Tag Archives: Nerlens Noel

NTTB Thunder Rumblings – 16 July 2018

img_4063Brett Dawson (NewsOK) on Thunder summer league (and Blue) coach Mark Daigneault: “He learned basketball from Jim Calhoun, for whom he worked as a student manager at UConn, and Ralph Willard, who hired him as an assistant at Holy Cross, and from Billy Donovan, who brought him on at Florida as a graduate assistant and ultimately followed him to Oklahoma City.”

Erik Horne (NewsOK) looks at the rotational players for the Thunder during summer league: “Diallo shouldn’t have lasted until the No. 45 pick in the draft. In Las Vegas, the 19-year-old showcased elite athleticism, was efficient (20-of-41 shooting), rebounded well (4.8 per game) for 6-5, and showed the ability to handle the ball on the fast break. Could he make a Thunder roster that wants to play faster? The Thunder minimized Diallo’s responsibility on offense in Las Vegas and he needs to continue to improve his perimeter shot, but purchasing his draft rights from Charlotte was a nice, low-risk play by Sam Presti.” Continue reading NTTB Thunder Rumblings – 16 July 2018

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NTTB Thunder Rumblings – 10 July 2018

img_4063Nick Gallo (OKCThunder.com) on Nerlens Noel’s upcoming season of redemption: “This is something I’ve been really wanting my whole life, just to be on a talented team that can really complement my skill set and really show what I’m really about and go out on the court and play my game with no hesitation. Coach Billy has given me the utmost confidence since I’ve been talking to him day by day. Just go out there and play your game. There’s nothing in it besides basketball and just being yourself. I felt really accepted.”

Gallo (OKCThunder.com) on Hamidou Diallo’s potential in Las Vegas: “Offensively, Diallo broke through with an impressive performance that included 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 8 rebounds. He made a pair of made three-pointers with solid shooting form, hit a long two-point jumper and likely the play of the game, a vicious baseline drive that culminated in a two-handed flush. Diallo isn’t heralded as a scorer coming out of college, but as a 19-year old he obviously still has plenty of room to grow.” Continue reading NTTB Thunder Rumblings – 10 July 2018

NTTB Podcast – Episode 36 (Happy PG Day)

IMG_4109On Episode 36 of the NTTB podcast, we discuss the following topics:

 

  • Nerlens Noel signing
  • Raymond Felton re-signs
  • Carmelo Anthony and Thunder definitely heading towards a split
  • Options for Melo’s departure
  • Reviewing Paul George’s decision to stay
  • Summer League recap
  • Deonte Burton sign a 2-way contaract
  • NBA News

Intro/Outro music provided by OSC Productions

Thank you for listening. We will be doing a podcast once a week. If you have any Thunder or NBA related questions, make sure you hit us up on Twitter (@alexroig_NTTB or @Montero_A13).

We are on ITunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and Tune In under the NTTB Podcast. Make sure you leave us a 5-star review if you can. As always, Thunder Up!

https://www.buzzsprout.com/111153/745263-episode-36-happy-pg-day.mp3?download=true

NTTB’s Thunder Rumblings – 03 July 2018

img_4063On the 10-year anniversary of Clay Bennett announcing OKC officially had a team, here are 10 defining moments from the Thunder’s website.

Royce Young (ESPN) on the Thunder signing maligned big man Nerlens Noel: “Noel dealt with a thumb injury that caused him to miss a lot of time last season, and was suspended five games in early April for violating the league’s anti-drug program.”

Ron Matthews (OKCThunder.com) looks at the 10-year anniversary: “Thanks to superstar players like Russell Westbrook and a fan base that is impossible to miss, the letters OKC are as universally known throughout the world as PHX, MIA, ATL and other metropolitan cities. Thunder jerseys and merchandise are commonly spotted at airports and other high-traffic venues throughout the country.” Continue reading NTTB’s Thunder Rumblings – 03 July 2018

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 61 of 82)

thunder sixers

  • When: Wednesday, 04 February 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

After a nice two day break that allowed some of the injured Thunder players to further collect their bearings, it’s back to the hardwood with one of those players back into the line-up. The Thunder start a home-heavy run that features 9 of their next 11 games in Oklahoma City. With the Thunder clinging to the 8th position by one game over New Orleans, this home-heavy schedule is exactly what the doctor ordered to combat the road heavy schedule that beat the team down in the beginning of the season.

