5 min read

Monday Bolts: 8.20.18

Tim Bontemps (WaPo) on the Thunder as an offseason winner: “When Oklahoma City was sent home in the first round two months ago, Paul George seemed sure to leave as a free agent. But there he was, as the clock struck 11 p.m. Central on June 30, standing on a stage with Russell Westbrook declaring he wasn’t going anywhere. That alone made this summer a victory. Keeping Jerami Grant and turning Carmelo Anthony into something — even if Dennis Schroder has his issues and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is more theory than reality at the moment — was a nice piece of work by Thunder General Manager Sam Presti.”

Nick Gallo on Andre Roberson’s resilient road back from injury: “It was a long spring for Andre Roberson. The summer seems to be passing by a little bit quicker, and for good reason. The season, and his chance to compete again, are right around the corner. Recovering from a ruptured patellar tendon while the Thunder still hunted for playoff positioning all of February, March and April tested Roberson’s patience. Even more frustrating was watching his team fall to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the postseason. Roberson grew a beard, gritted his teeth and went through rehab. He’s been poked and prodded, evaluated and re-evaluated. At the beginning of August, he joined some teammates in Los Angeles for informal workouts, participating in what he could. A couple weeks later, he ran. He didn’t get very far, but that’s because his sprinting came on a high-speed treadmill. It was a proud moment that Roberson showed to the world on Instagram, and a sign that even if Roberson isn’t completely back to 100 percent, both his health and his confidence are heading that direction.”

Russ put on a show at James Harden’s celebrity basketball game:

Grant Hughes (B/R) on one player the Thunder should target at the trade deadline: “Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Bullock. Anybody else tired of the thing where the Oklahoma City Thunder head into every season needing a shooting guard who can hit a shot and stay on the floor defensively? Let’s put that annoying constant to bed by sending Reggie Bullock to OKC. Bullock shot a blistering 44.5 percent from deep last year, and while nobody should expect that again, he’s at 40.3 percent for his career, which qualifies him as a Class A sniper. If that were all the Thunder needed, Alex Abrines, who shot 38 percent from the arc last year, might be the in-house answer. But while Abrines is a “gotta hide him” liability on D, Bullock is passable. Sure, the 27-year-old was marginally below par in defensive box plus-minus for the Pistons in 2017-18, but Bullock was average or better in the two years before that. He can survive on defense, and that’s all the Thunder need from someone occupying that role in the rotation.”

Erik Horne on Nick Collison receiving a March of Dimes lifetime achievement award: “Former Thunder forward Nick Collison will be one of two Lifetime Achievement Award recipients at the 2018 March of Dimes Sports Headliner Banquet. Collison, who retired from the Thunder in May after a 15-year NBA career, will receive the award for his legacy with the Thunder, as will former Jenks football coach Allan Trimblefor his legendary career at the Class 6A power. Collison is one of numerous award recipients on the night, along with former OU and current Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (Sports Headliner of the Year) and OU athletic director Joe Castiglione (Headliner Special Award). The banquet will be Aug. 23 at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club at 7 p.m.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) on why no one should sleep on the 2018-19 Thunder: “Anthony is gone. Roberson should be healthy. And best of all, the Thunder are getting stronger after the offseason additions of Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel—not to mention expected improvement from youngsters such as Terrance Ferguson and shots in the dark on Hamidou Diallo and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. The defensive potential of lineups featuring Westbrook, George, Roberson, Noel and Adams is, approximately, off the charts. Schroder, so long as he buys into a bench role, can lead a second unit that struggled last year to a 104.7 offensive rating (No. 17) and minus-0.1 net rating (No. 13) while playing the second-fewest minutes of any bench mob. Oklahoma City has star-fueled firepower. It boasts defensive bodies all over the rotation. Plenty of men can take over as scorers. Useful rotation members give a new layer of depth that wasn’t there before.”

Hamidou Diallo can jump far too high:

Zach Buckley (B/R) on why Andre Roberson will be a defensive rating All-Star next season: “So, why does Andre Roberson get the nod? For starters, he owned this category last season (96.4) before a ruptured patellar tendon cut his campaign short Jan. 27. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s defense struggled to function without him (107.6 defensive rating, which would have been 19th), but that 96.4 mark with him is lower than any team has posted since 2011-12. “The Thunder force far fewer steals with Roberson off the floor,” Fred Katz wrote for the Norman Transcript. “The deflections are down. The loose balls recovered plummet. The Thunder couldn’t play the type of switchy defense they deploy if Roberson weren’t there to begin [with].” Assuming Roberson gets healthy—he’s running already—this defense should be among the NBA’s best. The Roberson-Paul George tandem is as versatile as they come, Steven Adams is an elite pick-and-roll defender (87th percentile) and having Jerami Grant take on Carmelo Anthony’s old minutes will make this unit longer, more athletic and infinitely more versatile.”

Jeff Shull (Gig’Em Gazette) on what Tyler Davis can learn in OKC: “Davis will have an opportunity to learn a lot from the veterans on the Thunder roster. Specifically, Steven Adams and Patrick Patterson are examples of guys who know what it takes to be a successful big man in the NBA. Each of them has something unique to offer Davis. Adams is a bruiser who made his money ($100 million over four years) grinding for tough rebounds and being a great screener and roller for Russell Westbrook. Adams runs the floor well and gives the Thunder a physical identity. Davis has some of this in him, he just needs to continue to work on his body and athleticism. Patterson is proof that a smooth jumper goes a long way in the NBA. He always had a solid 18-footer, but after a couple of seasons he added the three-point shot to his game and started shooting them more frequently in his time with the Toronto Raptors. He’s averaged a respectable 37 percent from downtown over his career. The former Kentucky Wildcat provides sage NBA wisdom as he’s entering his ninth season to go along with the work ethic required to add the three-point shot, which Davis has to do.”

Mallory Chin (HypeBeast) interviewed Russ during his tour of Asia: “I think nowadays kids, not just kids, people, are always looking for other people’s approval too much, especially with social media. I think with the “Why Not?” mentality, mindset, and moto, it is important just to be able to do and to feel just whatever it is that you know you wanna do, and that’s very, very important. So that’s what I constantly keep trying to instil, and obviously in kids cause they are younger and they can learn quicker. They can figure it out at a young age what they tell themselves they can do and be whatever they want to be in this world, as long as they believe they can do it.”

Around the League: The state of mental health in the NBA…. Steph wants to be a Warrior for life…. Ben Simmons is disappointed LeBron went to LA…. DWade and Jimmy Butler had an interesting exchange on Instagram…. Buying/selling the offseason’s hottest takes…. The Warriors should be a beacon of hope to the NBA…. Which NBA player has the craziest fans?