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Thursday Bolts: 7.5.18

Brett Dawson on Terrance Ferguson hoping to grow his game at Summer League: “And on a team with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, there’s little reason for Ferguson to expect the ball in his hands significantly more. But he’s an explosive athlete who needs to make more plays with the ball to maximize his NBA potential. So you’re likely to see Ferguson with the ball in Las Vegas. Asked last month about the importance of Vegas for Ferguson, Thunder general manager Sam Presti noted that the franchise has always tried to “stretch the players in Summer League,” to let them “try new things.” Ferguson has plenty to try, and faith that it’ll work.”

Ben Golliver (SI) has Russell Westbrook & the Thunder among this summer’s winners: “How much better can the Thunder reasonably expect to be next season? Why did George suddenly hit the eject button on his long-rumored desire to play for the Lakers? How long will ownership be willing to sustain such a high payroll if no meaningful progress is made towards contending? Those are all major questions that will hang over George’s decision going forward. For GM Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook, though, George’s return is a major coup. If George had left, Westbrook would have been back to life as a stranded superstar, possibly on a 2019 lottery team. Presti, meanwhile, would have been in line for vicious second-guessing over his decision to trade for George last summer. Both now get the chance to prove that the Westbrook/George/Steven Adams core can make more noise without Carmelo Anthony serving as a high-priced muffler. They also get nice reputational boosts: Westbrook can’t be accused of chasing away both Kevin Durant and George, while Presti’s full-force recruiting effort shows he learned important lessons from Durant’s exit. ”

Kevin Pelton (ESPN) grades the Thunder’s one-year deal with Raymond Felton: “Felton did a credible job in that role last season, providing above-average production for a player making the veterans minimum. Although he’s not an efficient scorer (.494 true shooting percentage), Felton rarely turns the ball over and is a good enough 3-point shooter that he must be guarded beyond the arc. With Felton turning 34, there’s some concern he might fall off, and Oklahoma City doesn’t really have an insurance policy on that possibility. The Thunder played just 72 minutes last season with neither Westbrook nor Felton on the court, exclusively in garbage time. Presumably, one of Oklahoma City’s two-way roster spots will go to a point guard who can play in case of injury, like PJ Dozier a year ago. As for the Thunder’s tax situation, surely they won’t actually end up paying $300 million for this roster.”

Lauren Theisen (Deadspin) on the Thunder having the most expensive roster in NBA history: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with this whatsoever. Clay Bennett, primary owner of the Thunder, is obscenely wealthy and still the scummy beneficiary of the Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City, so it’s obviously a good thing if even relatively small chunks of his personal fortune get paid out to good (or mediocre) basketball men. Beyond the redistribution of wealth, it’s decently cool (and unfortunately kind of surprising) to see a team outside the very top tier of the NBA go all out to at least entertain its fans rather than blow the roster up for a tank job. Of course, there is no way in hell that this investment ends in a championship, and even a Western Conference Finals appearance seems unlikely for basically the same team that lost to the Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs last season. But hey, it’s a lot better to have a flawed collection of big names than a roster built with the intent of losing as many games as possible.”

Moke Hamilton (USA Today) on the savings associated with waiving Carmelo Anthony: “If the Thunder opted to “stretch” the remaining $28 million due to Anthony, however, by rule, under the CBA, the club would have Anthony’s $28 million split evenly and applied in equal amounts against their ledger for the next three years. In other words, by waiving Anthony, the Thunder would reduce the cap hit for his contract to $9.3 million this season (and the next two), as opposed to the $28 million he’s due—a savings of about $19 million. Since the Thunder would be a “repeater” tax payer, that alone would reduce the club’s luxury tax bill from $150 million to about $50 million. The savings realized by the Thunder in all of this could increase if Anthony was amenable to accepting less than the $28 million he’s owed. Although it’s doubtful that Anthony would be willing to do the franchise any favors, if he were willing to accept $23 million of the $28 million owed to him, the negotiated amount ($23 million in this case) would replace the $28 million.”

Colin Connors (Hot Hot Heat) on why the Heat should trade for Carmelo: “Considering Paul George’s recent decision to re-sign with the Thunder, and their frivolous spending on short term deals since, it’s become clear that they are going all in on this season. For this reason many believe that Anthony will be on the trade block due to the Thunder’s sudden sense of urgency as he was a terrible fit alongside their core last year. The logical decision would be to simply buy him out, but that doesn’t seem likely as Anthony has stated before that he doesn’t want to leave money on the table. This means the Thunder will likely be looking to offload him for essentially anything of substance as they try to maximize their current roster to compete with Golden State’s (somehow) improved core. That desperation is why acquiring slightly overpaid rotation players (likely two of Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, or Dion Waiters, with ancillary pieces thrown in to make salaries work) on longer deals from the Heat in exchange for only one year of Anthony seems like a no-brainer for the Thunder when most teams wouldn’t even take the call. Thunder GM Sam Presti is a magician, but they are out of options. A trade of this manner is the only way for the Thunder to meaningfully improve in their severely capped-out situation.”

Aaron Mansfield (Complex) on Paul George catching heat for his explanation of why he didn’t join the Lakers: “In the third and final episode, which dropped Tuesday, George explains his thought process in choosing the Thunder over the Lakers. “I 100 percent appreciate Laker Nation for wanting me to come back home, wanting me to play in front of them,” George says. “I wanted to come here a year ago prior to going to OKC. Unfortunately, [I] wasn’t traded to [the] Lakers. Lakers didn’t grab me. I was traded to Oklahoma. That has been a beautiful thing for me.” It seemed like a cop-out explanation, considering George had the power to choose whichever team he wanted this summer, and the five-time All-Star quickly caught heat on Twitter.”

Steven Adams made the Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes 25-and-under: “The 7-footer kicked off a four-year, $100 million contract last season. His $22.5 million salary was seven times the $3.1 million Adams earned the previous year under the NBA system, which caps the first contract for NBA draftees. Adams was picked No. 12 overall in 2013 after one year at the University of Pittsburgh (he played professionally in his native New Zealand but eschewed a salary to keep his college eligibility).”

Around the League: Ranking the top players available on the market…. Amir Johnson is staying in Philly…. Nemanja Bjelica is headed to the Sixers…. One player to watch on every Summer League squad…. The NBA has already moved on to next offseason…. The NBA always delivers — regardless of who wins the title.