This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder won the first meeting 103-91. That was the first victory of the year where both Westbrook and Durant played, and it happened in early December.

The Opponent

noel covington thompson sixers

The 76ers currently find themselves with a 13-47 record. They score the least amount of points per game in the league (90.3) and give up over 10 points more (100.8 ppg). They have a roster full of 2nd rounders and undrafted free agents. They traded away last season’s rookie of the year, and the two players they drafted in the first round in the last draft have yet to play a game for them this year (Joel Embiid and Dario Saric). They are the epitome of tanking and the bane of the commissioner to field a completely competitive league. With all that said, the players themselves, play extremely hard. The Sixers are guided by 2nd year point guard Isaiah Canaan, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline. In the 6 games he’s played for the Sixers, he’s averaged 10.5 points and 2.8 assists. The SG position has been a mix of JaKarr Sampson and the veteran Jason Richardson of late. On the other wing, veteran Luc Mbah a Moute is their veteran perimeter stopper. Up front, Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims are an inexperienced pairing, but can change a game with their different skill sets. Noel is a good rim protector and Sims is crafty offensive player in the post. The Sixers are literally like an elementary school team in that nearly everyone on the team plays. Their highest usage players off the bench are Ish Smith, Jerami Grant, Furkan Aldemir, Thomas Robinson, and Hollis Thompson.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Philadelphia 76ers

  • PG – Isaiah Canaan
  • SG – JaKarr Sampson
  • SF – Luc Mbah a Moute
  • PF – Nerlens Noel
  • C – Henry Sims

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kyle Singler
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Enes Kanter

3 Keys to the Game

1. Effort – Sometimes, its hard to remove the stigma of a team’s record from the players on the floor. But the Sixers are a competitive team. Maybe not as skilled as most teams in the league, but it is not due to lack of effort. If the Thunder don’t come out with the right mindset, the game could be a little bit more competitive than they had hoped for.

2. Serge Ibaka – His ability to play on the perimeter will help in pulling Noel away from the rim. Noel is a lot Ibaka in that his biggest asset defensively is as a rim protector.

ibaka westbrook thunder

3. Russell Westbrook – Welcome back after a brief one game absence. But, really, just a plain clear mask? Boooooo!!!!!!

Oklahoma City Thunder at Philadelphia 76ers preview (Game 19 of 82)

westbrook thunder carter williams 76ers

  • When: Friday, 05 December 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Expectations can be a horrible thing at times. We look at players as statistical numbers, thinking that once they are plugged back into the lineup, their numbers will be added to the bottom line. In emotional haste for satisfaction, we forget to consider the effects of an adjustment period. And that’s what we saw happen on Tuesday, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played for the first time together all season. We figured, “20 game win streak upcoming”. Instead, we got a team that seemed a bit too amped up (I’m looking at you Westbrook) and  a defense (or lack thereof) that had only reared its ugly head a couple times this season. Luckily, the Thunder are getting healthy at a time in the schedule where they can fit in some practices. Hopefully, the Thunder can adjust quickly enough and get their chemistry and timing down.

This is the first of two meetings this season between the Thunder and 76ers. The Thunder have won the last 10 meetings against the 76ers, dating back to their inaugural season in Oklahoma City.

The Opponent

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers come into the game with a 1-17 record, and are riding the high of a 1-game winning streak. This team is the reason draft reform was even brought up earlier this season. The front office has purposely put together a team that is devoid of any establised talent and, outside of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, devoid of any veteran presence. The team is a mixture of burgeoning first round talent, 2nd round hopefuls, and D-League graduates. Michael Carter-Williams returned from shoulder surgery a couple games back and is looking to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign from last season. Though he is offensively inefficient (36.8% FG, 23.5% 3Pt FG), he is a triple double threat every time he walks on the court. Joining him in the backcourt is Tony Wroten, who leads the team in scoring (17.9), assists (6.3), and steals (1.9). Unfortunately, Wroten has been out for the past 3 games due to a sprained knee and will miss the game against the Thunder. Hollis Thompson, who was once a training camp invitee of the Thunder, will replace him in the starting line-up. Up front, Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims provide the Sixers with a front line that struggles at times offensively, but whose energy can affect the game in other ways (defense, rebounding, etc). Off the bench, rookie KJ McDaniels is one of the more versatile players in the league, and Robert Covington is a D-League legend that can fill it up “Nick Young-style” if you allow him to get going.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Philadelphia 76ers

