The ESPN Summer Forecast panel tabs the Thunder as the team most likely to vault in the standings this year, which is no surprise given the return of Kevin Durant and the team’s decision to match the Blazers’ offer sheet for high-scoring big man Enes Kanter . The Heat, who re-signed Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic and get Chris Bosh from his blood clot ailment, and the Jazz, who surged late last season, also appear in the top three.
There’s more on Oklahoma City amid other NBA-related news:
- The Thunder allowed a trade exception that had been worth $1.25MM to expire when they didn’t make a move by Wednesday’s deadline to use it. It was a vestige of the trade that sent Hasheem Thabeet to Philadelphia. Oklahoma City still has other trade exceptions, the largest of which is worth $2.75MM thanks to the last of this summer’s many deals involving Luke Ridnour.
- Hornets coach Steve Clifford says that he envisions Nicolas Batum having a more prominent offensive role in Charlotte than he did with the Blazers last season, as Adi Joseph of The Sporting News relays (via Twitter). Charlotte acquired Batum, 26, from the Blazers in June as part of the trade that shipped Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson to Portland.
- ESPN’s Chad Ford (Insider subscription required) released his initial mock draft for 2016, and snagging the top spot is LSU freshman small forward Ben Simmons, followed by Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere and California swingman Jaylen Brown.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.