- While 25 players around the NBA have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since June 23, there have been no positive tests among Thunder players and staff members, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman reports. All players have returned to Oklahoma City for mandatory individual workouts and the team will fly to Orlando next week.
- Thunder forward Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game in two-and-a-half years, has been participating in individual workouts at the club’s practice facility, head coach Billy Donovan told reporters on Wednesday (link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Roberson’s availability for the restart will be determined after the team sees him in action in five-on-five workouts.
- Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the company that owns the naming rights for the Thunder‘s arena, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, as Royce Young of ESPN writes. Chesapeake’s agreement with the Thunder runs through the 2022/23 season — it’s not clear how that deal will be affected by the company’s bankruptcy.
The Trail Blazers have the highest luxury tax bill at $5.9MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Team salaries are now frozen after the one-week transactions period that closed late Tuesday. The Heat ($2.9MM), Thunder ($2.5MM) and Timberwolves ($582K) are also over the luxury tax line but the projected $11.9MM total is the lowest since the luxury tax was introduced in 2002/03, Marks notes.
We have more from around the basketball world:
- Former Warriors scout Chris Thomas will become the head coach of Ukrainian club MBC Mykolaiv, according to a team press release (hat tip to Uros Vezonic of Sportando). Thomas, who also worked for the Bulls and Jazz organizations, coached Bambitious Nara in the Japanese B League last season.
- Luis Scola has officially signed with Italy’s Pallacanestro Varese, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The 40-year-old former NBA forward left Olimpia Milano last month. The Argentinian hopes to end his career at the Olympics next summer.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo belongs on the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team, according to a coaches poll conducted by The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins. The duo polled 33 head and assistant coaches under the condition of anonymity. Rudy Gobert, Marcus Smart, Kawhi Leonard and Ben Simmons rounded out the First Team selections.
The Thunder are slated to return to NBA action on August 1 against the Jazz in the NBA’s Orlando bubble restart, and that date will be an opportunity for OKC to reassert itself as a top defensive squad, per Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com.
Throughout their first 64 games in 2019/20, the Thunder ranked among the league’s upper third across several defensive categories, Gallo goes on to observe. These impressive top-10 rankings included slotting first in opponent fast-break points (10.5 per game), first in opponent free throw attempts (18.6 per game), sixth in three-point defense (34.4% allowed) and ninth in defensive rating (108.4 points per 100 possessions). At 40-24, the Thunder are currently the No. 5 seed in the crowded West.
The starriest new Thunder acquisition for the 2019/20 season, All-Star point guard Chris Paul, observed that the team’s strength is not just predicated on their athletic prowess. “You can’t just have the athleticism,” Paul said. “You can be as tall as you want to and all that stuff but guys that know how to play are going to manipulate the game on you so the only way you can get that knowledge is to study it and watch games.”
JUNE 28: Hall has been added to the roster as a substitute player, filling one of the Thunder’s 17 roster spots for the summer, the team announced in a press release.
JUNE 25: Having promoted Luguentz Dort to their 15-man roster, the Thunder intend to sign guard Devon Hall to fill their newly-opened two-way contract slot, reports Erik Horne of The Athletic (via Twitter).
Hall, who was on a two-way deal with the Thunder early in the 2019/20 season, was waived back in December, but remained with the team’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. In 30 total NBAGL games (31.4 MPG) this season, he averaged 15.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 4.1 APG on .455/.360/.860 shooting.
Typically, teams aren’t allowed to sign players to two-way contracts any later than January 15. However, given the unusual circumstances surrounding the interrupted 2019/20 season and the NBA’s return-to-play plan, the league is permitting the 22 clubs going to Orlando this summer to fill both of their two-way contract slots this summer for depth purposes.
Hall’s familiarity with the organization makes him a good fit as an insurance policy for the Thunder, who will be able to sign him anytime after noon on Saturday. He’ll get a rest-of-season two-way deal and will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
The Pelicans and rookie star Zion Williamson will face the Jazz on July 30 at 6:30 p.m. ET in the first game of the NBA’s restart, the league announced on Friday.
There will be 88 “seeding” games from July 30 to August 14 prior to the postseason.
The Clippers will square off against the Lakers in the second game on July 30 at 9 p.m. ET. The first two games will be broadcast by TNT.
It will get very busy the next day with six games scheduled, highlighted by Celtics vs. Bucks and Rockets vs. Mavericks. There will be a maximum of seven games per day, with start times ranging from 12-9 p.m.
At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the highest combined winning percentages across regular-season games and seeding games will be the first through seventh seeds for the conference playoffs. If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular-season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best winning percentage would be the No. 8 seed.
If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the No. 8 playoff seed in the conference. The play-in tournament will be double elimination for the eighth-place team and single elimination for the ninth-place team.
Much of the intrigue regarding the seeding games concerns the final Western Conference spot. The Grizzlies, currently eighth, hold a 3 1/2-game lead over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings, a four-game lead over the Spurs and a six-game advantage on the Suns.