  • PG – Michael Carter-Williams
  • SG – Hollis Thompson
  • SF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
  • PF – Nerlens Noel
  • C – Henry Sims

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Defense – This team is horrible offensively. They are last in points per game and offensive rating. They are an inefficient bunch that relies on transition opportunities and 2nd chance points to do most of their scoring. With that said, this is still an NBA team that has pushed some good teams to the brink of defeat this season. Also, Covington, McDaniels, and Thompson can light it up from 3-point territory if they are given the opportunity. The Thunder need to come into this game with a defensive mindset and not allow the Sixers any semblance of hope.

jackson thunder carter williams 76ers

2. Depth – The Thunder will finally have a full roster on Friday. All 13 players who will be active will be available for tonight’s game. I have to write that because it is the first time this season I can do that. The Sixers are missing a key piece in Wroten and are talent depleted as is. The Thunder need to take advantage of their depth and wear the Sixers away.

3. Just win – A win streak always starts at one (just ask the Sixers). If the Thunder are to start making up any ground, tonight would probably be the most opportune time to do that.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Atlantic Division Preview

1. Toronto Raptors 

raptors ross valanciunas lowry derozan

Last season: 48-34 (1st in the Atlantic Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 7, 1st round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets

Key additions:

  • Bruno Caboclo – Draft (No. 20 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jordan Hamilton – Free agent signing
  • James Johnson – Free agent signing
  • Lucas Nogueira – Obtained in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Lou Williams –  Obtained in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks

Key departures:

  • John Salmons – Traded to the Atlanta Hawks
  • Steve Novak – Traded to the Utah Jazz

Season Preview – The Toronto Raptors are in prime position to build off the most successful season in franchise history. The young nucleus of Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross is intact and a year older, with Derozan and Valanciunas having just participated in the FIBA World Cup. The Raptors acquired Lou Williams from the Hawks to serve as their offensive firepower off the bench. And they are also developing two Brazilian big men (Caboclo and Nogueria) who may pay dividends in 2015-16.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Raptors make it to the 2nd round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and have at least 2 All-Stars.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 52-30

2. New York Knicks

knicks shumpert anthony bargnani hardaway

Last season: 37-45 (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key additions:

  • Quincy Acy – Obtained in a trade with the Sacramento Kings
  • Jose Calderon – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Samuel Dalembert – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Cleanthony Early – Draft (No. 34 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Shane Larkin – Obtained in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Jason Smith – Free agent signing

Key departures:

  • Tyson Chandler – Traded to the Dallas Mavericks
  • Raymond Felton – Traded to the Dallas Mavericks

Season Preview – Two of the biggest additions for the team have been Phil Jackson (president of basketball operations) and Derek Fisher (head coach). With Carmelo Anthony in the fold for the next 4 seasons guaranteed and plenty of cap space coming up in 2015-16, the Knicks are starting to look like they have a plan. Fisher will likely implement the triangle offense, which will play off the scoring abilities of Anthony and JR Smith to maximize the effect of role players like Calderon, Amare Stoudemire, and Tim Hardaway Jr. It will be a bit of a transition year, but in the weak Eastern Conference, the Knicks will have the ability to make the playoffs.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Knicks make the playoffs.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 43-39

3. Brooklyn Nets

nets williams lopez

Last season: 44-38 (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat

Key Additions:

  • Bojan Bogdanovic – Signed Eurostash
  • Markel Brown – Draft (No. 44 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jarrett Jack – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Sergey Karasev – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Key departures:

  • Paul Pierce – Signed with the Washington Wizards
  • Andray Blatche – Unsigned
  • Shaun Livingston – Signed with the Golden State Warriors
  • Marcus Thornton –  Traded to the Boston Celtics

Season Preview – The Brooklyn Nets seem to be on the cusp of a rebuild (reload?). Their “all in” move from last offseason (acquiring Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry from the Celtics) did not pan out and the Nets now find themselves with only one of the those 3 still on the roster. Brook Lopez (foot) and Deron Williams (both ankles) are once again coming into the season recovering from surgeries, and Garnett seems to know the end of his career is near. The Nets have some good young role players in Mason Plumlee, Bogdanovic, Karasev, and Teague, but their star players are either at the end of their run or are injury-prone.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Nets make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 40-42

