6 min read

Weekly Bolts: 04.02.21

Weekly Bolts: 04.02.21

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

As Brandon waxed yesterday, the tank is on for a realistic target: #5 lottery position for the 2021 draft. The goal for the rest of the season is clear: develop players and lose games.

One thing that separates the Thunder from the Process-era Sixers, beyond their effectiveness in not-winning: good will. Sam Hinkie was a renegade doing a U-turn in a makeshift Philadelphia tank. Sam Presti has built so much of OKC from the ground up, and has so much cache in the league, that onlookers still think there’s a batman steering the OKC lose-mobile to an eventual–if unconventional–finish line of success. The Thunder look more competent than half of the league’s teams even while tanking. From rookie coaches to sitting veterans to 19-year-old starters, Presti’s cultural green thumb has muted the “bad for the league, bad look for the team” rumblings we expected to hear. At least for now.

Cray Allred

OKC is now 19-27, 2.5 games ahead of the #5 draft slot.

Dort is concussed.

If you are insecure about pronouncing Svi Mykhailiuk’s name (imee-HIGH-luke), just know that he may or may not be able to name drop Aleksej Pokusevski like those of us who’ve gone through the Thunder pronunciation gauntlet this season.

Speaking of, Poku scored 21 and continued to look much less raw against the Mavs.

The Austin Rivers catch-and-release is complete, as is the Lu Dort Special contract conversion for Moses Brown.

New guy Tony Bradley is saying good things about the Thunder organization. Shocker.

Brandon and Olivia Panchal predict where they think the Thunder will land in the final season standings.

Small market teams are increasingly bothered by the buyout market making the rich, richer. Howard Beck (SI) spoke with GMs who, as friend of DT Stephen Dolan pointed out, could have been Sam Presti code-switching as a less verbose executive.

More hand-printed DT shirts will be on sale at Shopgood soon, but in the meantime we’ve started releasing fun, limited edition tees as Patreon perks for as little as a $6 subscription.

ICYMI: both Al and Anna Horford are happy with how the Chris Paul Special has gone for the veteran, who probably won’t play another game for the Thunder.

The Brodie showed out in a throwback triple-double hurricane. Good for the Wizards, great for the Thunder, who still need to pass Washington in the reverse standings.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

“Too Good to Tank”. A concept bandied about on Thunder Twitter from the early days of the season–sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest–has proved prescient. Barring a nosedive for the ages (and unlikely turnarounds from the league’s other worst teams), OKC won’t be sniffing the bottom of the standings ahead of the 2021 draft.

It’s simplistic, of course: this roster, without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, George Hill, or Al Horford in the lineup, is not in fact talented enough to win many games. Beating the Raptors is peak anti-tank vibes on the court, but also emblematic of another factor working against the Thunder’s draft position off it: they are essentially the Tampa Bay Raptors, playing their an season on the road. Much of the NBA’s volatility in 2020-21, including a bunch of victories from a team with a terrible net rating in Oklahoma city, is due to the pandemic’s impact on player availability, in-game fan support, and the drudgery of a jam-packed schedule. In this strange season’s strange environment, the Thunder have not just squeezed every ounce of talent from the roster. They’ve been too disciplined to tank. Too well coached to tank. Too hungry to tank. Too 2020-21 Thunder to tank.

Cray Allred

It’s official: the 2020-21 Oklahoma City Thunder are too good to tank.

Ryan Woods and Brandon Rahbar are getting apoplectic. They recap the improbable win over the Raptors, suggesting the Thunder play 4-on-5 the rest of the season.

OKC is tied with the defending champions in big comeback wins this season.

Svi Mykhailuk starred in the game. Nick Crain (Forbes) on the new acquisition blooming in Oklahoma City.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis) will be reevaluated in mid-April. In other words, he probably won’t play again this season.

Watch TSN’s “The Beast du Nord” for an inspiring look at Lu Dort’s difficult but triumphant path from Montreal to the NBA

Thunder players and staff are getting vaccinated along with other Oklahomans (Young, ESPN).

Mark Stein (NYT) updates the count on Thunder picks for the next seven years. 18 firsts, 4 first swaps, and 17 seconds.

Daily Thunder’s community predictions are shaping up nicely for some of us. Not so much for Brandon, who is just three spots ahead of the randomized entry.

Stephen A. Smith said he’d be impressed with Russell Westbrook’s herculean regular season performances if he’d have ever produced a championship and/or a jump shot.

Russ responded in general terms, saying RINGZ is not his primary rubric for success.

via Fred Katz (The Athletic)

Nina Westbrook was not so indirect with her own thoughts.

There was a lot of truth in Westbrook’s perspective, and it’s not the first time he’s produced a thoughtful response to his critics. The only caveat to my “Team Russ” position in both of these rounds of criticism: he still should’ve developed his three-point shot, regardless of the dumb championship-or-bust narratives.

Friday, April 2, 2021

A front office’s reputation matters. New Orleans’ David Griffin has had the mighty backing of LeBron James before, but now is taking heat on some he said/no comment business after trading the decrepit J.J. Redick–a man with a podcast and an opinion–to the Mavericks.

A lot of Thunder fans have rushed to put OKC and Sam Presti’s reputation on display, sterling in contrast to the Pelicans’ in the eye of this week’s beholder. The Thunder have by all accounts been very transparent and player-friendly in the post-Brodie era. The most delicate situations from the most revered veterans have been handled phenomenally: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and now George Hill and Al Horford. But it’s not as though players like Dion Waiters, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony or Enes Kanter are doing unambiguously positive PR for the team amongst their peers. You’re not always in a position to be as transparent and player-friendly as everyone would hope. When possible, the Thunder have done that as well as anybody in the league, so the isolated players gripes remain just that: isolated, not sticking to the organization’s reputation in the minds of most players and fans.

Cray Allred

Lonzo Ball, barely still on the Pelicans, sounds like he has Stockholm Syndrome in his “happy to be here” statements after the trade deadline (via Andrew Lopez, ESPN).

And on his own podcast, J.J. Redick says the New Orleans front office lied to him about where he would end up before dealing him to Dallas.

Cade Cunningham has declared for the draft (ESPN), as the first of many tears fall from the tanky tin men and women in Thunder nation.

Malika Andrews (ESPN) on Kevin Durant addressing his embarrassing Twitter beef with Michael Rappaport.

Paris Lawson (okcthunder.com) notes that Moses Brown could feast on the glass tonight against Phoenix, who just yielded 18 offensive boards and 14 second chance points against the Bulls.

Joe Mussatto (Oklahoman) on Ty Jerome proving himself as a shooter:

Next Up: Thunder at Suns, 9pm