7 min read

Friday Bolts: 7.13.18

Paolo Ugetti (Ringer) on the Thunder winning the offseason: “A summer that will be remembered for LeBron’s move to a big market also gave us a remarkable victory for small-market culture. Argue with Paul George’s decision all you want, but George choosing to spend the next three, maybe four years of his prime in Oklahoma City is more meaningful than if the Thunder had won their first-round playoff series. It gives them relevance and an ability to prove to the rest of the league that Kevin Durant’s departure didn’t mean that they would quietly go away. The Thunder also kept versatile forward Jerami Grant, who possesses a lot of two-way upside. They bought low on Nerlens Noel as a backup defensive center. And most importantly, they are getting rid of Carmelo Anthony. Remember when I said keeping George was almost as good as winning a series? Well, forcing Melo off their roster and onto the buyout market may be as good as winning a championship ring.”

Jordan Greer (Sporting News) on questions teams must ask themselves before acquiring Carmelo Anthony: “Can Carmelo Anthony fit with the current roster? The Thunder hoped to unleash the 10-time All-Star as “Olympic Melo,”  a small-ball power forward capable of spreading defenses with pick-and-pop plays as well as spot-up opportunities. While Anthony did finish the 2017-18 season as one of the top catch-and-shoot scorers in the NBA, his efficiency took a major tumble — he shot a career-low 40.4 percent from the field. That led to Anthony going off during his exit interviews about how the Thunder never put him in a position to succeed and forced him into a supporting role. “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that,” Anthony said. “As far as being effective as that type of player, I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I can still do as a basketball player.” If Anthony can recapture his shooting stroke, he would make a great deal of sense as a secondary (or primary with bench units) scorer for any contender.”

Sierra Fernandez (HoopsHype) on Russell Westbrook’s opportunity to become the OKC/Seattle franchise’s all-time leading scorer next season: “Despite the obvious umbrage Seattle SuperSonics fans still feel towards how they lost their team to the ownership group who turned the club into the Oklahoma City Thunder, that doesn’t change the fact that as far as NBA history goes, they still count as the same franchise. And that would explain why the explosive Russell Westbrook is on the verge of taking a team record away from a Sonics legend. Heading into 2018-19, Westbrook is merely 1,023 points behind nine-time All-Star and Hall-of-Fame floor general Gary Payton for the Thunder franchise lead in total points scored. By averaging 25 points per contest, which is around what he put up nightly last season, and if he doesn’t miss a single outing, Westbrook will own the record outright midway through 2018-19 – by game No. 42 of the campaign.”

Matty Breisch (Section 215) on how the Thunder has won the Jerami Grant trade: “In a league where having that versatility to switch off on opposing defenders is becoming more and more valuable, Grant ability to cover 1-5 on the court is a major bonus to a team looking to optimize their optionality, and effectively matchup against various different styles of play. At the tender age of 24, Grant still has room to get even better in his new role. This upside, when coupled with the impending release of Anthony made Grant a prime candidate for a contract extension, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a brand new, three-year $27 million deal to remain in OKC through 2020-2021 NBA season, presumably as a full-time member of the team’s starting five. Well only time will tell just how good Grant can become as a small ball power forward for the speed-obsessed Thunder, it’s worth wondering if former Philadelphia 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo made the right move on shipping Jerami Grant to the Oklahoma City for Ilyasova and a pair of future second-round picks in 2022 and 2023.”

Erik Horne with observations from the Thunder’s Summer League loss to Memphis yesterday: “The Thunder has used the Summer League to get its young wing players opportunities to play with the ball in their hands more. The result was six turnovers in the first seven minutes against Memphis. Like the senior team, the Thunder’s best offense is its defense leading to fast break opportunities. OKC’s first-half highlight came when rookie Hamidou Diallo snared a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a dunk early in the second quarter to cut Memphis’s lead to two. But, facing a 21-point deficit at halftime, the Thunder needed more. It rolled off an 11-0 run to start the third quarter by getting out quicker and executing better on the fast break. The staff has been willing to let the young players make mistakes in Las Vegas, but when the opportunities come in transition, they had to capitalize.”