4. Boston Celtics

celtics smart young

Last season: 25-57 (4th in the Atlantic Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Marcus Smart – Draft (No. 6 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Marcus Thornton – Obtained in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets
  • Evan Turner – Free agent signing
  • James Young – Draft (No. 17 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Tyler Zeller – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Departures:

  • Kris Humphries – Signed with the Washington Wizards
  • Jerryd Bayless – Signed with the Milwaukee Bucks

Season Preview – The Celtics are in the beginnings of a rebuild and would like nothing more than to use this season to get their young core (Smart, Young, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and Avery Bradley) plenty of development and playing time together. Along with that, the team has two valuable expiring contracts in Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass to help out in their rebuilding process.

2014-15 will be successful if: The young players show progression and the Celtics end up with a Top 7 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 23-59

5. Philadelphia 76ers

76ers carter williams noel

Last season: 19-63 (5th in the Atlantic Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Joel Embiid – Draft (No. 3 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Dario Saric – Draft (No. 12 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jerami Grant – Draft (No. 39 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • KJ McDaniels – Draft (No. 32 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Alexy Shved – Obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Departures:

  • Thaddeus Young – Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves

Season Preview – I’ve never seen a more obvious tank job in my life. The entire being of the 76ers at this point is to collect draft picks and young players at whatever cost. That’s not necessarily a bad plan, but everyone else who has done has at least attempted to look like they were trying. They drafted 2 players in the first round in the last draft that likely will not play for the organization this season (Embiid and Saric). This will be Nerlens Noel’s rookie season and last season’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, is coming off off-season shoulder surgery. The team traded its best veteran in Thad Young and heads into the season as one of the youngest teams in the league.

2014-15 will be successful if: The 76ers end up with a Top 3 pick and their young players continue to develop.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 12-70

OKC Thunder: 5 Things to watch for in Summer League

reggie jackson summer league thunder

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

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

1. The “Veterans”

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

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

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

adams jones roberson thunder

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

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

2. The Rookies

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

mitch mcgary michigan thunder

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

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

3. Grant Jerrett

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

4. Defend the championship

summer league thunder champions

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

5. Other players

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

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

Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns preview (Game 62 of 82)

westbrook tucker durant bledsoe thunder suns

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

With their recent 6 game home stand behind them, the Thunder hit the road for the first time since February 13th. With 21 games left, the final quarter of the regular season is about positioning and health. With two starters down because of injury, it’s the Thunder’s depth (and their two superstars) that has been their saving grace. Having the ability to spring a player like Perry Jones III or Andre Roberson off the bench to be a starter is a luxury most teams do not have. Bringing a player that has only logged 44 minutes the entire season, only to have him play 53 quality minutes over the next 3 games like Hasheem Thabeet has, is a testament to the Thunder’s “next man up” philosophy.

This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder, and the Phoenix Suns for that matter, have come a long way from that early November game. In that game, which the Thunder won 103-96, Russell Westbrook made his regular season debut after missing the last 9 games of the playoffs the previous season and the first two games of this season.

The Opponent

frye dragic morris green suns

The Thunder’s last opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers, were what the Phoenix Suns were supposed to be this season. Heading into this season, many thought the Suns would be one of the main contenders for the Number 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Suns even appeared to be playing the part of a tanking team before the season started by trading starting C Marcin Gortat, PG Kendall Marshall, and SG Shannon Brown to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor, who was probably going to be out for the season with a neck injury, and the Wizards’ 2014 1st round pick (that was top 12 protected). Then the season started, and something weird happened. First year coach Jeff Hornacek allowed the team to play to its strengths, instead of trying to integrate his system. The Suns won 5 of their first 7  games with a run and gun style that is very reminiscent of the “7 Seconds or Less” Suns of a couple seasons back that featured Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Instead of Steve Nash, the Suns have the two-headed combo guard duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. And instead of Amare Stoudemire, they have Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye. They’ve kept on winning, and currently find themselves with a record of 35-25, good for 7th in a tough Western Conference. They are a rag-tag bunch of good athletic players that were mostly cast-offs from their previous teams. Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker are perennial journeymen who have seen their NBA dreams take them to different leagues in different countries, the Morris twins have been reunited, and Leandro Barbosa has found the fountain of youth in Phoenix (actually, its probably just Phoenix’s medical staff working their old man shaman magic).

