3 min read

Thursday Bolts: 1.31.19

Matt Moore (Action Network) sat down with Paul George to discuss defense, his career, and what it means to be most valuable: “OKC is stacked with great defensive players: Long, athletic guys who can challenge on the perimeter and attack opponents at the rim to protect it. Yet the defense is still noticeably better with George on the court, as he’s having by far the greatest impact of any rotation player. Not only that, but the Thunder generate a better assist rate, a better rebound rate, a lower turnover rate, and a higher shooting percentage with George on the floor. Again, literally everything is better. “I was taught you have to do a little bit of everything,” George says in our exclusive interview.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on what’s next for Alex Abrines after his return to action: “In the 17 games Abrines missed, Abdel Nader seized an opportunity in the Thunder rotation. Nader averaged 6.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game, shooting 42.4 percent (15-of-36) from 3-point range and showcasing the ability to attack the rim. Abrines also wasn’t shooting particularly well before his absence – just 32.3 percent (40-of-124) from 3. The threat of his perimeter shooting, however, is valuable to a Thunder team which still ranks 21st in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage (34.5) even after a scorching January (40.4 percent, fourth in the NBA). Aside from Nader cementing himself in the rotation, Abrines’ immediate role may depend on his conditioning and how quickly Terrance Ferguson returns to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game due to back spasms. With the Thunder’s next game not until Friday in Miami, it has time to get Abrines additional conditioning and Ferguson extra treatment.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) on the Thunder’s best-case scenario at the trade deadline: “The Thunder already have the league’s highest luxury-tax bill, so adding meaningful pieces via trade would be complicated and costly. A notch short of serious title contention, OKC can’t justify upping its payroll by much (if at all). Instead, they’ll have to hope Alex Abrines, Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson return to the lineup, suffer no further health-related setbacks and sustain recent signs of life, respectively. Both Abrines and Patterson are career 36.8 percent three-point shooters. If both of those guys can convert at their average rates going forward, the Thunder won’t need to look elsewhere for shooting help. And shooting is a need, as Oklahoma City currently ranks 21st league wide from distance. Meanwhile, whenever Roberson gets back on the floor, one of the league’s best defenses should become even better. OKC isn’t poised to make a major deal, so it must hope the guys already on the roster can boost their contributions.”

Bryan Kalbrosky (HoopsHype) on Paul George’s place among the NBA’s top clutch scorers: “George has scored 84 points during clutch minutes, which ranks No. 7 overall in the NBA this season. The only players who have scored more thus far are James Harden, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin and Mike Conley. For comparison, he ranked No. 24 overall during his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his final season with the Indiana Pacers, he was No. 12 overall. And in the season before that, only two players (Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant) scored more “clutch” points than he did. So while George did struggle with go-ahead shots specifically earlier in his career, he has typically performed well down the stretch in close games.”

Zach Kram (Ringer) on the Thunder’s lengthy trade roots: “The 1977 draft was the first for four new NBA teams that had just arrived in the ABA merger. That’s how long ago this tree began. Bill Russell left his post as the Seattle SuperSonics’ coach and GM just a month before the team took Sikma eighth overall in the draft, and three full decades would pass between Sikma’s selection and the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City. And that’s just the start of this captivating tree. Sikma was a seven-time All-Star. Payton’s a Hall of Famer. Allen’s a Hall of Famer. Anthony will be a Hall of Famer one day, too (though surely not for his play with the Thunder). The Thunder have played in Oklahoma City for only a decade now, giving them the shortest geographical roots of any NBA team. But they have the longest trade roots of any team by a margin of nearly a decade—which of course extend to Seattle in the end.”

Tyler Conway (B/R) on Kendrick Perkins agreeing to a BIG3 contract: “The BIG3 is getting one of this generation’s biggest enforcers: Former NBA center Kendrick Perkins announced his intention to enter the player pool for the 2019 BIG3 season Wednesday. Perkins, 34, last played for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2017-18 season. He appeared in only one game after being out of basketball in 2016-17. The Cavs waived Perkins in July, and he’s gone unsigned as we near the All-Star break. Perkins played 14 seasons in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans and Cavaliers. Unless he makes an unlikely comeback, he’ll finish with career averages of 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He won the 2008 NBA championship with the Celtics.”