Thunder Notebook: Friday, May 18
Jerami Grant Speaks on His Future
Speaking to Adrian Wojnarowski at today’s NBA Draft Combine, unrestricted free agent Jerami Grant spoke about the possibility of returning to Oklahoma City:
“I definitely think it’s a possibility. I know it’s a lot of moving pieces but I definitely think it’s a great possibility me being there. There’s a lot of things they have to figure out but I think it’s a good chance.”
Basically the same quote given by every free agent ever. However, he’s not wrong — there’s a lot of moving pieces floating around for the Thunder. With or without Paul George, OKC is headed for the luxury tax and Grant would figure to cost $53 million in salary and taxes. Ownership may be willing to shell out for the sake of keeping a young piece like Grant, but he’s considered by many to be the most likely cap-induced casualty of the summer.
Grant averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds off the bench this season, shooting 53 percent from the field and 29 percent from downtown in 81 appearances. He was far more effective after the All-Star breaking, averaging 9.7 points on 59 percent shooting and 37.5 percent from three.
OKC would really like to bring him back but he may have played himself out of the Thunder’s price range down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what sort of market exists for him when free agency begins on July 1.
Despite not having a first round pick, the Thunder is holding meetings with some high-profile draft prospects this week. According to The Oklahoman, Thunder brass met with Oklahoma’s Trae Young yesterday. Now, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. will meet with the Thunder today. As both young men are projected lottery picks, this is likely nothing more than due diligence on OKC’s part. Even still — it’s interesting.
The Thunder owns the 53rd and 57th picks in the upcoming draft, but reports this week suggest Sam Presti may be trying to find his way into the first round. That may be a tall order, considering a glaring lack of moveable assets. Even if OKC does land a first rounder, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where players like Young or Porter would still be available. Don’t read too much into these meetings. Teams do this.
History of the Draft Picks (53 & 57)
If the Thunder fails at moving up in the draft, the team will be selecting at number 53 and 57 in the second round. I did a bit of research to find a few of the most notable selections at both spots over the last 30 years.
53: Rasual Butler (2002/RIP)
57: Marcin Gortat (2005), Manu Ginobili (1999)
A few other standouts from picks 50 and beyond: Steve Kerr (50/1988), Kyle Korver (51/2003), E’Twan Moore (55/2011), Ramon Sessions (56/2007), Isaiah Thomas (60/2011)
Point is: It’s possible to find value that late in the draft but the odds aren’t in the Thunder’s favor. For every Manu Ginobili, there are dozens of Ryan Reid’s and Scoonie Penn’s. Here’s to hoping Presti can move up.
Bringing Back Brewer
Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman has a piece out that discusses the Thunder possibly bringing back Corey Brewer for next season. In it, he mentions Brewer’s desire to run it back in Oklahoma City in 2018-19:
“Brewer wants to come back to Oklahoma City, and would likely have to do so at the veteran’s minimum since the Thunder projects to exceed the $101 million salary cap.”
Brewer was decent in his 18 appearances for the Thunder, averaging 10.1 points and 2.1 steals after signing late in the season. Seeing as how he’s a Billy Donovan guy, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him return if he’s willing to do so at the vet minimum. However — despite stretches of solid play — is there really much reason to bring him back into the fold?
On one hand, Brewer does play at a Russell Westbrook-style tempo. As Dawson points out, the Thunder’s pace skyrocketed with him in the lineup. On the flip side, if he was brought in to provide help on the defensive end, that experiment was a massive failure. OKC surrendered a little more than 109 PPG per 100 possessions with Brewer on the floor. He was hardly Roberson-lite in that regard.
As with most things this summer, Brewer’s future should likely hinge on what Paul George decides to do. Should PG13 return, I have no issue with bringing Brewer back at the veteran’s minimum and letting the group continue to build. However, should George leave, the Thunder should cut bait on Brewer and explore ways to bring back Josh Huestis.
Huestis is the younger player with a higher upside — and if this summer is the first step in re-tooling for the future, it simply makes more sense to continue kicking the tires on him. Like it or not, Brewer isn’t really that good and doesn’t serve much of a purpose with a healthy Andre Roberson on the roster.
Russell Westbrook and Paul George made news a couple of weeks ago when they went paintballing together in Los Angeles. Today, I stumbled across a bit of video from the event. Pretty entertaining stuff.
My favorite parts: (1) Russ sneaking out into the line of fire to get shots off while George hides behind a wall, and (2) Westbrook flailing and emitting primal screams at the end.
KD on Isolation Island
Kevin Durant has been on fire in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, averaging 37.5 PPG on 55/46/100 shooting. Despite his flamethrowing, he’s only recorded one assist thus far and has spent a lot of time isolating on offense — carrying a 37.9 percent usage rate in the series. A quick Twitter search of “KD Iso” returns a number of tweets from disgruntled Warriors fans claiming he’s disrupting the offense and making Steph Curry/the game plan less effective.
The most notable individual upset with Durant’s iso tendencies? Draymond Green’s mother.
Unlike many Thunder fans, I’ve pretty well moved on from the entire KD thing. I mean, yeah, I wish he had stayed. I really wish he had signed somewhere other than Golden State. But in terms of pure hatred, I don’t really carry any of that for Durant.
However — I can’t sit here and say it’s not a little funny to see him getting the Russell Westbrook treatment. After all the hand-wringing and “Russ ran KD off!” we’ve seen over the years, here we are discussing him having Westbrookonian tendencies and watching Golden State fans turn on him for making his superstar running mate a lesser version of himself. I’m not big into karma but this certainly feels like a bit of karmic justice.
As Michael Scott once said, “Well, well, well. How the turntables…”