Our latest Weekend Edition, in which I whine about the Thunder’s hectic schedule, is free to all. Now is a good time to sign up for our Patreon if you want to give it a long look before paying:
The remaining $45k of the Thunder’s trade exception (used up mostly in the Isaiah Roby trade) expires today. By absorbing Roby into the exception, OKC created another minimum exception from Justin Patton’s outgoing salary. Their other two TPEs (over $19 million combined) are good through the opening of free agency this summer.
Erik Horne (The Athletic) on the Thunder’s impressive January: “For a team that accumulated a 12-5 record in January amid injuries, absences and little practice time, the Thunder made it look easier than it was. They finished with the seventh-ranked offense (114.7 points per 100 possessions) and eighth-ranked defense (109.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) in January. Their only losses were to Toronto, Philadelphia, Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami, each among the top six teams in their conferences. The Thunder did so playing a brand of basketball unrecognizable in Oklahoma City or by their opponents. As one NBA scout said Friday night in Phoenix, they weren’t fun to watch last year. This year, they are.”
Joe Mussatto (The Oklahoman) looks at the Thunder’s numbers over the same stretch: “The Thunder hasn’t evolved into an elite offensive or defensive team. But OKC has been remarkably consistent on both sides of the floor. The Thunder ranks 11th in offensive rating and 10th in defensive rating since Thanksgiving. In its 17 games before Thanksgiving, OKC ranked 20th in offense rating and 14th in defensive rating. Only six teams rank among the top-12 in offense and defense since Thanksgiving: the Bucks, Celtics, Clippers, Jazz, Lakers and Thunder.”
Zach Lowe (ESPN) likes Darius Bazley: “But there is something about Bazley. The rookie moves his feet on defense. He changes direction without conceding momentum. He seems to read the game — to rotate without falling behind, pausing to figure out his next move, or zipping to the wrong place. Combine all that with a 7-foot wingspan, and you have the ingredients for an interesting multipositional defender. It is hard to drive around Bazley when he arrives on time, arms spread wide.”
Some Stevie Ray Vaughan level scuttlebuttin’ ahead of the trade deadline:
- Adrian Wojnarowski (ESPN) reports that the Rockets are open to dealing Clint Capela.
- Shams Charania (The Athletic) tags onto to that reporting that the Hawks have added Capela to their big man targets alongside Steven Adams.
- A source tells Stefan Bondy (NY Daily News) that the Knicks have Dennis Schroder high atop their list of point guard trade targets.
- We won’t bolt this: as always, any shaky trade rumors you’ve seen that are left unbolted? I don’t think they’re worth your attention.
Ryen Russillo had Wojnarowski on his podcast to preview trade season, and the Thunder’s approach was on the docket:
Nick Crain (Forbes) says Chris Paul deserves credit for Nerlens Noel’s strong play this season: “Just last week, when asked how you develop on-court chemistry with a big man you’ve never played with before, like Nerlens, Chris Paul had a great answer. “There was a conversation early in the season with Nerlens, our lockers are right next to each other. I told him I have a unique gift to get big guys the ball. I told him screen for me and I’ll get it to you. It’s been effortless. Nerlens is a guy that he’s so selfless, he does whatever the team needs him to do night in and night out. It’s nice to reward him.” It’s been clear that Paul and Noel have had chemistry this season. Their pick-and-roll game has been efficient and they feed off of each other on the defensive end. Paul’s overall leadership on and off the floor has helped young guys, like Noel, have breakout seasons.”