Erik Horne on burning questions for Sam Presti in today’s media availability: “What’s the future for Donovan? This is Year 4 of Donovan’s five-year, $30 million deal. The Thunder appears invested in Donovan, allowing him autonomy to play a faster style that accentuates Westbrook’s strengths and hopefully creates more ball movement sans Anthony. Following the Thunder’s loss in the first round to Utah, Presti reaffirmed his faith in Donovan, saying the biggest opportunity for him in Year 4 is in the continuity of bringing back a core of players — Westbrook, George and Adams — for the first time. Donovan has that core and the Thunder has all three of those players locked in through at least the 2020-21 season — a season after the final year of Donovan’s contract. The Thunder still stands to be a team well into the luxury tax next season, which means it may find it difficult to pay two coaches at once. But Scott Brooks was fired with a season remaining on his deal. While a core is set, Donovan’s future isn’t beyond this year.”
ESPN has Paul George as the 13th best NBA player in 2018-19: “At his best, George is maybe the best two-way talent in the NBA, combining destructive defensive instincts with all-world scoring and playmaking. After one two-month stretch last season in which he flashed the entire package, Thunder general manager Sam Presti called him the “best player in the league.” But George had some injury issues, which resulted in a couple offseason procedures, and he has always battled against consistency and slumps. With a year under his belt learning how to play off of Westbrook, the hope for OKC is that George will benefit from the continuity and stability of his situation and show his versatile game more often.”
Colin Ward-Henninger (CBS Sports) gives the Thunder the fifth-best starting lineup in the NBA: “Replacing Carmelo Anthony with Patterson may seem like a downgrade, but not with the way Anthony played last season. Patterson will be a ball mover and defender, while occasionally knocking down the corner 3, which is all the Thunder really need from him. Even with Anthony, the starting unit finished with the second-best defensive rating in the NBA last season — it’s going to be even better this year with a healthy Roberson and a rock-solid Adams. And with Westbrook and George leading the charge offensively, this is unquestionably one of the best starting lineups in the NBA.”
Erik Horne on Abdel Nader’s ability to play multiple positions: “Nader’s versatility is one reason the Thunder wanted the second-year forward. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Nader said he played every position from point guard to center. “Even in college I did that a bunch as well,” Nader told The Oklahoman. “Since my earliest memories of playing basketball, I’ve always been very versatile. In a summer of luxury tax savings due to the trade of Carmelo Anthony and the waiving of Kyle Singler, the Thunder could have continued the trend by declining the option on Nader’s contract by Sept. 1. That would have allowed the Thunder to only pay Nader $450,000 guaranteed. Instead, it’s keeping Nader as not just the piece it acquired in a trade with Boston for Rodney Purvis, but as a tangible shift to more versatile frontcourt options. Nader’s $1.37 million salary essentially replaces that of 7-footer Dakari Johnson, who was traded to Orlando for Purvis in July.”
Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on if the Thunder should try to acquire Courtney Lee: “Although the Knicks apparently want to move on from Lee due to his age, he still turned in one of the best seasons of his career last season after averaging 12 points in 76 games, while shooting 40.6 percent from three-point range. By potentially trading for Lee, the Thunder would add a proven player to the bench and they could use him to play behind Paul George or they could even use him as a starter for Andre Roberson while he recovers from his injury. It’s unclear what the Knicks would be seeking in return for Lee, but the main objective for trading Lee would be to create cap space so it’s possible they wouldn’t be looking for much in return.”
Paul Thomas (Noted) on Steven Adams’ journey to the NBA: “Early on, Adams admits he was drawn to a career in professional basketball by the rewards on offer, but that has to be seen in the context of his family’s circumstances: “If there was one thing that was going to motivate me to pursue a career in something it would be the money, because not having enough was the cause of all the arguments I’d heard between my dad and siblings.” Adams has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His contract with the US Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team is worth $140 million over four years, making him our highest-paid sportsperson. In all likelihood, his next contract will be even more lucrative. It seems safe to assume, therefore, that Adams didn’t do this book for the money; he did it because he wanted to tell his story. And what a story. It begins with the remarkable figure of his father, Sid, a 2.10m English merchant seaman who jumped ship in the Bay of Plenty, settled in Rotorua and set about making himself a footnote in our demographic history.”
Around the League: Jimmy Butler prefers the Clippers, Nets, and Knicks as trade destinations…. LeBron James reportedly made the Lakers less appealing to Butler…. Stephen Jackson and Andrew Wiggins are feuding over Butler’s trade request…. Mark Cuban will donate $10 million toward women’s causes and domestic violence awareness…. Rachel Nichols grilled Cuban after the NBA’s investigation…. LeBron is set to star in Space Jam 2…. The Jazz have new throwback jerseys…. Top 25 players 25-&-under.