4 min read

Friday Bolts: 12.15.17

Friday Bolts: 12.15.17

OddsShark previews tonight’s Thunder/76ers match-up in Philadelphia: “The Thunder may have a Big Three with George, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, but they are no match for the Big Two of Embiid and Ben Simmons. This is the middle of Oklahoma City’s trip, with Anthony set to face his former team at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Thunder have dropped the first game of a back-to-back set four consecutive times both straight up and ATS, with all of them coming this season. Motivation will be much higher for Philadelphia here, as the team is off until Monday and catching Oklahoma City in a great spot. Bet the Sixers to win and cover.”

Michael Lee (Yahoo) on how this week could help PG & Melo galvanize the Thunder: “The Thunder keep waiting for a moment, a game, a string of games to signal that they’ve finally clicked. They’ve already had their share of false starts that merely triggered the next round of concern. But the schedule makers gave Oklahoma City’s two biggest offseason additions the opportunity to shed their pasts with a three-games-in-four-nights swing beginning in Indianapolis and ending in New York. The revenge games will be done before Christmas and if played correctly could be a galvanizing force for a hastily thrown together squad that features three players accustomed to having things go their way.”

Fred Katz on why Steven Adams is the easy fix for the Thunder offense: “The Thunder are one-third of the way into the season now. And many of the aforementioned flaws are relatively complex. Changing players’ lifelong habits, making sure bench players perform perfectly and communicating with a new group are all problems that can take time to solve. Yet, there is a fix that can help the Thunder earn wins immediately. They can realize that Steven Adams is one of their three best players (and on some nights, like during Wednesday’s 100-95 win over the Indiana Pacers, he can play like their best).”

David Ramil (FanSided) on the Thunder still not having an identity: “It remains a possibility that Westbrook could accept the responsibility of sharing the ball more willingly than he talks with media, that George could be as resolute in his commitment to Oklahoma City as he is on the defensive end, and that Anthony shines during the NBA’s biggest stage as brightly as he does in international play. It’s a pretty picture, if you squint past the early-season blemishes that distort Donovan’s vision. But it also wouldn’t be that surprising if we wind up like the Thunder during that one bleak night in Orlando: simply not seeing it.”

Rohan Nadkarni (SI) on why beating the Pacers didn’t answer questions about Paul George’s place in OKC: “Watching the Thunder remains a frustrating experience. Melo isn’t spotting up as much as he should. George needs to be initiating more offense. And Westbrook’s shot selection leaves much to be desired. In most situations, the team struggles with Westbrook on the bench, but it still seems it would make more sense for Thunder coach Billy Donovan to stagger his stars’ time on the court. It‘s been especially hard to watch George this season. He once credibly went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the playoffs. Now, he’s stuck in a bland offense with two stars who don’t have a history of making their teammates better.”

Bobby Marks (ESPN Insider) on 90 percent of NBA players being eligible for trade as of today: “Is this team better suited for the playoffs than the regular season? If the Thunder think so, expect Presti to press his luck with the hope that the pieces begin to fit. And if they don’t, Oklahoma City could be looking at an early exit in the playoffs (if they make it) and an uncertain future with the possible loss of George to free agency. Restrictions/notes: The Thunder are not permitted to send a first-round pick until 2024. Oklahoma City has picks owed to Minnesota and Orlando over the next four years. Andre Roberson cannot be traded until Jan. 15 and Russell Westbrook Sept. 29. The no-trade clause that Carmelo Anthony had in New York has carried over to OKC. Oklahoma City — currently with a $24 million tax bill — does have one roster spot open. However, adding a player would see the luxury tax increase.”

Zach Lowe (ESPN) with ten things he likes and doesn’t like: “Over the past few weeks, Billy Donovan has devoted a shocking amount of non-garbage minutes to lineups featuring none of Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. By the numbers, those groups have worked; the Thunder have outscored opponents by about eight points per 100 possessions over 76 starless minutes, mostly due to unsustainable defense, per NBA.com… But, what, really is the point of this? No sane coach is going to roll out these groups in playoff games. All three of Oklahoma City’s stars are searching for their rhythm — together, in pairings, and when they go solo. That should be the priority.”

The Ringer staff calls Russell Westbrook the new Kobe: “Almost six months since winning the NBA’s highest individual honor based on the case that his 47-win team couldn’t reach even that low bar without his historic production, it is now widely assumed that Westbrook is holding back his new superteam. But it’s more than that. While Westbrook’s destructive brand of basketball split camps last season, each game the Thunder point guard plays has become something of a battleground for basketball existentialism. The reigning MVP has become a pariah. In NBA terms, he has become the new Kobe.”

Tracy McGrady said Carmelo Anthony should come off the bench on ESPN’s The Jump:

Around the League: The NBA announced the new All-Star voting format…. Kristaps Porzingis is questionable (knee soreness) vs OKC on Saturday…. LeBron and Lonzo Ball had a mysterious post-game chat last night….  The Bulls and Timberwolves are trading places…. Top 50 big board for the NBA Draft.