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Monday Bolts: 9.3.18

Scott Davis (Business Insider) has the Thunder third in his power rankings: “The Thunder are one of the big winners of the offseason for re-signing Paul George. Now they’ll be hoping for addition by subtraction after trading Anthony, who wasn’t a good fit last year. George and Russell Westbrook make the Thunder as dangerous as any team, and around them, they’ve added length and athleticism. Shooting is still a concern, but the Thunder should be more dangerous in Year 2.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) with way-too-soon All-Star predictions: Backcourt Reserve: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Though his free-throw rate dipped to the second-lowest level of his career, and though he shot just 29.8 percent from three-point range, Russell Westbrook finished better at the rim and added more treys to his shot profile in 2017-18. The result was an effective field-goal percentage of 47.7, right in line with the 47.6 percent he produced during his MVP season. Westbrook may be the most athletic man to ever play the point, but his rocket-fueled burst and elastic bounce will diminish eventually. With his 30th birthday in November, the cliff’s edge is approaching. But this is a bet Westbrook won’t fall off this season.”

Simon Cherin-Gordon (HoopsHype) looks at the Warriors’ biggest threats: “OKC went 2-2 against the Warriors last year, and blew them out by 20 at Oracle in a game that Melo left midway through the first quarter. His absence unlocked dynamite defensive lineups featuring Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis and Patrick Patterson occupying the forward spots alongside Westbrook and Paul George. The overwhelming length allowed OKC to get out in transition, where the two superstars were able to more than carry the offense. It is not outlandish to anticipate this style leading the Thunder into the 56-58 win range, being a top-three defense and giving Golden State a tough series. The problem is the upside. While OKC is more likely to hang with the Warriors than the following two teams, it’s harder to envision a path to actual victory.”

The NewsOK team picks the top 10 players in Thunder history: “The Oklahoman’s current Thunder coverage team (Jenni Carlson, Brett Dawson, Erik Horne and Berry Tramel) ranked their top 10 players in the franchise’s 10-year history, using a similar points system to the Associated Press’ Top 25. A player received 10 points for each first-place vote, nine points for a second place vote, and so on.”

Gil Alcarez IV (HoopsHype) with the three Thunder players most likely to be traded: “If a contender decides point guard is its biggest need or loses a starter to injury, Schroder could be a potential replacement. His contract will scare buyers away, but if he’s the missing piece, you find a way to make it work. At least he’s an experienced starter and capable conductor of an NBA offense. Still, those financial figures will limit Oklahoma City’s opportunities. That’s why Schroder finds himself at the beginning of this list and not at the end. The Thunder will at least listen to trade offers for Schroder leading up to the 2019 NBA trade deadline. If general manager Sam Presti can find a swap for a similarly compensated player with less years on his contract that only costs a role player, he will absolutely consider it. Anything to trim down the luxury tax bill over the next couple of seasons.”

Around the League: Luol Deng was bought out in LA…. The 76ers are interviewing potential GM candidates…. Jason Kidd was the first LeBron…. 2018 Hall of Fame coverage…. NBA stars ready for career years…. Grading NBA front office competency.