Dekker – Wisconsin/Junior/6’9″ (6’11.5″ wingspan)/220 lbs

Dekker is an all-around talent that is good at most things, but not necessarily great at any specific skill. He has great role player potential and can play multiple position (naturally a 3, but can likely play small-ball 4 also). Defensively, Dekker can guard multiple positions. His size and strength allow him to guard bigger players, and his lateral quickness allows him to keep up with wings. He will likely be able to compete immediately on the pro level. He’ll need to hit his 3’s more consistently at the next level to be an elite contributor. May be a bit redundant for the Thunder if they re-sign Kyle Singler.

Trade Down Prospects

Another possibility for the Thunder is to trade down later into the first round, while possibly picking up another asset. If the Thunder have a player in mind that they can possibly be taken lower than 14, they’ll likely look to move down. Remember, as you get deeper into the first round, the cost of the player goes down. And with the Thunder likely to be in the luxury tax, anything that can bring the price tag of the tax bill down will be a relief.

1. RJ Hunter – Georgia State/Junior/6’6″ (6’10.5″ wingspan)/185 lbs

Three-point specialist that shot only 30% from deep this past season, as defenses keyed in on him as the focal point of their attention. Compares favorably to Jeremy Lamb. He also averaged 3.5 assists which highlighted his playmaking ability. Good mid-range shooter. Can be a bit streaky as we saw in the Georgia State’s first game in the NCAA tournament against Baylor. His length allows him to be a menace on the defensive end, as he averaged 2.1 steals and 1 block per game. Body frame doesn’t seem like it can pack on too much more weight. Small school competition stigma.

rj hunter georgia state

2. Jerian Grant – Notre Dame/Senior/6’4″ (6’7.5″ wingspan)/200 lbs

Combo playmaking guard that led Notre Dame in points (16.5) and assists (6.6). Compares favorably to former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson. Does a real good job of changing speeds and has a quick first step. Good upper body strength that allows him to get to the rim and score through contact. Good, not great, shooter. Solid defensively. Strength allows him to not be too affected by screens and his lateral quickness allows him to keep up with guards. Can take bad shots early in the shot clock. Can be a bit inconsistent at times. Will be 23 years of age at the beginning of the season. Likely ready to contribute right now, but does not have a ton of upside.

3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Arizona/Sophomore/6’7″ (7’2″ wingspan)/210 lbs

One of the better wing defenders in the draft. Compares favorably to Tony Allen and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Length, strength, and athleticism give him the potential to be a top-flight perimeter defender in the league. Scores most of his points in transition and straight line drives to the basket. Rebounds well for his position, especially on the offensive end (2 offensive rebounds per game). Hollis-Jefferson’s biggest weakness is his jump-shot. He just under 21% from 3-point territory. With the Thunder already having an elite defender that struggles with his jumper (Andre Roberson), it may be a bit redundant to draft a similar player that will be a net negative on the offensive end.

The Thunder have a ton of options in this draft. They could take one of these 10 players, or they could surprise everyone and draft a complete unknown (hello, Josh Huestis). Thunder GM has plenty of cards up his sleeves, and will pull the one he feels will make the Thunder a better team for next season and for seasons after that.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2015 Draft Preview

durant westbrook mcgary thunder

In life, well laid plans seldom come to fruition as easily as we’d like them to. After four straight season of near perfect health, which culminated in an NBA Finals appearance in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder have seen three straight seasons cut short by ill-timed injuries. In 2013, Houston Rockets’ point guard Patrick Beverly launched himself into Russell Westbrook’s right knee in the first game of the playoffs, causing Westbrook’s meniscus to tear. In 2014, Serge Ibaka’s calf injury caused the Thunder to fall behind 2 games to nothing to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. A hole too insurmountable to climb even when Ibaka returned for Game 3 of that series. And then the nightmare that was last season, as the Thunder bench looked more like a triage unit at times with all the leg casts, hand casts, and men in suits.

