Welcome to June. These are the Bolts.
Erik Horne on how most teams don’t build via free agency: “The names started leaking out across Twitter, names of players who had decided to opt out of the final year of their contracts in hopes of hitting a mighty windfall in free agency this summer. Indiana’s C.J. Miles and Denver’s Danilo Gallinari on Monday. The oft-mentioned Rudy Gay opted out of his final year at the beginning of May. But The NBA Finals start with two teams constructed not solely from the success of free agency. Landing big-name free agents isn’t just a missing link for the Thunder, it’s non-existent for most NBA teams.”
Basketball Insiders with their latest mock draft: The names mentioned alongside Oklahoma City are John Collins (PF/Wake Forest), Donovan Mitchell (SG/Louisville), Luke Kennard (SG/Duke) and Semi Ojeleye (SF/SMU).
The Washington Post counted the Top 40 players since the ABA/NBA merger: It’s cool to see Russell Westbrook on the list, but this is one of those things you could argue about all day. The absence of Manu Ginobili feels like the greatest injustice here.
CBS Sports seeded the last 16 NBA champions and determined the greatest of them all: “What are the truly great teams of the new millenium? To that end, I’ve ranked the 16 best teams since 2001, slotted them into seedings and matchups, and extrapolated what I think would happen. Seedings were based on overall performance from the start of the regular season though the Finals, and factored league and opponent strength, resume, and historical relevance.”
Adam Silver doesn’t think the Warriors and Cavs have disrupted competitive balance: “I will say, and I heard Kevin Durant say something like this the other day, I think it’s a little unfair to him to blame him for the lack of so-called ‘competitive balance’ at the moment in the league. I mean, he could have only impacted one team, had he stayed in Oklahoma City or gone somewhere else, there’s no doubt that team would have been better, but it wouldn’t have changed the fortunes for 27 other teams in the league.“
KD is reportedly willing to accept less money to keep Warriors together: “Durant’s gesture would allow the Warriors to keep their entire core together for years to come even as star point guard Stephen Curry potentially signs one of the first five-year, “supermax” contracts created by the new collective bargaining agreement in which a team can reward one designated veteran player per year with a contract starting at 35 percent of next year’s projected $101 million salary cap. This is particularly relevant to free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, who have been pivotal to the Warriors’ success as they have advanced to three straight NBA Finals.”
Jackie MacMullan on how injuries changed KD’s world view: “Kevin Durant was just 18 when the Seattle SuperSonics drafted him with the No. 2 pick in 2007. Eager to establish roots in his new city, he bought a house he hoped to call home for the next decade. Instead, the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City after one season. Durant wouldn’t sell that Seattle house for almost six years. If there was a lesson to be learned from that, Durant wasn’t ready for it. What he was ready for was basketball. He immersed himself in a young OKC nucleus that included Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden — the four of them often staying at the facility well after practice, eyeballing one another in a game of workout chicken. Who’s going to stop first? Who’s going to leave first? Not Kevin. Never Kevin.”
The NBA Finals start tonight. Zach Lowe on what to watch for: “The Cavs are healthy. They are trying on defense again. LeBron is rested. They are riding a perfectly timed crescendo into an epic trilogy against the juggernaut they’ve been eying all season. Iguodala, the key that unlocks Golden State’s scariest lineups and its best James bulwark, is 3-of-27 from deep in the playoffs, and we have no idea how far he is from 100 percent health. If Cleveland regresses to somewhere between its current form and its desultory regular-season play, this is a walkover. If the Warriors have another gear in reserve, this is a walkover. If neither of those things prove true, this is not a walkover.”
LeBron’s home in Los Angeles was vandalized with racist graffiti. He handles it perfectly, as per usual.