Probable Starting Line-ups

Phoenix Suns

  • PG – Goran Dragic
  • SG – Gerald Green
  • SF – P.J. Tucker
  • PF – Channing Frye
  • C – Alex Len

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Perry Jones III
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Battle of Rookie Big Men – This past draft was touted to be one of the better ones to find a quality big man. Alex Len, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, and Gorgui Dieng are all playing rotational minutes for NBA teams. Nerlens Noel would be playing if it wasn’t for his recovery from an ACL tear. This is the first regular season match-up between the two rookie centers. They met in the preseason and Len was a DNP-CD in their first meeting of the season.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

2. Perimeter Defense – Phoenix is not afraid to jack up the 3’s. They are top 3 in 3-point field goals made and in the top 10 in 3-point FG%. They have a bevy of shooters (Frye, Green, Marcus Morris, Tucker) and a great paint attacker in Dragic. This is where the Thunder can lose this game.

3. Bench – Phoenix has been decimated recently by injury. Miles Plumlee, Leandro Barbosa, and Eric Bledsoe will all miss the game due to injury. While the Thunder have their own injury issues to deal with, they have better depth and should be able to take advantage of this. For the second straight game, the Thunder welcome another player, as recently signed D-Leaguer Reggie Williams will be active for tonight’s game.

2013 OKC Thunder Draft: A Postscript

2013 NBA Draft

The NBA draft to me is a time of hope. Whether your team has the first pick or the last pick in the draft, there’s always a sense of optimism that the guy your team drafted is destined for great things. And that’s why I’ve always enjoyed the draft. When the Thunder started becoming one of the better teams in the league, their position on the draft board started rising into the late first round. Their draft position from the last 5 seasons went as followed: 4th (still as the Seattle Supersonics), 3rd, 18th, 24th, and 28th. Even with those high draft numbers though, we’ve been able to get good players late in the draft, namely Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones III.

Flash back to October 28th, 2012. As soon as the details of the James Harden trade came out, and I saw that we got a first round pick from what was almost guaranteed to be a lottery team (Toronto) and a 2nd round pick, which was almost guaranteed to be in the lower to mid 30’s (Charlotte), I started paying more attention than usual to the 2013 NBA draft. I would visit sites dedicated specifically to the draft (NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com) and would study up on the prospects. I knew how to spell Giannis Adetokunbo before he Greek-a-nized his last name to Antetokounmpo.

For a team that was on the cusp of a championship the season before, the lottery pick could have been the final piece in the championship puzzle. While it is true that the Thunder gave up a big piece in Harden, having a possible lottery pick may have made finding his replacement a bit easier. Also, the possibility of drafting a good player on a rookie salary for, at least, 4 seasons is like manna from heaven for a team teetering on the luxury tax line.

Needless to say, when the Thunder were eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs, my focus quickly switched to the NBA draft. With two picks in the first round, No. 12 and 29, and one early pick in the second round, No. 32, in what was deemed to be a weak draft, my expectations were that we weren’t going to be using all the picks. By most accounts, the teams in the top 5 weren’t necessarily exalting the selection of prospects at the top of the board. I thought the Thunder were going to do something big (i.e. trade up or trade for good veteran player).

It’s a funny thing about expectations, though. They can sometimes cloud your vision. When the picks started coming in, and guys that I thought were high on the Thunder’s draft board (Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and CJ McCollum) started dropping, I thought it was prime time to make a trade and move up. But as those players started getting drafted, and every “We have a trade,” from David Stern yielded nothing for the Thunder, I started to feel disappointment.

len, noel, mclemore

As the draft went along and we only made minor moves, I literally had a feeling of utter dejection about this draft. I mean, this was the “Harden redemption” draft. We were supposed to get ourselves a blue chip prospect to join with Jeremy Lamb in order to have a feeling of success when it came to the James Harden trade. And it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the players we drafted. It just felt like we let a golden opportunity go by without even trying to do anything.

But, alas, a little bit of sleep and a little bit of retrospect usually puts things into perspective. The more I thought about the players we got in this draft, the more I liked it. First off, this was not your draft if you are into instant gratification. This was a developmental draft, just like the last two drafts for the Thunder have been developmental drafts (Jackson, Lamb, and Jones III). As I analyzed this draft, I saw that we obtained players that will greatly help us in the future.

