Month: August 2017

Offseason In Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired 2014 pick No. 55 from the Hornets in exchange for cash.
  • Acquired the rights to Sofoklis Schortsanitis from the Hawks in exchange for Thabo Sefolosha (sign-and-trade), the rights to Giorgos Printezis, and cash.
  • Acquired Philadelphia’s 2015 second-round pick (top-55 protected) from the Sixers in exchange for Hasheem Thabeet and $100K cash.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

  • Michael Jenkins
  • Richard Solomon
  • Talib Zanna

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

The Thunder may have been disappointed with the conclusion of their 2013/14 campaign, but they were impressive when taking everything in total.  OKC was without star guard Russell Westbrook for nearly half of the season and when the Thunder arrived in the playoffs, they staved off battle-ready teams in the Grizzlies and Clippers before succumbing to the Spurs in six games.  They nearly won 60 games and they were a stone’s throw from the Finals, but after years of being on the cusp, this team isn’t satisfied with moral victories.

Oklahoma City didn’t undergo an offseason overhaul, but that’s not to say that it didn’t make a real run at shaking things up.  The Thunder were one of several teams that went hard after veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller before he landed with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.  They were also hoping to land Pau Gasol, which would have been a monstrous boost to their frontcourt.  Just as the Spurs did, OKC went after the Spaniard with the hope that the allure of winning would help distract from an under-market contract offer.  Ultimately, however, Gasol found a chance to win with better compensation with the Bulls.  Kevin Durant gave it his best shot, but he couldn’t reel in Gasol.  “Obviously [it wasn’t] that close, [but] I did my work. That was my first time recruiting,” Durant said in July.

The Thunder had a few holes to fill over the summer. Backup point guard Derek Fisher left to coach the Knicks, Caron Butler moved on in free agency, and Thabo Sefolosha regressed sharply in 2013/14, ensuring his exit.  The Thunder couldn’t pull off a flashy signing like Gasol or Miller, so they had to dig a little deeper to reload their roster.

Oklahoma City badly needed outside shooting and its signing of the fearless Anthony Morrow made perfect sense.  On a three-year, ~$10MM contract, it’s hard to find fault with the deal given his long-distance acumen and the interest that he had from contenders around the league.  Heading into this season, Morrow had only 129 starts on his resume, but he has shown that he can make an impact with his ability to keep opposing defenses honest.  Unfortunately for the Thunder, he missed the first seven games of the regular season while healing from a sprained left MCL.

With Fisher out of the picture, the Thunder brought Brooklyn’s own Sebastian Telfair aboard to help soak up some of the backup minutes at the one guard.  At the time, the one-year, minimum salary deal seemed like an inexpensive solution to their problem, but things didn’t quite work out.  Just recently, the Thunder bid farewell to Telfair and instead opted to keep fellow point guard Ish Smith.

D-League notable Grant Jerrett was brought back on a four-year, minimum-salary deal with the final two seasons non-guaranteed.  For the time being, it seems like he’s going to remain a D-League staple, but that’s just fine for the Thunder, who aren’t banking on Jerrett to be a key cog this year.  Lance Thomas beat the odds to make OKC’s roster and the Thunder believe that they have found a gem in the former New Jersey high school star.  The Thunder carved out space for guys like Thomas by dumping Sefolosha and Hasheem Thabeet for table scraps, including the rights to Sofoklis “Baby Shaq” Schortsanitis.

The Thunder made moves to try and win a title in the here and now, but they also put a good amount of focus into the draft, where they made two surprising first round selections.  First, with the No. 21 overall pick, the Thunder drafted Michigan big man Mitch McGary. McGary decided to go pro early rather than face a one-year suspension and while there was fear that he wasn’t NBA-ready, the Thunder apparently had no such concerns.  McGary is still waiting to make his NBA debut after a strong performance in the summer league, but the Thunder must be optimistic about the impact he can make this season.

With the No. 29 pick, the Thunder made an even more surprising selection with Stanford forward Josh Huestis.  When Huestis spoke with Hoops Rumors prior to the draft, he projected as a mid-second round pick.  Huestis isn’t a tremendous athlete or a top-notch scorer, but he is a textbook hustle player and a super tough defender.  Huestis’ camp reached agreement on an unusual deal with the Thunder prior to the draft which ticketed him to play for Oklahoma City’s D-League affiliate in his first pro season.

The Thunder didn’t do a whole lot in free agency, but then again, this has never been a team to really build with the open market.  Their quiet offseason may have raised some eyebrows, but the Thunder stand as one of the most fearsome teams in the West, when they’re healthy.  OKC has all of the answers in house. They just need them on the court.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

And-Ones: Wallace, Kirk, Pistons, Draft

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace is glad to be back in the driver’s seat, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes.  “I basically stepped aside. No one told me to step back,” Wallace explained. “My role was reduced, but I intentionally stepped back from the players and the coaches. I did not want to be seen as someone that was a meddler last year. I went to games, but I did not interact with the players or coaches during that time. I stayed involved in the game. I was watching the college game closely and the NBA game and attending games at both levels, because I planned on getting back. I didn’t know it was going to be here.”  More from around the NBA..