With all the injuries though, the Thunder were still in the playoff race til the end of the last day of the regular season, as they finished with the same record as the New Orleans Pelicans, but lost out on a playoff spot because of a tie breaker. The Pelicans won the season series 3-1, with the final game of the series being decided on a near halfcourt double clutch 3-pointer by Anthony Davis to win the game as time expired. That shot was a microcosm of the Thunder’s entire season: so close, yet so far away.

With the playoffs out of the picture, the Thunder found themselves in an unfamiliar positon: picking in the lottery. They likely did not envision themselves picking in the top 14 for the foreseeable future. Being the team with the best record to not make the playoffs, the Thunder fell into the 14th spot in the lottery. They also have their 2nd round pick, No. 48.

The first question that needs to be asked is, “What is available in this draft that the Thunder needs?” When completely healthy, the Thunder are as good as any team in the league. They have a scoring machine in Kevin Durant, a beast of a point guard in Russell Westbrook, a 3 and D power forward in Serge Ibaka that has led the league in blocks 3 of the last 4 seasons, and two young centers that are still developing in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. What is missing out of that group is a consistent two guard.

roberson thunder

To the Thunder, a consistent 2-way shooting guard is about as rare as an albino unicorn that spits fire. The Thunder used a sort of platoon system when it came to their 2-guard position last season. The de-facto starter was Andre Roberson, whose is one of the better wing defenders in the league, but is a liability on offense due to his unreliable shooting. The other 2-guards on the roster also had their flaws. Dion Waiters is likely a better overall player than Roberson, but has a tendancy to not be very efficient on the offensive end. Waiters’ role on this team is likely better served as a 6th man. Anthony Morrow is one of the best 3-point marksmen in the league, but struggles on the defensive end. And Jeremy Lamb is the enigma wrapped up in the question mark at the end of the bench.

With all those 2-guards on the roster, the next question likely becomes, “Why would the Thunder draft another 2-guard?” Therein lies the dilemma with this team. It is loaded! They have 2 point gaurds, 6 wings, and 5 post players (assuming they match any offer for Kanter) all under contract for next season. The thing is all 13 of those players can play. That number doesn’t take into account Kyle Singler, who is a restricted free agent and Steve Novak, who will likely get traded to shed salary. In addition, the Thunder also have Josh Huestis, their first round pick from last season, who delayed signing his rookie contract in order to get more experience with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Blue. There’s a possibility that Huestis may delay signing his rookie contract for a second season if the Thunder doesn’t feel he is ready to play in the league.

“Could the Thunder trade the pick?” is a valid question. Not many teams are in a position to not need a lottery pick while picking in the lottery. But the Thunder could realistically be in that position. Thunder GM Sam Presti is all about parlaying assets into something more valuable in the future. While the Thunder’s high-valued assets are likely untouchable (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Kanter, Adams), this lottery pick could likely be had for the right price.

booker dekker

But then the question becomes, “Would the Thunder forego the opportunity to get another young piece that will be on a rookie contract for the next four seasons?” If the right player is available, I think the Thunder stay the course. But who is that right player? If you look at the players the Thunder have brought in for workouts, you’ll see a pattern developing. Names like RJ Hunter, Jerian Grant, Devin Booker, Sam Dekker are not only players that will likely be there at 14, but also similar in skillset. The outlier may be someone like Bobby Portis, who has worked out for many of the teams in that 10-18 range, and has been rumored to have received a promise from several of those teams. I don’t buy into the Cameron Payne hype because the Thunder already have two point guards on the roster, and have a third one that they love in the D-League (Semaj Christon).

The most likely scenario for the Thunder is to trade out of the lottery but stay in that 18-24 range. Doing that, the Thunder can still draft a player they like and snatch another asset in the process (likely a future 2nd round pick). It wouldn’t surprise if the Thunder drafts Portis, Grant, or Hunter in that position.

As for the 2nd round, look for the Thunder to select a draft and stash player. The Thunder brought in Nikola Radicevic, a 6’5″ Serbian point guard, for a workout about a week ago. Radicevic likely has ties to Thunder assistant coach Darko Rajakovic.

When it comes to the Thunder and this draft, nothing would surprise me. They hold all the cards. They need nothing, but could use a little bit of everything. Thursday night will likely be a busy night for the Thunder.