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Thursday Bolts: 5.17.18

Michael Scotto (The Athletic) mentions OKC looking to acquire a first round pick in his latest mock draft: “Now that the lottery has unfolded, trade discussions will intensify. Atlanta has three picks in the first round of the draft (3, 19 and 30) and the Hawks are embarking on a full rebuilding process. The Denver Nuggets (14th overall), Washington Wizards (15th) and Milwaukee Bucks (17th) are teams in win-now mode that could dangle their picks as trade bait. Keep an eye on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors as teams looking to move into the first round of the draft. Oklahoma City loves young, controllable assets and the Raptors have done well developing young talent on their bench such as Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam.”

Brett Dawson on Terrance Ferguson’s development: “In 61 games this season, Ferguson took 169 field-goal attempts. Only 49 were two-point shots. The 6-foot-7 guard, who spent a season in Australia’s National Basketball League between high school and the NBA, was a respectable 3-point shooter. He made 33 percent of his long-range attempts and hit 42.6 percent on corner 3-pointers. Ninety percent of Ferguson’s field goals — and every one of his 3-point shots — came off assists from other players. In one way, that’s an encouraging sign. Shots generated off the pass rather than the dribble are, by and large, more likely to be good looks. But Ferguson is a quick, explosive athlete, as evidenced not only by the remarkable reverse against the Clippers but by some high-flying dunks he finished on fast breaks.”

Fred Katz grades Raymond Felton’s 2017-18 season: “Walk into the end of any Thunder practice and Felton wasn’t shooting with any member of Oklahoma City’s most prominent clique. Instead, he was with the two-way players and end-of-bench guys. Paul George once joked about how the team sent him down to the JV. And maybe a team having that sort of division isn’t ideal. But it was also clear Felton, who has alluded to some possible future coaching aspirations, did everything he could to blend his teammates. “The season has been great, man. Obviously it didn’t end the way we quite wanted it to, but overall, it’s been a great year,” Felton said. “I’ve had fun, grew a lot of relationships with some guys, made some brothers, some new brotherhood I have now on this team that’s going to last forever.”

Jason Reed (LA Sports Hub) says Paul George is not worth a max contract: “As great as George is and as much interest as the Lakers have seemingly shown, he is not worth that max contract. George has seven years of NBA experience, making him eligible for 30 percent of the total salary cap. With the NBA cap set to be $101 million next season, George can sign a four-year deal with his initial salary being $30.3 million. As the salary cap continues to rise, George’s annual salary will also rise. This should be enough to bring in other stars. The Lakers would seemingly have enough to not only bring in another max contract but to utilize the Bird Rights on Julius Randle. However, that is not the case. If the Lakers are after LeBron James the team physically would not have enough to sign him. Since James has been in the league for over ten years, he gets a 35 percent cut. That would amount to $35.35 million next year. After signing George, the Lakers would have $30.7 million in cap space.

Thomas Beller (New Yorker) on being in NBA locker rooms: “After a Pelicans game against the Thunder last fall, I went to the press room and wrote for a while, stared at the stat sheet, stared at the wall, and then went for another walk. Russell Westbrook, now in street clothes—white sweatshirt, pale jeans, high tops—looked like a high-school jock from my own years in high school, in the nineteen-eighties. He stood in the hall talking to people, in no hurry to go anywhere, seeming to enjoy the passing parade. One of the Pelicans’ towel boys came by with some takeout boxes, and offered Russell a cookie. He took it. “I’m always the last one to go,” he said, to no one in particular, yet, somehow, surrounded by people, everyone lit up at the sight of him. “I stay late.” But I stayed later. The press room was empty when I finally left. So was the whole arena, it seemed. I took one last stroll and found myself at the now unguarded door of the visitors’ locker room. I stepped inside and stood there for a while. The locker room was empty of Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony and Paul George and the rest of the Thunder, but it was otherwise unchanged, the debris of tape and empty water bottles strewn on the floor like the silhouette of the circus that had been to town and moved on.”

Malika Andrews & Marc Stein (NY Times) take you inside the Hamptons home where KD hosted suitors in 2016: “There is a large lap pool on one side of the house and a Jacuzzi on the other — both surrounded by vegetation maintained by staff. A cedar bridge connects the pool area to a grass tennis court. According to Wadzinski, when the mafia member owned the house, what is now the tennis court was a house for the man’s girlfriend. “It’s a romance bridge,” Wadzinski said, wiggling her eyebrows. “Or now it’s a bromance bridge.” That bridge is where Durant stood with his arms crossed for a photographer that appeared on the Player’s Tribune website under the headline, “My Next Chapter,” announcing his departure from the Thunder and commitment to the Warriors. Two years later, Durant and his four most influential teammates routinely exchange text messages in a group chat they’ve labeled the Hamptons 5.”

Terrance Ferguson turns 20 today:

Around the League: The Rockets tied the WCF at 1-1 with a Game 2 win over Golden State…. Steph Curry isn’t blaming health for his poor play…. 2018 NBA Awards finalists were announced…. Mike Budenholzer will become the new head coach in Milwaukee…. Victor Oladipo will drive a pace car at the Indy 500…. Are we nearing the age of LeBron James the mercenary?…. The best colorway of every Air Jordan.