  • The Cavs announced that they have assigned center Alex Kirk to their D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge.  Kirk averaged 23.7 PPG and 9.7 RPG in three games for the Charge this season.  He has also appeared in three games for the Cavs this season.
  • The Pistons recalled Tony Mitchell from the Grand Rapids Drive of the D-League, according to the RealGM transactions log.
  • If the draft was tomorrow, Kansas guard/forward Kelly Oubre might not be a top pick, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.  Oubre has been seeing limited minutes so far for the Jayhawks, but there’s still plenty of season ahead for the frosh.  He’s currently rated No. 5 in DraftExpress’ 2015 mock.

Hoops Links: Warriors, Maker, Rockets, Raptors

On this date in 1990, Celtics forward Larry Bird scored his 20,000th career point in the Celtics’ 123-95 win over the Bullets at the Boston Garden.  At the time, Bird became only the fifth player in league history (along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West) to accumulate 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists in his playing career.

Got a great basketball blog post that you want to see featured on Hoops Rumors? Send it to Zach at HoopsLinks@gmail.com. Here’s this week’s look around the basketball blogosphere…

Please send submissions for Hoops Links to Zach at HoopsLinks@gmail.com.

Hoops Rumors Originals

Here’s a look at the original analysis generated by the Hoops Rumors staff this week..

Cavs Claim A.J. Price, Waive Will Cherry

6:14pm: The Cavs made it official with a press release.

4:32pm: This time, it’s Price displacing Cherry from the Cavs’ roster.  The Cavs have waived Cherry, according to Chris B. Haynes of Cleveland.com (via Twitter).

Cherry, 24 in February, appeared in eight games and played a total of 69 minutes for the Cavs this season.  In that limited time, he averaged 1.9 PPG and 1.0 APG.  Cherry signed a two-year, non-guaranteed deal for the minimum salary with Cleveland just weeks ago.

The guard averaged 12.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG while logging  25.3 minutes per contest in five games for the Cavs Summer League team in Las Vegas.  Cherry also played for the Cavs’ D-League affiliate last season, when he provided 11.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 4.5 APG in 30.4 MPG.

4:27pm: The Cavs have claimed A.J. Price off waivers, a league source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).  The guard was let go by the Pacers last week.

It’s a return to Cleveland for Price, who opened the season on the Cavs roster only to be let go within the first week of the regular season in favor of Will Cherry.  The 28-year-old performed well in his brief 10-game stint with the Pacers, averaging 10.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.0 turnover in 19.3 minutes per contest.

Even though Price played well, someone had to go in Indiana as the team’s hardship provision for a 16th roster spot had expired.  Pacers coach Frank Vogel was complimentary of Price and said that he’s deserving of an NBA roster spot somewhere.  The Excel Sports Management client has acknowledged that going overseas could be a possibility for him, but he’s undoubtedly happy to stay in the Association.

Pelicans Waive Darius Miller, Patric Young

4:50pm: The Pelicans are being aggressive in trade talks around the league and Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links) wouldn’t be surprised if there is a forthcoming move after New Orleans freed two roster spots.  He adds that many around the league expect a move to happen.

4:18pm: The Pelicans announced that they have waived Darius Miller and Patric Young.  Both players were on minimum salary deals with only partial guarantees on the first season.

Miller, a 2012 draft pick of New Orleans, was not extended his $1.15MM qualifying offer in June. However, in July, the Pelicans worked out a deal could pay him as much as $1.897MM over two years.  The first year of the deal was only guaranteed for $400K, however, while the second year was completely non-guaranteed.  Miller averaged 3.3 points in 14.6 minutes per contest over his first two seasons in New Orleans but he has played sparingly in year three.  So far this season, the small forward has seen just 43 minutes of action across five games.

Young, a former Florida standout, went undrafted in 2014 before hooking on with the Pelicans in July.  In four seasons with the Gators, the big man averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 1.1 BPG while playing 24.3 minutes per contest.

With today’s moves, New Orleans’ roster now stands at 13.

Week In Review: 11/24/14 – 11/30/14

In a forthcoming documentary, Carmelo Anthony made it clear that even though he met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs and Lakers in addition to the Knicks this summer, his final decision was between New York and Chicago.  ‘Melo’s camp concluded that they’d need to have the Knicks sign-and-trade him to Chicago for him to end up on the Bulls with a max deal and his manager says that the Bulls could only offer a $74MM deal otherwise.  More from the week that was..

And-Ones: Cavs, Knicks, Bogdanovic, Thunder

The Cavs‘ resurgence on defense started with the maturity of point guard Kyrie Irving, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. “In order for our team to win, I have to be that guy on the defensive end,” Irving said. “You can only talk about it for so long. At one point it just has to be done.” Cleveland has won its last three contests by an average of 23.3 points per game. Amico argues that with offensive threats like Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love, the team only needs to be above average defensively to sustain success.

