Lakers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer
Lakers (19-39, 7-25 road) vs. Thunder (32-25, 20-8 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.0 (21st), Lakers – 103.5 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.0 (11th), Lakers – 110.3 (29th)
Well, the Oklahoma City Thunder certainly did something on the NBA Trade Deadline. In their only move of the day, they moved Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and Chicago’s 2018 unprotected 2nd round pick. In the past eight months, here is a very simplistic view of the last few transactions by the Thunder:
- Serge Ibaka
- Ersan Ilyasova
- Cameron Payne
- Joffrey Lauvergne
- Anthony Morrow
- Two 2017 2nd round picks
- Lottery protected 2020 first round pick
- Victor Oladipo
- Domantas Sabonis
- Jerami Grant
- Taj Gibson
- Doug McDermott
- 2018 2nd rounder
In that eight month span, Thunder GM Sam Presti has begun the arduous task of transforming the team from one that functioned around two superstar players to one that is more tailored to the strengths of the one that remains on the team, Russell Westbrook. As Presti said in his press conference after the trade, “I think we’re a better team this evening than we were this morning.” And he would be correct in his assessment. The Thunder traded 3 one-way players for a two-way veteran in Gibson and a young floor spacer on a controllable contract in McDermott. All the while, the Thunder kept their defensive wing, Andre Roberson, who many thought was on his way out when he emerged from a room at practice yesterday and began hugging everyone.
In the end, Roberson remained on the team with many thinking the Thunder had intense conversations with Roberson prior to the trade deadline to feel out what he may be seeking on the open market in the offseason. My feeling is if the team thought his demands were outlandish, they would’ve dealt him.
Presti has absolutely fleeced two of the last four teams he has had transactions with. The Orlando deal looks like highway robbery with each passing day, especially after the Magic dealt Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors a week before the trade deadline. And now this deal looks like a complete win for the Thunder, especially when you add in the unprotected 2nd rounder from Chicago. Many around the league think Chicago will begin a complete rebuild this offseason as they will likely deal Jimmy Butler around the draft. With the Thunder likely to not have their first rounder in the 2018 draft (it was the lottery protected first that was shipped to Utah in the Enes Kanter deal), this Chicago 2nd rounder may serve as the Thunder’s draft pick that year.
Season Series Summary
This is the third and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Lakers. The two teams have split their first two meetings meetings, with each team winning on its home floor.
The Lakers come into the game with a 19-39 record, having lost 8 of their last 11 games. The Lakers made moves in the trade deadline to get worse, not better. They traded their leading scorer, Lou Williams, to Houston for Corey Brewer. In a separate trade, they traded veteran point guard Marcelo Huertas to Houston for third year point guard Tyler Ennis. The likely thinking behind these trades is to keep the Lakers in the bottom 3 of the league to try and protect their first round pick which is Top-3 protected. Anything above that and the pick gets shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers. In a draft that is supposed to be loaded, having a top-3 pick may help the Lakers get better quickly (Paul George, anyone?).
Second year guard D’Angelo Russell was supposed to take a major leap forward, but has stalled a bit in his development. He is averaging 14.2 points on 39.2% shooting from the field. Jordan Clarkson has also stalled a bit in his development, but there a big difference between Clarkson, who was a second rounder, and Russell, who was the 2nd pick in his draft. Nick Young has had a bit of a career renaissance this season, going from just being an offensive player to becoming an effective 3-and-D wing. Julius Randle continues in his quest to be Draymond Green 2.0. He’s looked a lot more like Green this season, than in his previous season.
- Enes Kanter (forearm) – Questionable
3 Big Things
1. Availability of players
Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott were both held out of shoot-around this morning. But that may have just been a formality as they got physicals done. It still would not surprise me if the both were available for tonight’s game. Enes Kanter is a different story. He has been practicing with the team the last few days, and appears to be well ahead of schedule from his broken forearm. He participated in shoot-around this morning, and seems to be ready to play.
The Lakers went from leading the league in bench scoring to likely being near the bottom of the league. The loss of Lou Williams will likely put more of the bench scoring onus on rookies Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac. And as usually happens with rookies, consistency can become an issue. The Thunder bench may not be much different if Kanter remains out. The loss of Payne, Morrow, and Lauvergne could complicate things for the Thunder in this game when it comes time for the reserves to play.
3. Russell Westbrook
There are 25 games left in the season and Westbrook currently has 27 triple-doubles. He needs 15 more to break the single season record for triple-doubles. With more help in the form of Kanter, Gibson, and McDermott, I think Westbrook has a very good chance of achieving that mark. “Second half” of the season: here we go!