Michael Scotto (The Athletic) on Hamidou Diallo’s quest to become ‘one of the greats’: “Considering Diallo’s path to the NBA, it’s easy to see why being traded multiple times before playing an NBA game wouldn’t phase him. As noted in a Sporting News story, Diallo’s parents, Marima (a hairdresser) and Abdoulaye (a cab driver), came to the U.S. from Guinea, leaving behind the poverty and unrest of West Africa for a life in the U.S. They settled in LeFrak City, an apartment development in Corona, Queens that also produced NBA players Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson. “I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment,” Diallo told Sporting News. “All of us. So, I lived with my siblings, and I lived with my parents. I know what it feels like to see my family struggling. I lived it. To see my family, my mom and my dad, all their hard work, that sticks with you.”

Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on Kevin Hervey appearing to have what it takes: “In limited opportunities, Hervey has impressed in the NBA’s summer league, which is ongoing in Las Vegas. Playing just 14 minutes per outing over three games entering Thursday night, eighth most on the Thunder’s summer league roster, Hervey has turned it into 7.7 points per outing, shooting a collective 9 of 22 that includes 4 of 11 3-point shooting. “He has a feel for the game similar to what a point guard has. He sees the floor and creates passes and baskets for other guys,” Cross said. “He has a beautiful shot. He just has an effortless shot with great form and mechanics.” Cross added that he knew the Thunder were interested in Hervey before the draft and when OKC didn’t select Hervey with the 53rd pick, he was confident the Thunder would grab him with the 57th.”

Brett Dawson on Daniel Hamilton’s year at point guard and his quest to land in the NBA full-time: “There are times when Hamilton looks locked in, when he’s under control surveying the court, picking his spots. In those moments, he looks like an NBA player, a guy with the size and vision to make plays against top competition. And then there are the moments when he drives without purpose, when he’s caught in the air without a plan or forces a difficult shot. That version of Hamilton looks a long way from the NBA. “For me, it’s learning that I don’t have to make a play every time,” Hamilton said. “I got teammates out there, and trusting the teammates and trusting the system I think is the biggest thing.” Hamilton’s second season with the Blue was a step in the right direction. He averaged 16.1 points, nine rebounds and 7.8 assists, all improvements from his rookie year in the G League. But the transition to point guard often isn’t smooth, and Hamilton hit some bumps along the way. He led the G League in turnovers at 4.9 per game, committing 75 more than anyone else in the league.”

Micah Wimmer (FanSided) on why Terrance Ferguson’s development is so important to the Thunder: “With the near-certain departure of Carmelo Anthony, there will be a number of shots and minutes available to Ferguson that were not during his rookie season. That, along with the Thunder’s desperation for bench production, means that Ferguson will likely be thrown into the fire a bit more this season, forced to prove himself on a nightly basis. Whether he will be able to rise to the challenge or not is impossible to say at this point, but his relative success will have a definite impact on the Thunder’s ceiling in the coming years. The Thunder knew they were drafting a raw prospect when they selected Ferguson 21st overall in the 2017 Draft, but unfortunately, considering their timeline, they do not have the luxury of waiting years for him to blossom into his best self. However, considering the nature of their team and their financial situation, they also do not have the luxury of looking elsewhere for production off the bench.”

Nick Gallo on the versatility and learning curve of Devon Hall: “For NBA scouting departments, there are certain collegiate players throughout the country that continually pop up onto the radar. For Thunder Vice President of Identification and Intelligence Will Dawkins, it was a sturdy guard from the University of Virginia who kept crossing into his path. A redshirt senior, Devon Hall, a 6-foot-6, 206-pound guard from the University of Virginia continually made an impression on Dawkins, Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti and the rest of Presti’s staff. With four years of visits to Charlottesville to watch the Cavaliers, summer showcases and other meetings, the Thunder staff has gotten a bunch of cracks at charting Hall’s progression, and been able to tap into his character. “We feel like we know him really, really well,” Dawkins said. “He’s a guy that was an All-ACC defender. He’s a guy who improved his shooting every single year he was in college, attempts and accuracy. He’s able to play on the ball, off the ball. We’re interested in seeing him just kind of get on the floor and just fit in with our other wings and have a chance to play there.”

Around the League: Isaiah Thomas is signing with the Nuggets…. Jeremy Lin is headed to Atlanta…. Kenneth Faried is going to Brooklyn…. Wayne Ellington re-signed with the Heat…. Charles Oakley was arrested for trying to game the system in Vegas…. Players discuss the dark side of free agency…. Inside the Vegas Summer League schmooze-fest.