6 min read

Monday Bolts: 10.15.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) with a Terrance Ferguson/Abdel Nader injury update: “Terrance Ferguson completed the NBA’s concussion protocol and was back in practice on Sunday. Abdel Nader was also a full participant in practice after recovering from knee soreness. Russell Westbrook continues to do more and more in practice and is progressing well. As a result of the Thunder’s injury situation during training camp, Donovan is still working through who will be in his starting group on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, particularly at the shooting guard position. In practice, Donovan has mixed and matched as much as he could to get a sense of where players fit in. “You’re always kind of moving around guys, but for me, some of that is gonna be a little bit random in games just because we haven’t had the luxury of doing that all the time in practice,” Donovan said.”

And the Westbrook update:

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Dennis Schroder being ready to inject himself into the Thunder/Warriors rivalry: “Whether or not Russell Westbrook plays a role in what’s become one of the most hotly contested series in the NBA, Schroder will. In the little the media is allowed to see post-practice, the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player has rarely been seen doing anything on-court. Westbrook is progressing in his rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, but Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he doesn’t know his availability for Tuesday’s game. Schroder, however, is here. As a starter with the Hawks the past two seasons, Schroder has had individual success against the Warriors even if he went 0-4. Schroder shot 47.3 percent against the Warriors last season in two losses. The season before, he shredded Golden State for 52.8 percent shooting and 45.5 percent from 3 for a 23.5 point per game average. “Especially in a game like that you’re already locked in,” Schroder said when asked what’s made him effective against the Warriors. “You’re playing against a Top 3 or 4 point guard in the league, against KD, Klay Thompson. They’re hell of a players, All-Stars.”

ESPN has the Thunder at #7 in the first batch of power rankings: “Best case: 57-25. There are three primary factors in the Thunder reaching this mark: (A) Russell Westbrook’s knee isn’t an issue whatsoever throughout the season; (B) Andre Roberson returns no later than midway through the season and doesn’t need much time getting back to his All-Defense level; and (C) Dennis Schroder settles in as a perfect bench complement to use in staggered lineups with both Westbrook and Paul George. Worst case: 41-41. Westbrook and Roberson’s health would be a significant factor in the Thunder falling this low, but if there are issues with the second unit and Schroder isn’t content in his role, the Thunder could trip into being a top-heavy roster very quickly. Consistency was their issue a year ago and the primary reason they didn’t win 50-plus games. If they don’t clean that up, mainly on the defensive end, and can’t get over some injury issues, they could slip to around a .500 team.”

Zach Harper (Athletic) previews the Northwest Division: “X-Factor for the Thunder: Andre Roberson. When the Thunder’s defensive specialist was on the floor, they dominated opponents. They outscored them by 8.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed only 96.5 points per 100 possessions. When Roberson was joined by Adams and George, the Thunder dominated by 12.8 points per 100 possessions and allowed just 93.1 points per 100. No, he can’t shoot at all and he seems terrified of going to the free throw line for anything meaningful. But Roberson was their biggest impact player on defense. With him back in the lineup, expect the Thunder to embrace that team identity. They should absolutely be in the running to challenge Utah, Boston, and Philadelphia for the top defense in the NBA. Having him on the floor allows George to “take possessions off” as a primary defender. They can rotate between Roberson and George with a lot of different on-ball and off-ball looks. Having a guy like Roberson to throw at James Harden makes OKC a legitimate upset threat when they have their minds right as a team.”

Jenni Carlson (Oklahoman) on Patrick Patterson & Jerami Grant being the key to a faster style of play: “With Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson on the floor largely playing the power forward position instead of Melo, the Thunder was a different team. Offensively. Defensively. Cosmically. Whatever way you want to say it changed, it did. And so as the Thunder heads into a new season, it has decided to change permanently. Carmelo is gone, Thunder general manager Sam Presti having somehow finagled a way to turn the aging star’s bloated contract into Dennis Schroeder. In Melo’s absence, Grant and Patterson remain. They aren’t the returning superstars on this year’s roster. They aren’t the new puzzle pieces. They are, however, the key to faster play.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) predicts Corey Brewer will end up back in OKC: “At this stage of Brewer’s career, the 32-year-old’s identity is firmly established. You don’t want him trying to create offense off the bounce or launching too many triples, but you’ll welcome his activity on defense, off-ball cuts and out in transition. There’s some reliability to him, which can’t really be said for OKC’s youngsters on the wings, like Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader. The Thunder could use Roberson’s absence as an opportunity to develop their youth. But given the razor-thin margin for error among the Western Conference’s elite, they might seek the same stability that initially drew them to Brewer.”

Danny Leroux (Athletic) looks at the Thunder’s cap space and assets: “The Thunder and their fans would undoubtedly accept limited importance in the 2019 offseason as a consequence of retaining George but it does mean their squad is pretty locked in through 2020-21. One key element to watch is the repeater tax, which adds an extra dollar for every dollar a franchise is over the threshold. Oklahoma City will pay this extra cost for the first time this season and that additional expenditure could affect ownership’s willingness to pay a significant bill moving forward. That said, straightforward spending mitigation options like trading Anthony and using the stretch provision on Kyle Singler will not be available to Presti again next summer so it will be even more complicated to clear money unless Schroder rehabilitates his value this season and the Thunder want to move on.”

Dan Favale (B/R) has Steven Adams as the 9th-best center in the NBA: “Steven Adams is so much more than an entertaining interview, even if his per-game numbers for the Oklahoma City Thunder may not hint at extreme levels of positive value. His willingness to accept a smaller role that focuses on dirty work and often unseen contributions is an integral piece in and of itself. Without his screen-setting excellence, put-back attempts and boxouts (but ceding rebounds to Russell Westbrook), the Thunder wouldn’t be nearly as successful on either end of the floor.”

Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George siding with Jimmy Butler in regard to the recent drama: “Paul George, no stranger to uncomfortable situations with NBA management, said on Friday that he has spoken with Jimmy Butler about what’s happening in Minnesota and is firmly on his side. “Jimmy has a very valid point,” George said. “I’m on Jimmy’s side. It’s not coming from a place where he’s going against an organization.”… Jimmy’s a guy, his whole career, he made it into the league off work, off him having to grind and scratch and claw to get to where he’s at,” George said. “And then he sees the potential that he has around him and he just wants guys to match that, because if guys are skilled and have that ‘it’ like KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns) has, like Andrew Wiggins has, they have that ‘it’ that a lot of guys don’t have, now they just have to match it with what Jimmy’s bringing to the table. I’m all for what Jimmy is trying to do over there.”

Around the League: Jimmy Butler is expected to play in Minnesota’s season opener…. RPM projections for every returning player in the NBA…. B/R’s top 100 players in 2018-19…. The Knicks waived Joakim Noah…. What waiving Noah means for the Knicks next summer…. How far can the post-Process Sixers go?…. Oral history of the aftermath of Gordon Hayward’s injury…. LeBron reset the entire NBA by going west…. For most teams, the season ends before it begins.