4 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 7.4.18

Adrian Wojnarowski (ESPN) on Raymond Felton returning to the Thunder: “Free-agent guard Raymond Felton has agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million deal to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources told ESPN. Felton’s signing will push the Thunder’s payroll and luxury tax hurtling past a historic NBA threshold: $300 million. The Thunder are responsible to pay $150 million in tax on the 2018-19 season’s roster, if the roster stays intact through the end of the season.”

Joseph Zucker (B/R) on the Thunder’s massive tax bill: “If Bennett could go back in time, then he would probably do whatever it took to keep Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together. Instead, he can only operate in the present, at which time the Thunder have to capitalize on Westbrook’s prime years. The alternatives to spending $300 million to retain George and make other moves were trading Westbrook and starting over or having Steven Adams as the second-best player behind Westbrook. Either scenario gets pretty bleak pretty quickly. Sure, the Thunder’s financial commitment is eye-popping, but it was their only move. And it doesn’t mean too much in the grand scheme of things.”

Bobby Marks (ESPN) on the moves the Thunder can still make: “The Raymond Felton signing now has Oklahoma City with a combined $300 million in luxury tax and payroll. The tax bill alone for the Thunder is $150 million. Despite the high costs, Oklahoma City can stretch the $28 million owed to Carmelo Anthony and see its tax bill reduced to $49 million, a savings of more than $100 million (in addition to $18 million of salary). Keeping Anthony and stretching Kyle Singler would save Oklahoma City $20 million in luxury tax. The Thunder could save $11 million by signing their second-round picks instead of free agents to the minimum exception. Because players selected in the second round have a cap hit of $831,000 and not $1.5 million, Oklahoma City will save substantially. However, signing each player to a contract greater than two years would see the Thunder using part of their $5.3 million tax midlevel.”

I’m with Tim:

Part three of Paul George’s three-part ESPN free agency series:

Abhinav Kini (Intl Business Times) on Paul George explaining why he chose the Thunder: “Aside from being one of the best human beings I’ve been around, (Russell Westbrook’s) approach to the game is what guys who want to be a part of and build something with. Russ is somebody I can win with and vice versa. So I think with this decision, that makes me much more comfortable knowing I got a shot and a real chance to win with one of the best players in the league. I’m happy. I’m more than happy. This is the city and community I chose, and the place I decided to play. And I’m excited. I’m excited to go along this journey and really go all in on this experience.”

Erik Horne on the Thunder needing internal development to compete in the West: “Westbrook’s ball dominance plays into it. When he has the ball, Westbrook is one of the most dynamic players in the NBA. When he doesn’t, he can be stationary, as can Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and other players in the Thunder offense. The Thunder needs Westbrook to shoot. But the type of shots are as important as shot volume, and the Thunder has capable 3-point shooters that don’t get enough attempts. Alex Abrines shot 40.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season, better than every Houston player except Chris Paul. Yet, Abrines had fewer catch-and-shoot attempts (201) than Houston’s Gerald Green (212) … in 34 more games. Much of that is Houston’s 3-point-centric style, or defenses running Abrines or Patrick Patterson off the 3-point line. But Westbrook, Anthony and George have to be better at finding shooters off the attention they draw.”

Berry Tramel on what Nerlens Noel brings to OKC: “He’s only 24 years old. He’s a big-time shot blocker. He’s a good rim-runner. He’s been an effective NBA starting center. And he was handed a couple of difficult situations that would rock all kinds of players. Noel was taken sixth overall by New Orleans in the 2013 draft, then traded immediately to Philadelphia. He was injured and missed the entire 2013-14 season. The 76ers chose Joel Embiid third overall in the 2014 draft, but Embiid was hurt, too, and missed his first season. Noel ended up starting most of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons for the Sixers. Even though the 76ers drafted yet another center, Jahlil Okafor, third overall in 2015.”

Tim Bontemps (WaPo) on how no one in the Western Conference can catch Golden State: “The other West contenders lag even farther behind. If the Spurs keep Leonard, they will likely be among the top four seeds in the West. But even if they do, his supporting cast isn’t nearly good enough to stop Golden State. Ditto for the Thunder, who are understandably thrilled to have convinced Paul George to stick around in free agency, but who lack enough depth around George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams to give Golden State a real test. The rest of the West teams in contention for a playoff spot are even further away.”

Marcus Thompson (Athletic) on how KD’s game has changed since July 4, 2016: “The Thunder’s offense leaned heavily on isolation and pick-and-roll, milking the strengths of Durant and Westbrook. They have considerable strengths. But even though that was the Thunder’s offense, Durant’s approach was still pretty diverse. Having Westbrook forced him off the ball more than other superstars. They shared the action. In his final season with Oklahoma City, Durant used 348 possessions as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. Another 273 where he just isolated his defender. That’s a combined 621 possessions, which was just over a third of his possessions. Westbrook dominated the ball (his combined total was 976), so Durant had to produce in other ways. That proved to be good training for the Warriors, because as soon as he arrived in 2016, the Durant-centered offense dissipated significantly.”

Around the League: The Suns are close to an extension with Devin Booker…. Wilson Chandler is headed to Philly…. Tyreke Evans has agreed to join the Pacers…. Dwight Howard is nearing a deal with the Wizards…. Every signing and trade thus far…. The Knicks are reportedly focusing on KD next summer…. Why DeMarcus Cousins’ health is no sure thing for the Warriors…. Jimmy Butler is rumored to be unhappy in Minnesota.