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Wednesday Bolts: 5.16.18

Erik Horne on Andre Roberson’s value emerging in his absence: “When the Thunder lost Roberson in January, it lost more than its defensive rock. The Thunder lost the one guy capable of covering the team’s shortcomings on defense, and doing the work capable of few wing defenders in the NBA. Strangely enough, the Thunder lost its offensive rhythm and confidence as well. “I know a lot of people across the world, even you guys doubted Andre many, many times about his shooting and all that stuff,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “But to me, man, the type of guy he is, the things he brings to the game is a huge, huge impact on our team and what he brings to the table. I never take anything he does for granted because of the way he lays it out on the line.” With Roberson on the floor, the Thunder’s defense was among the best in the NBA, allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions. It was fifth in the league in defensive rating (103.1) when he went down, but 15th (107) in the final 33 games without him.”

Cody Taylor (USA Today) with five prospects OKC should keep an eye on at the Draft Combine: “Teams are all trying to find that next diamond in the rough and will be utilizing the Combine to their advantage. We’re seeing more players fall through the cracks that were taken in the second round emerge as contributors in the NBA. The Thunder figure to be one of those teams trying to find the next under-the-radar prospect. They currently do not hold a draft selection in the first round, but have two picks late in the second round at No. 53 and No. 57. With so much uncertainty with next season’s roster, it remains to be seen how the Thunder will approach draft night. They could decide to draft and stash a prospect or two overseas or in the G League, or they could decide to take a player in hopes to develop them for the season in the NBA. Here are five names to keep an eye on during the Combine that the Thunder could target (in no particular order) – these are players projected to be available for the Thunder in their draft range.”

The Ringer has OKC taking Kanas’ DeVonte Graham (53) & Florida’s Jalen Hudson (57) in the Draft: “Graham: PG, Kansas, Senior. 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.2 APG, A high-energy, hard-nosed defender who improved his point guard skills as a senior…. Hudson: SG, Florida, Junior. 15.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 55.3 EFG%, An athletic shooter who will need to prove he cares about playing defense.”

Greg Swartz (B/R) discusses a Paul George sign-and-trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers: “Cleveland Receives: SF Paul George / Oklahoma City Receives: No. 8 overall pick, SG Kyle Korver, G Jordan Clarkson…. If Paul George is traded to Cleveland, it’s only because he and James have already worked out the details between themselves. George and James can both opt out of their current contracts on the same day, June 29th. It was James who “aggressively recruited George behind the scenes” last summer, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst. Joining the Los Angeles Lakers is certainly an option, but if James wants to stay close to home, would George want to join a young Lakers team with no second star player? James and George control the cards here. George can tell the Thunder he’s not interested in returning, but would agree to a sign-and-trade to play with James so that Oklahoma City can collect something for him in return. In this scenario, George could either opt-in to his $20 million option for 2018-19 or sign a new four-year, $130 million deal.”

Luke Adams (Hoops Rumors) breaks down the Thunder salary cap situation: “While the Thunder currently have less than $89MM in guaranteed salary on their books, Anthony’s early termination option essentially eliminates the opportunity for cap room. And if the Thunder want to re-sign George after he declines his player option, they’ll have to keep a massive cap hold on their books to retain his Bird rights. Even if George were to depart and Anthony were to be waived and stretched, the Thunder’s total team salary would still be $101,541,846 (eight guaranteed salaries, Anthony’s dead money, and cap charges for four empty roster spots). If the Thunder had to account for Anthony’s option and a max contract for George, team salary would balloon to $147,135,362 for only 10 players. That’s simply not feasible for a small-market team, so if George wants to return, Anthony will have to go, via either trade, buyout, or stretch provision.”

Berry Tramel grades Andre Roberson’s 2017-18 season: “In 39 games, Roberson took just 36 3-point shots. His 1.2 3-point shots per 36 minutes were half or less than half his attempts each of the previous three years. Roberson’s 2-point shooting percentage was a career high .627, and it’s no secret why. Roberson took a career high 71.6 percent of his shots in the restricted area. And Roberson played to his strengths, taking 35 percent of his shots in transition, where he’s at his offensive best.”

Kelley D. Evans (Undefeated) spoke with Josh Huestis about marriage, basketball, and mental health: “My first couple of years in the NBA as well as my years in college, they got very heavy and took me to some low lows. It became really tough. There were many times where I questioned myself. Many times I can remember when I really didn’t want to continue, and the idea of giving up crossed my mind on definitely more than one occasion. I think a major issue that I have, and a lot of professional athletes and a lot of people have, is that my whole life I have been categorized as basketball player and that has been how I identified my self-worth. My self-worth has been wrapped up in my existence as an athlete, as a basketball player. There have been so many times that my struggles on the basketball court caused it be a lot harder. I’m sure a lot of players can agree that after a bad game you walk off the court and your self-worth just drops dramatically, and it’s not a healthy thing because everybody has bad games.”

Around the League: The Celtics took a 2-0 lead in the ECF…. The genius of Marcus Smart…. The Suns landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft…. Lottery reaction and what’s next…. Updated 2018 Mock Draft…. What if LeBron never wins another title?…. A Q&A with Adrian Wojnarowski.