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Thursday Bolts: 2.1.18

Thursday Bolts: 2.1.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder/Nuggets match-up: “The Thunder’s number one focus heading into its Northwest Division matchup against the Denver Nuggets will again be the defense. If Donovan’s group holds up on that end of the floor, it will give itself a fighting chance to this time be the team that makes plays down the stretch if shots just aren’t falling. And with big man Nikola Jokic and guards Will Barton, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris to make plays, the Thunder will definitely have its hands full.”

Dan Feldman (Yahoo) on the Clippers calling OKC about a Blake Griffin/Paul George swap: “George is younger, and his 3-point shooting and defense make him an easy fit on any team, especially one with Russell Westbrook. But George can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and though it sounds increasingly likely he’ll stay, he could leave Oklahoma City empty-handed. Griffin is locked up for the next three years then has a player option he’ll probably exercise – because he’s so expensive, another complication. If George re-signs, the Thunder likely come out ahead. If not, they might revisit this trade discussion with regret.”

Bobby Marks (ESPN Insider) on moves OKC can make before the deadline: “Two names to keep an eye on: the Hawks’ Marco Belinelli and Suns’ Alex Len. Had Andre Roberson not gotten hurt, Belinelli still would have been on Oklahoma City’s wish list. The veteran on an expiring contract continues to play at a high level and has been a steady presence in a rebuilding season for Atlanta. With a lack of depth among the frontcourt, Oklahoma City is in need of insurance in case Adams suffers an injury (he can also be prone to foul trouble). Len would need to greenlight a trade, something he would likely do for a chance to play on a Thunder team headed toward the playoffs. However, acquiring either player will not be easy.  The Hawks would have to take on the extra year of salary for Singler or Abrines, and would likely want draft compensation in return. For Len, only the Abrines salary would fit. One spot the Thunder will not be targeting is a defensive stopper to replace the injured Roberson. That job will be done by a committee of Ferguson, Huestis and Grant.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) on why the Thunder should stay away from Courtney Lee: “Even leaving aside the luxury-tax ramifications that could come with acquiring Courtney Lee, who still has two more full seasons remaining on his four-year, $48 million contract, the three-and-D wing is a questionable fit on the Oklahoma City Thunder.  At first blush, that seems untrue. Not only would his defensive proclivities mesh well with the overall theme of this team, but his ability to knock down spot-up jumpers and connect on a high percentage of his triples would seem to make him a valuable presence alongside Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony. Just one problem: OKC would acquire Lee to serve as an Andre Roberson replacement after the fringe Defensive Player of the Year candidate suffered a season-ending ruptured patellar tendon Saturday. That would be a tough role for the 32-year-old.”

Greg Monroe was bought out:

Colin Ward-Henninger (CBS Sports) on the five best fits for Greg Monroe: “Go ahead, try to name the Thunder’s backup center. Trick question … they don’t have one. Jermai Grant has been filling in at center for the second unit, but at 6-foot-8, 203 pounds, he’s not exactly an earth-mover out there. The lineup of Grant, Paul George, Alex Abrines, Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson has a net rating of minus-33.6 in 85 minutes this season — not good. OKC has felt a glaring hole in the middle behind Steven Adams since dealing Enes Kanter to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Monroe would bring much of what Kanter brought (scoring and rebounding), although he could be equally as unplayable defensively in the playoffs. Even if that’s the case, he would provide some depth to help the Thunder get through the regular season healthy.”

Jeff Siegel (FanSided) takes an in-depth look at Russell Westbrook’s pull-up jumper in transition: “Even Westbrook can’t go to the rim every trip down the floor, though he’d certainly like to try. When defenders hang back too far, anticipating his liftoff for another thunderous dunk, he transfers all his energy into a vertical leap, with brakes and re-acceleration that would make a Ferrari blush. It’s rare a guy’s signature move comes about as a counter to the thing at which he’s best, but Westbrook’s pull-up jumper is exactly that. He’s a terror at the rim, able to dunk over the tallest and strongest players in the league. He isn’t a particularly effective shooter in the aggregate, but that jumper is just as devastating in the right situations and rounds out Westbrook’s offensive attack in a way that makes him one of the best players in the league.”

Erik Horne on the Thunder regressing in “clutch” games: “Since Dec. 20, the Thunder is 4-3 in those games, with drastic differences on offense and defense. The offense has been prolific. The Thunder has posted 122.3 points per 100 possessions in clutch time, No. 3 in the league since Dec. 20. The defense has been bleeding points – 143.4 per 100 possessions, far and away the worst mark in the NBA. Orlando is the next worst at 128.9. The Thunder’s late-game defense was exposed yet again against Washington, as OKC gave up points on eight of its last 10 possessions. It’s yet another area in which Andre Roberson’s impact has been felt.”

Berry Tramel on the passing of Rasual Butler and his place in OKC basketball history: “But Butler, who at age 38 died Wednesday morning in a Studio City, California car crash, will always be remembered in Oklahoma as one of the players who introduced us to the highest level of basketball. Butler was on both Hornet teams that called Oklahoma City home for two seasons, 2005-06 and 2006-07. Butler played 4,098 minutes those two seasons, a total surpassed only by Chris Paul, David West and Desmond Mason. Butler averaged 9.4 points a game those two OKC seasons.”

Around the League: LeBron is reportedly open to a free agency meeting with Golden State…. Isaiah Canaan suffered a gruesome leg injury last night…. CJ McCollum dropped 50 points in three quarters last night…. Tyreke Evans to sit as trade talks intensify…. Why half the NBA is bidding on Tyreke…. Someone stole Red Panda’s unicycle.