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Tuesday Bolts: 8.28.18

Kevin Pelton (ESPN) grades the Thunder offseason: “Oklahoma City Thunder: B+. The Thunder had one of the NBA’s most fascinating offseasons, starting with Paul George not only re-signing but committing to three more years in Oklahoma City (plus a player option). The Thunder also brought back free agent Jerami Grant and added Nerlens Noel at the veteran’s minimum to bolster their frontcourt depth. To mitigate a potentially historic tax bill with those new contracts, Oklahoma City swapped Anthony’s contract to the Atlanta Hawks for backup point guard Dennis Schroder, giving up a heavily protected first-round pick in the deal. If Schroder can thrive playing behind and with Russell Westbrook, the Thunder may prove better equipped to battle the West’s best teams. But with a payroll that still will likely top $200 million, contention appears a must.”

Michael Saenz (Sir Charles in Charge) on the importance of Andre Roberson in 2018-19: “With Roberson in the lineup, the Thunder had a defensive rating of 103.7 in the first half of the season. When he was lost for the year, OKC had a 106.7 defensive rating. Three points. Even though that may not seem like a big number, it is for a stat such as defensive rating. On the offensive end, there’s no question that Roberson leaves much to be desired. He only averaged five points per game last season, but did shoot a career-best 54 percent shooting from the field. He only shoots 22 percent from 3-point range, which is extremely poor. However, he more than makes up for it on the other end of the floor. Plus, Roberson is athletic enough to create other forms of offense as a slashing forward. And his presence on the wing on the defensive end will lift the spirits of this team as soon as he makes a return to the lineup.”

Brett Dawson on the OKC Blue’s 2018-19 schedule: “The Oklahoma City Blue on Monday unveiled a schedule that includes 17 of its 24 home games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate in the developmental NBA G League, will open the season on the road at the Stockton Kings, the new home of the Sacramento Kings’ affiliate. The Kings’ G League team previously played in Reno, Nev., as the Bighorns. OKC will play 22 of its 24 home games at the Cox Convention Center and will host two Field Trip Day games, playing the Wisconsin Herd on Feb. 27 at Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Kings on March 6 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. The Blue has 24 road games and two neutral-site games at the annual NBA G League Showcase. OKC will open its home schedule on Nov. 9 against South Bay.”

Quick Nader Note:

Chris Bengel (24/7 Sports) on Mitch Lawrence’s comments about why PG didn’t go to LA: “I don’t think he wanted the pressure,” Lawrence said. “He’s played college ball in Fresno State, he played in Indiana, and he’s played in Oklahoma City. Those places, there’s no way the pressure there is the same as when you walk into the Lakers and there are banners hanging. And now you’re with LeBron James and you have to produce and win titles. I don’t think he wanted that.”

Come on and do it already:

Dan Favale (B/R) on why the Thunder will be worse off in five years: “Here’s a glance at what the Oklahoma City Thunder are facing between now and the summer of 2023:

      • Steven Adams, Paul George, Dennis Schroder, and Russell Westbrook will combine to make more than $105 million per year through 2020-21
      • Adams and George (player option) will be free agents in 2022
      • First-round picks could be sent to Orlando in 2020 (top-20-protected) and Atlanta in 2022 (lottery-protected)
      • A 34-year-old Russell Westbrook will earn $47.1 million in the final season of his deal (2022-23)

Surprise trades and draft-day finds could shake things up for Oklahoma City. General manager Sam Presti has been known to keep an ace or five hidden in his sleeves. But the Thunder does not forecast as a free-agency player with both George and Westbrook on the docket. If they do open up cap space or restock their draft-pick cupboard, it’ll be on the heels of one or both leaving and in conjunction with a total overhaul.”

Jack Hamilton (Slate) on OKC — the great minor city of America: “Anderson is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, and Boom Town effectively begins in the fall of 2012, when Anderson is sent to OKC to write a story about the Oklahoma City Thunder, the defending Western Conference champions and the NBA’s hottest young team. The Thunder had a triumvirate of young stars—Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden—all of whom were under 25 years old and objects of obsessive adulation in a city with only one major pro sports franchise. Then, on the eve of the season, the Thunder’s young GM, Sam Presti, traded Harden to the Houston Rockets. It was a stunning gamble, one whose reverberations are still being felt across the league. Harden was the first player ever drafted by the Thunder, a historically efficient 2-guard who’d just won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. With a flamboyant beard that seemed to bely his outwardly reticent disposition, he seemed to be the perfect balance point between his star teammates: humble, dependable, even-keeled, nice Durant, and surly, flamboyant, volatile Westbrook. Durant was the face of the franchise; Westbrook, on the other hand, was always assumed to be a fish out of water in OKC.”

Daniel Massop (Nylon Calculus) on Melo’s transition to Houston: “One reason for optimism regarding Carmelo Anthony’s offense next year is how much potential improvement exists in his shot selection. Because Anthony’s 39.3 field goal percentage in the midrange was so dreadfully bad, if he makes the same changes in restricted area, mid-range, and 3-point attempts that Paul did, all while shooting the same percentages from each area as he did last year, his effective field goal percentage would jump from 47.6 to 50.1 percent, a fairly substantial 2.5 percentage point increase. It is also certainly not unreasonable to think that having Paul and Harden facilitating for him could allow Carmelo to improve even beyond this mark, deferring isoball for better ball movement.”

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