Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s Thunder/Pelicans match-up: “Protecting the defensive glass will be just one crucial aspect of the wholesale defensive gameplan on Monday night against the Pelicans, who are playing with a small, quick, talented lineup surrounding Anthony Davis. At 23.8 points, 12.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, Davis is not only productive but a matchup nightmare every time he touches the floor due to his height and skill level. He can put the ball on the deck, finish around the rim and knock down three-pointers, this season at a 38.5 percent clip. “It’s always tough to scout for a player like that who does so many different things on the court,” said Noel. The Thunder will need to be aware of plenty of other players for New Orleans as well, including lightning-fast point guard Jrue Holiday, stretch forward Nikola Mirotic, spot up shooters E’Twuan Moore and Ian Clark and bruising bench forward Julius Randle. The Pelicans are going to spread the floor and force Thunder players to defend one on one in switches or mismatches and communicate perfectly in pick and roll coverage.”
ESPN has the Thunder at 13 in their latest power rankings: “The Thunder have finally awakened. After a winless start (0-4) that had them in the league’s basement, the Thunder have won four straight games by an average of 13 points. Dennis Schroder (16.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds) and Jerami Grant (14.5 points per game, 61.8 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds per game) have both played well during the win streak, with Alex Abrines and Nerlens Noel also flashing in needed supporting roles.”
Brett Dawson (Athletic) on Thunder ball movement: “The Thunder haven’t made enough shots this season. But by and large, they’ve gotten and taken the right ones. On Friday — against a Wizards team that, it should be said, showed little interest defensively — OKC finally got shots to fall. The Thunder hit 57 percent from the floor, a season high. They set a season high in 3-point makes with 15, shooting 46.9 percent from long range. For good measure, they even made free throws — 21 in 26 tries, an 80.8 percent rate from a team that came in hitting 67.3 percent, worse than all but two NBA teams. The numbers so far suggest that Friday was an outlier. But the Thunder have remained confident that shots would fall if the ball kept moving the way it has been, that if Russell Westbrook and George resisted the urge to go hunting for their own shots and instead kept their teammates engaged, OKC’s offensive fortunes would change.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on whether or not Alex Abrines will get a contract extension: “Abrines is making a bargain $5.4 million in the last year of a three-year contract signed in 2016. To his knowledge, his representation hasn’t had any discussions yet with the Thunder about an extension. Since Abrines was a second-round pick in 2013, he’s not on the rookie-scale contract of a first-rounder. Thus, the Thunder can offer Abrines an extension him any time this season. While the Thunder is well above the $101.8 million salary cap at $145.5 million in salary, the team owns Abrines’s Bird Rights, meaning they can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him. Any extension Abrines agreed to this season wouldn’t go into effect until 2019-20, helping the Thunder’s monster luxury tax bill this season. Still, the Thunder doesn’t have to rush. Since Abrines is a restricted free agent, the Thunder would have the right to match any offer he’d receive in free agency. The question is does OKC want to let Abrines get to restricted free agency?”
Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on the Thunder’s third quarter excellence: “If it seems like the Thunder are playing better in the third quarter this season, it’s because they are. The team is outscoring opponents by 19.6 points per 100 possessions during the third quarter, which is the highest margin in the league during that quarter. To break it down even further, the team is posting a 120.7 offensive rating during the third quarter while they are allowing 101.1 points per 100 possessions.”
Frank Urbina (Hoops Hype) on the Thunder as an ideal trade destination for Kyle Korver: “One way they could help shore up their point production would be to acquire an elite outside threat – and someone like Korver would be perfect to fill that role. The experienced sharpshooter would be an immediate upgrade over the Terrance Ferguson/Hamidou Diallo/Alex Abrines triumvirate that Oklahoma City has been relying on this season with Andre Roberson still unavailable due to injury, and even when Roberson returns, Korver could still see time playing next to the defensive-minded wing. There hasn’t been much scuttle connecting Korver to the Thunder, but the pairing, on paper at least, appears to be perfect: a contender lacking a shooter and a shooter who needs to be around elite players to maximize his potential. Next to stud ball-handlers like Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Korver’s knockdown spot-up shooting would really get a chance to shine again.”
Nick Greene (Slate) on the spread of Russell Westbrook’s “Rock the Baby” taunt: “Westbrook’s infantilization of opponents has caught on elsewhere in the league. Klay Thompson is known for his long-range shooting and quirky brand of stoicism, but he broke character on Friday when he backed down Minnesota Timberwolves’ guard Tyus Jones in the paint and proceeded to send him to the Land of Nod. Congratulations, Tyus Jones, you are now a baby… The celebration has already become a cross-sport fad and found its way into college football. On Saturday, Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler plucked the ball from the clutches of a diminutive Kansas defender and rocked the baby in the end zone.”
Around the League: Serge Ibaka went for 34 points last night vs the Lakers…. Magic Johnson says Luke Walton is safe…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Young teams that need to start making room on their bandwagons…. SI’s 2019 NBA Draft big board…. Is Carmelo Anthony turning back the clock in Houston?