5 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 7.25.18

Erik Horne on Dennis Schroder as the latest Thunder image rebuild: “Dennis Schroder is the latest Thunder acquisition who comes with a less-than-stellar reputation, but the Thunder has habitually taken perceived malcontents and helped change the narrative of their careers. When the three-way deal with Atlanta and Philadelphia is made official, Schroder will be the latest in a handful of Thunder trade additions who have come with baggage. In September 2017, the 24-year-old and three other men were arrested in Atlanta on misdemeanor battery charges. The case was transferred to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office in March with the recommendation that it be prosecuted as felony aggravated battery. The case remains under investigation in Georgia. The Thunder, however, has done its due diligence on Schroder, just like it did with prior players that teams gave up. Those players didn’t come with legal trouble, but trouble all their own.”

Brett Dawson on Abdel Nader and the Thunder’s push toward small ball: “Those moves represent the latest step in the gradual transformation of the Thunder, a team that two years ago sought ways to play centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter together and now is working to stockpile one of the NBA’s most-coveted assets, the young, athletic and versatile wing. Nader is the newest of the lot, and an ideal illustration of the direction the NBA and Oklahoma City are moving. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Nader is the end result of the Thunder trading center Dakari Johnson to Orlando last week for guard Rodney Purvis. The Thunder sent Purvis to Boston for Nader. The a 7-foot, 255-pound Johnson was a single-position player, a post player with knack as a passer but lacked the quick feet to switch on the perimeter defensively. In Nader, the Thunder adds a big body with comparable NBA experience — he averaged 10.9 minutes in 48 games as a Celtics rookie, Johnson 5.2 minutes in 31 games with OKC — but potential to fit in a positionless system.”

NBA.com with under-the-radar offseason moves that will pay off next season: “Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder. On his own, I’m not sure how much Noel would have provided. But pair him with the pending acquisition of Dennis Schroder — a talented point guard who can excel in the pick-and-roll — and you’ve got a motivated Noel who can wreak havoc on offense and as a defensive center. This is especially true when considering he’ll be playing against second units. This 24-year-old is teetering on the edge of NBA obscurity after turning down a reported four-year, $70 million offer from the Mavs last summer and is now playing for his basketball career. I think we’ll see some of the peak Noel we saw in Philly when he was working the P-and-R with Ish Smith.”

Michael Scotto (The Athletic) lists Deonte Burton among Summer League’s standouts: “After signing a two-way contract with the Thunder, Burton showed why he earned it. In five games with Oklahoma City, Burton filled the stat sheet averaging 10.6 points on 59 percent shooting overall and 63 percent from 3-point range, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. Burton showed an ability to clog the passing lanes on cross-court passes and even hit a game winner. At 250 pounds, Burton has the bulk to guard bigger forwards on switches and enough length to bother smaller guards if left on an island at the top of the key. The former undrafted forward starred in South Korea (KBL) for Wonju Dongbu Promy last season where he averaged 23.8 points on 47 percent shooting overall and 34 percent from 3-point range, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) on the 2018-19 MVP race: “For his triple-double efforts in 2016-17, Russell Westbrook was awarded MVP. One year later, he finished No. 5 in the balloting despite averaging 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists—yes, another season-long triple-double. That’s not mere happenstance. The novelty has worn off. With the spotlight focused directly on him for so long, Westbrook has been exposed to legitimate criticisms of his shot-happy nature, defensive inconsistencies and—whether fair or not—struggles elevating the Oklahoma City Thunder to the same pedestal occupied by the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. Westbrook could replicate his 2017-18 efforts moving forward, but changing this narrative will be difficult. And without changing it, he won’t be adding to his trophy collection.”

Aaron Mansfield (Complex) on the time Russ cursed at Enes Kanter for speaking to a Warriors’ player: “Kanter learned his lesson—he knew not to say hi to a rival again. “I was on the bench sitting down, and I had been in the league for seven years now, and some of the players come and say hi to me, and I was scared to even look at them ’cause if Westbrook catches me saying hi to them, he’s going to cuss at me,” Kanter said. Westbrook’s competitiveness didn’t cause any problems with Kanter, though. Kanter raved about the 2016-17 MVP. “I love Westbrook,” Kanter said. “I actually texted him today…he is maybe the best teammate—I’m not talking about player, I’m talking about teammate—I’ve ever played with.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) with irrational conclusions drawn from 2018 free agency: Rentals are the new norm. George stayed with the Oklahoma City Thunder after completing what everyone expected would be a one-year stopover on his way to Los Angeles, and now the Toronto Raptors are taking a similar risk by trading for Leonard. Both George and Leonard came at discounted prices because of their public desires to land in L.A., but it’s telling that teams are increasingly willing to surrender assets for short-term gains. The key is selling the so-called rental on the option to buy. OKC retained George with its culture and a fat contract offer. Toronto will try to repeat that process with Leonard. As players flex their muscles more often, angling for control of their fates in a labor landscape dominated by management, we should expect to see more scenarios like the ones involving George and Leonard.”

An NBA.com roundtable on the potential 2020 Olympic roster: “By 2020 our own version of the “Golden Generation” should be fully stocked and ready to represent. The guys who helped resuscitate the program (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony) will have all bowed of the process. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook will have moved into the five prime positions on the team that represents the United States in Tokyo. I could see LeBron sticking around to play the Kobe Bryant in 2012 role, which would mean someone comes off the bench as the sixth man. But nothing will interrupt the gold medal chase for this group. Go ahead and book that spot on the podium now.”

Around the League: Kevin Love signed an extension with the Cavs…. For better or worse, Kevin Love is the man in Cleveland…. DeMar DeRozan opened up about his Toronto exit…. Michael Beasley shot down the “soap opera narrative” surrounding the Lakers…. Dwyane Wade was offered an enticing deal to play in China…. NBA players are investing in e-sports…. Summer scouting report on Trae Young…. Melo joining the Rockets will actually decrease their SportsLine championship chances.