 

No. 12 – Steven Adams – C, University of Pittsburgh

adams draft

The Thunder don’t necessarily have a good track record with it comes to centers. Since they’ve arrived in Oklahoma City, the Thunder have drafted two flame-outs and one Eurostash: Byron Mullens, Cole Aldrich, and Tibor Pleiss. The carryovers from the Seattle days (Mouhamed Sene, Robert Swift, and Johan Petro) were 21 feet of nothingness, and the current placeholder, Kendrick Perkins, just posted a negative PER in the playoffs. To say that the center position is a position of need is an understatement.

The 7 footer from New Zealand is a late bloomer, but has the tools to be successful in the NBA. He’s an athletic big man with quick feet known for his defense. He won’t be asked to contribute immediately and may spend a good deal of his rookie season in Tulsa playing for the Tulsa 66ers. With two of the top 10 players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder don’t necessarily need an offensive savant in the middle. What they do need is someone that can move around, play defense, grab rebounds, catch a pass, and finish when they are within 5 feet of the basket. I have no doubt that Adams will be able to do that.

 

No. 26 – Andre Roberson – SF-PF, University of Colorado

Roberson from the University of Colorado shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Stern after being selected by the Timberwolves as the 26th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft in Brooklyn

This pick was a bit of head-scratcher to me. Not necessarily the pick itself, but the fact that the Thunder moved up 3 spots (albeit just for cash) to make the selection. Roberson was creeping up on every mock drafts, but wasn’t in line to be picked in the first round. Every mock draft had him falling to the beginning of the second round. Why the Thunder felt the need to move up to grab him? We may never know. Being that he is a Kawhi Leonard-like player, maybe the Thunder caught wind that the San Antonio Spurs were looking to draft him with the 28th pick.

Roberson is a bit of an enigma. He’s 6’7, but has a 6’11 wingspan and was second in the NCAA in rebounding at 11.2 per game. Also, he’s one of the premier defenders in college. Those traits usually translate very well to the pro game. His offensive game is a different story. He struggles for consistency on the perimeter, but excels if he gets close to basket on dribble drives, cuts, and offensive put back. Because of this, he is often compared to Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman.

rodman

In a system and on a team that values players that can guard multiple positions, Roberson should eventually find a spot in the rotation as a defender. It wouldn’t surprise me if Roberson saw the most minutes with the Thunder of all the Thunder rookies.

 

No. 32 – Alex Abrines – SG-SF, FC Barcelona (Spanish ACB League)

alex abrines

Abrines is a stash pick that will probably stay in Europe for 1-2 more seasons. He asked teams not to drat him late in the first round, as the guaranteed money would be less and he would probably have to fit some of the bill for his buyout. The Thunder took a chance and drafted him with the second pick of the second round. He is a smooth shooting wing player with a flair for the dramatic that many have compared to Rudy Fernandez and Drazen Petrovic.

At 19 years of age, Abrines will have to improve his game and strengthen his body before he’ll be able to compete in the NBA. The only negative for the Thunder is that Abrines is young enough to improve to the point where going the NBA would not make financial sense, causing him to stay in Europe for the rest of his professional career.

 

No. 40 – Grant Jerrett – PF, University of Arizona (selected by Portland, traded to Oklahoma City for cash considerations)

grant jerrett

Just when I thought there was no way we would draft three rookies to actually play on the team this upcoming season, the team goes and acquires a shooting big man in the 2nd round. At 6’10, Jerrett showed great potential as a shooter and as a stretch 4 in the NBA. At this point though, perimeter shooting is his only noticeable strength. Jerrett has a tool the team needs, but will need to put in a lot of work to make the opening day roster. He may be a Ryan Anderson-type player, but he may have benefited from another season in college. If his strengths don’t outweigh his weaknesses in Summer League and during the preseason, Jarrett, as a second rounder, is a good candidate to not make the team.

thunder team

Surprisingly, this draft said more about the players already on the team than those that were drafted. The team’s unwillingness to part with Jackson, Lamb, or Jones III to move up showed the confidence the team has in the young guys, and shows how the team values cohesiveness and development. With three rookies on the roster, look for the team to try to sign one or two veteran free agents to even out the youth on the bench.