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Tuesday Bolts: 8.7.18

David Aldridge (NBA.com) picked the Thunder as the offseason winner: “None of us — none — thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook — also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali — to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) with coaches who will be on the hot seat next season: “That continuity, though, could be a blessing and a curse. While it should help Donovan get players more deeply ingrained into his system, it also raises the expectation levels for a club that Presti (and many others) felt “disappointed” in last season. Despite surrounding Westbrook with George and Anthony, OKC only increased its win total by one (47 to 48) and again exited the playoffs in the opening round. There are reasons to be optimistic about the Thunder—like the plus-13.5net rating Westbrook, George, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson posted together—but any rough patches could test the front office’s patience. Westbrook turns 30 in November, and George will be 29 six months later. So the window for this core may not be particularly wide.”

John Schuhmann (Sporting News) with mid-summer NBA power rankings: (4) Oklahoma City Thunder. The Anthony trade may be addition by subtraction and a healthy Roberson is a huge boost for the Thunder defense (which will get Russell Westbrook out on the break more often). But, especially with Roberson on the floor, they’ll need somebody to be a threat as Anthony’s replacement. Patrick Patterson was a disappointment last season, Jerami Grant isn’t much of a shooter and it’s unclear if Westbrook and Dennis Schroder can coexist. Still, the bottom line is that no other team has two players as talented as George and Westbrook under contract for four more years (luxury tax be damned).”

Lucas Seehafer (Step Back) on the Northwest Division gauntlet: “The Northwest — comprised of the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, and Utah Jazz — figures to be an utter bloodbath during the 2018-19 season. Last season, the five-team division produced the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, and ninth seeds in the loaded Western Conference with all teams finishing within a measly three games of each other. Barring any catastrophic injuries or collapses, next year’s division race figures to be just as tight… Similarly, it wouldn’t be particularly shocking if all five teams made the postseason, but in all likelihood one or two will miss out, a testament to the overall talent in the Western Conference and the cruelties of having to play against high-quality opponents on a more regular basis. The single biggest factor that may determine who ultimately makes the playoffs is how the teams in the Northwest fare against all the other teams in the league, particularly the dregs of the Eastern Conference.”

Ryan Nguyen (Cleaning the Glass) on OKC’s ability to crash the offensive glass without sacrificing transition defense: “On offense, Roberson routinely cuts to the rim for lobs or slices inside the defense to grab offensive boards. This would leave an ordinary team vulnerable in transition, and would cause an ordinary coach to limit the number of players crashing the glass. But Roberson is extraordinary, in that he unwaveringly sprints back after these plays to fortify the Thunder’s transition D. Roberson’s on/off differentials tell the story: despite Roberson going to the glass so often, the Thunder have been much better in transition defense with Roberson on the court over each of the last four seasons. Adams is cut from the same cloth. He is a force on the offensive glass—his offensive rebound rate ranked on the 97th percentile for big men this past season. But, as we’ve seen, he busts his tail to get back on D and make sure that he’s in the shell position. Very few teams have a center who can do both things so well, and the Thunder take advantage of his presence.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) has the Thunder’s acquisition of Dennis Schroder on his list of the summer’s biggest bonehead moves: “Per-game numbers indicate Schroder is easily worth the investment. The speedy 1-guard is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 19.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game, after all. But he did so while slashing just 43.6/29.0/84.9, playing traffic-cone defense that would make a Schroder-Westbrook backcourt untenable and making the lowly Hawks 1.8 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor. He does, however, possess an ideal skill set for the intended role. Schroder profiles as the type of change-of-pace point guard who could do plenty of damage as an offensive spark who leads the bench mob. But accepting that role could be difficult for a two-year starter who hasn’t yet celebrated his 25th birthday. Plus, even if real plus-minus indicates he was a subpar contributor (minus-1.79, which ranked 61st among the 96 classified 1-guards), and even if FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO forecast pegs him as a $25.1 million value over the next three years combined, he has his points-per-game laurels to boost perception—both self-perception and the external kind.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with reasons why Patrick Patterson should start for the Thunder: “Patterson averaged a career-low in points (3.9), rebounds (2.4) and minutes (15.5) in 82 games last season for the Thunder. It was evident that his dip in production was a direct result of the team acquiring Anthony last summer. Of course, four of the team’s starters appear to be set with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson assuming Roberson is healthy at the start of the season. With Patterson in the starting lineup, he would give the team a bit more shooting than Jerami Grant, who could also be an option to insert into the starting lineup. By all accounts, Patterson didn’t appear to be upset with his role change last year and has remained a good teammate despite the drop in minutes, but that could be changing for next season.”

Victor Deng (Sole Collector) reviews the upcoming releases of the Nike PG 2.5: “Since making its debut in May, Paul George’s updated Nike PG 2.5 signature model is set to drop in a bevy of colorways after product images of the upcoming release surfaced.  Retailing at $110, the latest wave of color schemes includes Royal/White, White/Black, Grey/Black, and Black/White. The silhouette combines design elements from George’s signature models, adding the midfoot strap from the PG 1 to the upper of the PG 2. Check out the quartet in detail below. As of now, there is no release info for this upcoming Nike PG 2.5 release, but expect these styles to arrive in the coming months.”

Around the League: Greg Monroe is signing with the Raptors…. LeBron is producing a ‘Shut Up & Dribble” documentary for TV…. Melania Trump is open to visiting LeBron’s new school…. Tony Parker says goodbye to the Spurs…. Players most likely to make their first All-Star team…. Are we sure the Lakers will make the playoffs?