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Friday Bolts: 2.16.18

Friday Bolts: 2.16.18

Kyle Wagner (FiveThirtyEight) on the Thunder falling apart without Andre Roberson: “Since Roberson went out, Oklahoma City’s defensive rating has been 112.3, which would rank 27th in the league, ahead of only the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. That’s extreme though not unexpected with Roberson no longer there to cover for weaker defenders like Westbrook or Anthony. But here’s the kick in the head: The team’s offensive ratings has barely budged despite losing one of the worst offensive players in the league, going from 110.9 before Roberson’s injury to 111.8 after it. This is much harder to explain. Roberson didn’t simply deprive his offense of a player who could do a better job of shooting, passing or dribbling. He shrank the court, allowing defenders to roam guilt-free, to harass ballhandlers and make life difficult for anyone establishing post position or running around off-ball screens.”

Dan Woike (LA Times) on Russell Westbrook’s impact & growth at his high school: “It’s the place where he scored 50 points as a senior, where he blossomed into one of the state’s top basketball players, where he was admired and liked by his teachers for his work in the classroom. For the school’s students, it’s a reminder of everything that’s possible. Want to sign a $205-million contract? Westbrook did. Want to be the face of a major shoe brand? Westbrook is. Want to wear denim overalls one day and a designer poncho the next and orange camouflage pants the day after that? Westbrook does. But before all of that, before the high fashion and the 2017 MVP award — before being tall enough to play varsity basketball — Westbrook was just a skinny kid with laughably big feet that looked like battleships compared to his legs.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) has OKC 10th in his latest power rankings: “Not all 2-1 weeks are created equal. For example, when both wins come against the Grizzlies, it’s hard not to discount the record. The Oklahoma City Thunder were competitive against the Cavs in a 120-112 loss Tuesday, and both Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony returned from ankle injuries this week. But the Thunder still haven’t gotten anything from the shooting guard spot since Andre Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon Jan. 27, and the man occupying that role changes day to day. Alex Abrines, Josh Huestis and Terrance Ferguson are all getting turns, and head coach Billy Donovan has to hope somebody claims the job.”

Erik Horne on the offensive impact of Steven Adams: “In the midst of his best season as a professional, Adams, 24, is as practical as it comes in the NBA. He won’t be at the All-Star Game, but the Thunder big man’s value has never been higher, regardless of if he’s in L.A. this weekend. He’s also just as self-depreciating despite being worth every penny of the $100 million extension the Thunder signed him to in 2016. Good luck trying to get him to take a sliver of credit for the Thunder setting a franchise record for 3-pointers in a game (17). Adams didn’t shoot any of those 3-pointers, but 13 of them came with him in the game. The 7-footer predictably brushed off his importance, attributing the corner 3-point looks the Thunder received Wednesday night to Memphis’s defensive scheme.”

Cody Taylor (USA Today) on the Thunder leading the NBA in many hustle stats: “Many have equated hustle stats in the NBA to how much effort a player or team gives on any given play and it’s evident that the Thunder have given plenty of effort on the defensive end to lead the league in those categories. Perhaps the most impressive stat the Thunder lead the league in is second-chance points. Coaches often talk about how many extra possessions that can be created with effort plays and by recovering the “50-50” balls on certain plays. Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams are among the team’s leaders in hustle plays. Westbrook leads the league in loose balls recovered with two per game. George leads all players in steals and deflections, while Adams is having one of the best offensive rebounding seasons in NBA history.”

Eric Pincus (B/R) on what happens if the Lakers miss on both LeBron & Paul George: “Oklahoma City has serious financial issues ahead to avoid a payroll well over $250 million next season. Some NBA executives believe Carmelo Anthony will welcome a trade to a larger city, which would help normalize the Thunder’s finances. Other executives have even suggested Anthony may opt out to play in a larger market with a better chance to win a title—perhaps a place like Houston. But it seems far-fetched Anthony would leave $28 million behind, when he can simply start the ring chasing in 2019. Should George join the Lakers without James, Los Angeles would be able to pay him a starting salary of $30.3 million ($130.3 million over four years). By letting any of their pending free agents and non-guaranteed players go, the Lakers would have another $30.3 million to spend, perhaps on injured New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. That would be quite the risk given the All-Star’s recent Achilles tear.”

Erik Horne on Paul George entering the three-point contest on fire from deep: “George might be reaching off of a rack rather than receiving passes during Saturday’s Three-Point Contest, but regardless of how the All-Star forward gets the ball, he’s entering Staples Center and his hometown of Los Angeles as one of the hottest 3-point shooters in the NBA. George comes into the All-Star break shooting a career-best 43.3 percent — sixth in the NBA — and is second in the league in 3-pointers made (187) behind James Harden (206). He’s in the midst of a streak of five consecutive games with five or more 3-pointers made, tied with Harden and Stephen Curry for the longest streak in the league this season.”

Ray Bala (B/R) on Kendrick Perkins trying to earn another shot at the NBA in the G-League: “This is an NBA champion, a player who shared the court with LeBron, KD, KG. What was he doing here? Why was he slumming it with a minor league basketball team and not enjoying retirement after a $57 million career, or adding to that total with a big paycheck in Europe? Because in one way, he was not out of place at all. Like every player in the building—every player in the G League—all Perkins wanted was to show he belongs in the NBA. “This is a perfect opportunity,” Perkins said from his locker. “Yes, the money isn’t the same as overseas, but so what? You’re within arm’s reach of the NBA.”

Around the League: Nikola Jokic recorded the fastest triple-double in NBA history…. LeBron & KD discussed racial tensions with Cari Champion…. The Cavs face a $300 million future…. Picking NBA award-winners after the first half…. Viewer’s guide to All-Star weekend.