Here’s more from around the Association:

  • The stoic approach of Knicks head coach Derek Fisher has led players to take it upon themselves to voice their concerns, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post“No excuses at this point,’’ forward Amar’e Stoudemire said. “No more moral victories. We can’t say we’re still learning. We have to start to be more students of the game. We’re a team that’s only won four games all season. I know it’s 17 games, but this can’t be acceptable.” The Knicks currently sport the fourth worst record in the Eastern Conference and rank 25th in the league on offense with 94.2 points per game.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic is adjusting to playing in the NBA and Nets coach Lionel Hollins is confident he will improve over the season, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. “Sounds like a rookie,” Hollins said. “He’s more comfortable playing in Brooklyn, more comfortable playing in front of the home crowd, and when you go on the road it’s new. Every arena he walks into his new, and it’s just part of the growing process. He’ll get better.” Bogdanovic is shooting 41.9% from the field in 14 games for the Nets this season.
  • The Thunder have assigned Grant Jerrett and Mitch McGary to their D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, according to the team’s twitter feed.  Jerrett scored three points during nine minutes in his only game for the team this season. McGary, a first round pick from the 2014 draft, has not yet seen the court for the Thunder. Both players will play Sunday for the OKC Blue.

Western Notes: Injuries, Jerrett, Johnson

The Pelicans have sustained their share of injuries this season and head coach Monty Williams is adjusting to how players are managing themselves, writes Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune.  “Times have changed,” Williams says. “The way that people view the game now is totally different than the way the game was viewed back in the day. Most injuries, when I came into the league, you didn’t talk about them. It was a sign of weakness to be in the training room.” With players taking a more cautious approach with regards to their injuries, teams could shift their strategies and start valuing depth as a more precious commodity, although that is just my speculation.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Grant Jerrett has finally made his debut for the Thunder and his teammates are ecstatic to see the second-year player getting a chance to take the court, writes Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman. “I told him yesterday after the game: ‘Man, you can’t even stop smiling, boy you so happy you hit your first NBA bucket,’” Kendrick Perkins said. “But I’m happy for Grant. He’s been working hard. You always like to see a guy like Grant get a feel for the game and play a bit.” The Thunder drafted Jerrett in the second round of the 2013 draft and signed him last April for the rest of the 2013/14 season. Oklahoma City re-signed Jerrett to a four-year, minimum salary contract this offseason.
  • Injuries have forced rookie Nick Johnson onto the court for the Rockets and the team expects him to be a contributor, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley is healing from a strained hamstring and reserve point guard Isaiah Canaan left Friday’s game with a sprained ankle. “You just have to go out and play your game,” coach Kevin McHale said. “Nick Johnson cannot become someone he is not overnight because an opportunity is there. He has to be a good Nick Johnson. He has to be able to attack the basket, make plays for others and try to get to the line.”
  • With new additions and several key players returning from injuries, it was wise not to panic when the Nuggets struggled early in the season, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “Early on in the season, I thought we were a little bit too cool, a little too laid-back coming out,” said head coach Brian Shaw. “We started out 1-6. To have an 8-8 record in November, going into December after the way we started, it just goes to show if we defend and we play this way, now our slate is clean. We have something to build on.”

Eastern Notes: Brown, Sixers, Heat, Celtics

The job of Sixers coach Brett Brown, who was brought to Philadelphia because of his specialty in player development, is to be patient, writes Tom Moore of Calkins Media. With their loss to the Mavs last night, the Sixers own a record of 0-16 this season. Moore believes Joel Embiid is the only player on the roster whom the Sixers could build a contending team around but other players on the roster, such as Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, could be productive players on a winning team.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Although the Sixers could help themselves by adding veteran players to mentor their young roster, that might not be a good idea, opines Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey argues that most of the veteran players’ main concern is winning at this point in their careers and without being close to contending for even a playoff spot, they could begin to get restless on a losing team. “That is one of the benefits of having youth,” Brown said. “They are all-in. They come with spirit and energy. They are not deflated easily. And with a senior team, a more veteran team, I would not want that.”
  • The Heat are not maximizing Luol Deng‘s abilities within the team’s offense, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Winderman cites Deng’s improved shot from three-point range as reason to involve him in the offense more frequently. Deng is shooting 40.9% from behind the arc this season, up from his career average of 33.2%.
  • The Celtics admire how the Spurs sustain success and have at least one player, Rajon Rondo, who knows how to maintain that level of play, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. “The plays they make, I’m sure Pops [head coach Gregg Popovich] don’t even have to call those plays,” Rondo said. “Once upon a time we had chemistry like that. Kevin [Garnett], Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce] and other guys, Perk [Kendrick Perkins], we had been playing together, had four or five training camps together.” Head coach Brad Stevens admitted that the Spurs have some influence on how the current Celtics team plays. “They’ve impacted some of what we do offensively, certainly,” said Stevens, referring to the Celtics playing with great spacing akin to San Antonio. “It’s a fun way to play.  And it’s fun to watch. I don’t think you can ever try and be someone else. You have to be your best you. But you can take tidbits from people.”
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