Memphis will face the Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics and Bucks during the seeding round. Among the Grizzlies’ pursuers, the Pelicans appear to have the weakest schedule. After opening against the Jazz, they’ll face the Clippers, Grizzlies, Kings (twice), Wizards, Spurs and Magic.
The Nets and Magic need only to hold off the Wizards in the East to claim the final two spots in their conference. Washington trails Brooklyn by six games and Orlando by 5 1/2 games.
Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.
However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.
The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:
- October 6
- Nicolas Batum, Hornets ($27,130,434)
- October 9
- Mike Conley, Jazz ($34,502,132)
- October 11
- October 13
- DeMar DeRozan, Spurs ($27,739,975)
- Note: This deadline would be moved to seven days after the Spurs’ last game if they don’t make the playoffs.
- DeMar DeRozan, Spurs ($27,739,975)
- October 14
- October 15
The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.
7:08pm: The Thunder have locked up Dort to a four-year, $5.4MM deal, per Royce Young of ESPN (Twitter link). The first year is the remainder of the current season, prorated at $155,647. The 2020/21 season is fully guaranteed, while the last two years of the deal have partial guarantees, says Young.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) notes that the Thunder will now pay $2.4MM in luxury tax penalties, up from $2MM before the Dort deal.
Dort, 21, emerged as a crucial part of Oklahoma City’s rotation in January, starting each of the team’s last 21 games before the season was suspended — the Thunder went 16-5 in those contests.
For the season, the former Arizona State swingman has averaged 6.2 PPG and 1.9 RPG on .414/.301/.778 shooting in 29 games (22.0 MPG). Those shooting numbers increased to .430/.357/.870 following his promotion to the starting lineup.
While the NBA has loosened its restrictions on two-way players participating in the postseason for this summer, completing a standard contract this week seemed like the logical outcome for Dort and the Thunder. The team had an open spot on its 15-man roster and will now no longer have to compete with rival suitors to re-sign the young wing in restricted free agency this fall.
Moving Dort to the 15-man squad will also allow the Thunder to sign a two-way player to replace him, as of Saturday. That player would become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, but could provide insurance for OKC in Orlando this summer in the event of an injury, a positive COVID-19 test, or another development that compromises the team’s depth.
Details of Dort’s new contract aren’t yet known, but the Thunder still have a good portion of their taxpayer mid-level exception left. They’d be able to offer well above the minimum and could lock up Dort for up to two additional seasons beyond 2019/20.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pistons have officially hired Thunder executive Troy Weaver as their new general manager, announcing the move today in a press release.
The club confirmed in the announcement that Weaver will be formally introduced in a video press conference next week. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported that the two sides were finalizing an agreement, says that Weaver’s deal will be for four years (Twitter links).
“Troy is an outstanding executive with an exceptional track record for identifying and developing talent,” team owner Tom Gores said in a statement. “In talking with Troy, he’s got both the skill and temperament to lead, and the confidence and creativity to work collaboratively with others. We’re excited for him to take the reins as General Manager of the Pistons at this important moment. Ed and the team have done excellent work creating flexibility with our roster and establishing a clear direction. Troy comes aboard to help take us to the next level.”
Weaver, who had been with the Thunder for more than a decade following a stint with the Jazz, most recently held the title of vice president of basketball operations after previously serving as the team’s VP/assistant GM. He was Sam Presti‘s top lieutenant in Oklahoma City and had been a candidate for other top basketball operations jobs around the NBA in recent years.
Weaver was reportedly in the running for the Wizards’ general manager opening a year ago before the team decided to remain in-house, promoting Tommy Sheppard. Weaver also received interest from the Bulls this spring, but reportedly turned down a second interview because he had heard Chicago was zeroing in on Arturas Karnisovas.
We heard way back in May of 2018 that the Pistons were interested in pursuing Weaver, though nothing came of it at the time — the club instead hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor, making him the de facto head of basketball operations. Now, Weaver is on track to work alongside Stefanski in Detroit’s front office.
There has been speculation that Stefanski could eventually shift to a background role with the franchise, which could put Weaver in line to assume control of the basketball operations department. For now, the expectation is that Weaver will work closely with Stefanski and head coach Dwane Casey on personnel matters, with Stefanski retaining final say.
The Pistons’ GM search also saw the team seriously consider Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes and Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson, though Weaver was viewed as the organization’s top choice. His “strong history of personnel decisions” helped win him the job, according to Wojnarowski, who notes that Weaver becomes the fourth Thunder executive under Presti to leave Oklahoma City for a GM job with another club — Rich Cho, Rob Hennigan, and Michael Winger also did so.
Having recently lost assistant GM Malik Rose to the NBA’s league office, the Pistons may still make one or two more additions to their front office. Nets director of player personnel J.R. Holden and Warriors assistant GM Mike Dunleavy were rumored to be on the club’s radar for non-GM roles.