5 min read

Thursday Bolts: 7.19.18

Joseph Zucker (B/R) on the Melo-to-Atlanta rumor that surfaced yesterday: “The Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder are discussing a trade that would include Carmelo Anthony and Dennis Schroder, SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Mitch Lawrence reported Wednesday. According to Lawrence, the Hawks would do a buyout of Anthony’s contract, thus allowing him to sign with a contending team. The terms of the proposed trade are somewhat surprising if only because many view an Anthony trade as a cost-saving measure for Oklahoma City. ESPN.com’s Bobby Marks noted the Thunder are looking at a $150 million luxury-tax bill. Dumping Anthony’s contract would ease that burden a bit. According to Lawrence, the Thunder are looking at Mike Muscala in addition to Schroder. Between those two players, Oklahoma City would add $20.5 million in salaries for 2018-19, which isn’t much of a drop from the $27.9 million owed to Anthony.”

A bit more on that rumored deal:

Erik Horne on Paul George setting the table for Toronto’s gamble on Kawhi Leonard: “The situations aren’t exactly alike. The Thunder was in a position of uncertainty following Durant, scraping to rebuild with depleted assets. It wondered how to build around Westbrook (it still does). It wondered if Westbrook would re-sign. Meanwhile in Toronto — even after another embarrassing postseason loss at James’s hands, and the young Celtics and Sixers lurking — the Raptors still had the best regular-season team in the Eastern Conference. Instead of standing pat, however, the Raptors went proactive and bold, striking a deal without giving up coveted wing players like O.G. Anunoby or Pascal Siakam. They fired the NBA’s Coach of the Year and traded a franchise centerpiece for what could be a rental — albeit a rental who could pay off incredibly if Leonard retakes his throne as the best two-way player in the NBA and stays in Toronto. And if Leonard doesn’t return to that level or leaves for L.A.? The Raptors get to clear salary and get under the luxury tax, as Leonard and Danny Green, the two players acquired from San Antonio, can each be free agents in 2019.”

Dan Woike (LA Times) on why Kawhi Leonard is not Paul George: “If this feels familiar it’s because it is. Just one year ago, everyone in the NBA knew that Paul George planned on signing with the Lakers once he became a free agent. Like Leonard, George was a Californian and ready to come home. But instead of sending George to the Lakers, the Indiana Pacers dealt the 6-foot-9 wing to Oklahoma City, with the Thunder gambling that they’d be able to convince him to stay. Their bet paid off as free agency opened July 1, with George agreeing to a four-year, $137-million contract to remain with the Thunder. That decision stunned Lakers fans. Wednesday’s Leonard trade might make them nervous that it could happen again. A star player being sent to a playoff team with the organization getting a one-year audition? This is the exact same script — but with a significant change in casting.”

Ben Stern (Sir Charles in Charge) with the offseason’s five biggest winners: “While the Thunder’s roster may look similar to the one that disappointed last season, they had a tremendously successful offseason. The Thunder were miraculously able to not only re-sign Paul George but also to sign him to an incredibly team-friendly contract. They followed that signing up with another bargain in Nerlens Noel. Noel has the potential to be the best backup center in the league this season, and the Thunder were able to acquire him for next to nothing. Another key move by OKC has been parting ways with Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was never a good fit, and his parting gives the Thunder more freedom to play an athletic, defensive-minded style of play. After this eventful offseason, I wouldn’t sleep on the Thunder to fulfill the lofty expectations they has only a year ago.”

Dan Favale (B/R) looks at every team’s best free-agency target in 2019: “Oklahoma City Thunder: Thabo Sefolosha. Crossing their fingers for Thabo Sefolosha to tumble into the minimum-salary ranks represents the height of their realistic ambition. He will be 35 by that point and missed most of last year following right knee surgery, but he’s no shot in dark. Sefolosha established himself as one of the Utah Jazz’s secret weapons before adjourning to the shelf. He buried 38.1 percent of his triples on near-career volume and chiseled out a niche as a pocket-sized power forward. Utah notched a plus-5.1 net rating in his 1,122 possessions at the 4 spot. Oklahoma City should need zero convincing to pursue a reunion with Sefolosha—particularly if Jerami Grant’s three-point success rate hasn’t climbed closer to the league average.”

Tully Corcoran (The Big Lead) on Russell Westbrook and other players that are better in the NBA than they were in college: “For the first couple years of Russell Westbrook’s career, I assumed he was a big-ish combo guard who couldn’t shoot. While that remains true all these years later, he has won an MVP award and has averaged a triple-double, something I did not see coming when Westbrook was a solid player at UCLA. He averaged 3.4 points per game as a freshman and 12.7 as a sophomore before turning pro. Here’s how DraftExpress described him at the time (2008): “Obviously a late bloomer, Westbrook remains a raw prospect as far as his skill-level is concerned, but has just about as much upside to continue to improve as any guard in the NCAA not named Derrick Rose.”

Mike Destafano (Complex) looks at the Nike PG 2.5 among this weekend’s sneaker releases: “Nike’s latest addition to Paul George’s signature line is hitting shelves this week. The PG 2.5 fuses the overall design of the PG 2 with the PG 1 by adding a strap across the midfoot that initially appeared on PG13’s first signature shoe. This simple colorway uses a black upper with silver branding hits and silver speckling on the midsole.”

Kicks on Fire reviews the upcoming release of the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 Low “UCLA”: “The Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 Low UCLA is a new colorway of Russell Westbrook’s latest signature sneaker, and it pays homage to his alma mater, UCLA. Featuring a clean white upper, the sneaker is highlighted with the school’s colors through pops of blue hero and amarillo covering the brandings on the tongue, lining, eyelets, heel area and outsole. Finally, Russell’s “Why Not?” saying is embroidered behind the tongues to top it all off. Retailing for $115, look for this Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 Low UCLA at select Jordan Brand stores and online on July 25.”

Around the League: Why the other Kawhi trades never happened…. NBA players share their thoughts on the Kawhi/DeRozan deal…. Pop says it’s ‘time to move on’…. Kawhi is reportedly warming to the idea of playing for the Raptors…. The NBA is a business — just ask DeMar DeRozan…. Marcus Smart and the Celtics are nearing a deal…. Michael Porter Jr. had another back surgery…. Donovan Mitchell won the ESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete…. DeMarcus Cousins responds to his critics…. The Phoenix Suns are taking a Euro Step.