- Darius Miller expects to be fully recovered from his Achilles injury by the start of the season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “I’m feeling pretty good,” Miller said. “Unfortunately with COVID I haven’t had a chance to play a lot, but the team’s working with me, and they’ve got me going at a pretty good pace.” Miller, who was on the Pelicans‘ roster, missed all of last season due to the injury. He was dealt to the Thunder in the four-team deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans.
The Thunder are adjusting their backcourt depth, essentially exchanging one 6’5″ shooting guard for another. The club has signed Melvin Frazier Jr. and waived Antonius Cleveland, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
Frazier was drafted by the Magic with the No. 35 pick out of Tulane in the 2018 NBA draft, but appeared in just 29 games across two seasons with Orlando, averaging 5.9 MPG.
In two seasons with the Magic’s G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, Frazier played 41 games (all starts), averaging a solid slash line of 15.5 PPG/5.8 APG/1.9 SPG/1.9 APG, while shooting 48.7% from the field. The club declined his $1.66MM player option for 2020/21 earlier in this offseason.
Oklahoma City had just added Cleveland to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to join the club’s training camp roster. Cleveland was a two-way player for the Mavericks for the 2019/20 season, and saw limited NBA action in 11 games with Dallas.
In 36 games for the Mavericks’ G League affiliate, the Texas Legends, Cleveland averaged 14.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.6 SPG. After going undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State in 2017, Cleveland split the 2017/18 season between the Hawks and Mavericks. He spent the 2018/19 season with Golden State’s G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors.
The Thunder are among the teams that figure to turn over their back-end roster spots in the coming days and weeks with an aim toward securing players’ G League rights and/or ensuring that they receive $50K bonuses if they play in the G League.
Cleveland, 26, spent the 2019/20 league year on a two-way contract with the Mavericks. He wasn’t great in his limited action for Dallas, racking up nearly as many fouls (8) as points (11) in 46 total minutes across 11 games.
However, Cleveland was a full-time starter for the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ G League affiliate. In 36 NBAGL contests, he averaged 14.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.6 SPG.
By our count, Oklahoma City now has 19 players under contract, though a number of the team’s reported deals – including a trade for Al Horford and agreements with five free agents – aren’t yet official, so many moves are yet to come.
Cheatham was among five players Oklahoma City received in the deal that sent Steven Adams to New Orleans. The Bucks and Nuggets were also involved in the trade.
Because Cheatham was a free agent, there had to be a sign-and-trade to include him in the deal. He will receive his $1.4MM salary for this season, but not the non-guaranteed money he had scheduled for 2021/22 and 2022/23.
The 25-year-old forward signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans prior to the NBA’s restart in Orlando. He appeared in three games, averaging 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in about 13 minutes per night.
On Tuesday, OKC waived guard Josh Gray, who was also part of the four-team trade. Mussatto notes that Cheatham and Gray became expendable after the Thunder reached a deal with Frank Jackson and acquired T.J. Leaf.
The Thunder have reached an agreement to sign free agent guard Chasson Randle, league sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Terms of the deal haven’t been reported, but a training camp contract seems likely.
Randle, who made his NBA debut in 2017, has appeared in 78 total games since then for the Sixers, Knicks, Wizards, and Warriors, averaging 5.3 PPG and 1.7 APG in 13.9 minutes per contest. He was on a 10-day contract with Golden State in March when the season was suspended.
The Thunder have had perhaps the most eventful offseason in the NBA in terms of roster moves, and a handful of those reported transactions still aren’t complete. For now, the team has 19 players on its roster, which would seemingly leave a single opening for Randle. However, reported agreements with Frank Jackson, Omer Yurtseven, Moses Brown, and Josh Hall will also need to be finalized at some point too.
The Thunder announced this week that “concerning trends” in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Oklahoma have prompted the team to open the 2020/21 season without fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation over the coming weeks to determine when fans will be able to attend our games,” the team said in its statement.
It’s a reversal of course for the franchise — the Thunder had initially planned for a limited number of fans to be in attendance at their home games, as Royce Young of ESPN writes. However, the team determined in recent weeks that even significantly reducing the capacity of Chesapeake Energy Arena may not be satisfactory to address health and safety concerns.
Here’s more on the Thunder:
- In a Q&A with Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti explained why he felt the time was right to fully launch the club’s rebuild this offseason. “When you step back and take a clear-eyed, rational view of the season we had last year, and all of the randomness that occurred in our favor, the loss of future value we would be relinquishing for a small probability of replicating those performances, it was clear that the most objective path was to prioritize the future,” Presti said.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s role as a centerpiece of the Thunder’s rebuild has been unaffected by the significant roster overhaul in Oklahoma City this fall. “We’re putting a lot in faith in him and showing him he’s a central figure to a lot of things we ultimately want to be,” Presti said (Twitter link via Young).
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman says that, while he “despises” tanking, he understands why going that route is the best way forward for the Thunder.
- In case you missed it, the Thunder have officially signed No. 17 pick Aleksej Pokusevski to his rookie contract, as we detailed earlier this morning.
Pokusevski, one of the top international prospects in the 2020 draft class, was frequently connected to Oklahoma City in the weeks leading up to November 18, in part because his agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office. Sure enough, on draft night, the Thunder moved up from No. 25 to No. 17 in a trade with the Timberwolves to snag Pokusevski.
[RELATED: 2020 NBA Draft Pick Signings]
The 6’11” forward, who doesn’t turn 19 until later this month, had reportedly been under contract with Olympiacos Piraeus through 2024. He’ll have to pay a buyout to his old team in Greece, though the Thunder will be able to pick up a significant chunk of that buyout.
Assuming he signs for 120% of the rookie scale amount, as nearly every first-round pick does, Pokusevski will earn $2.96MM as a rookie. His four-year contract, which includes third- and fourth-year team options, will have an overall value of $14.35MM.
The 27-year-old Gray played in five games for the Suns during the 2017/18 season. He had a two-game cameo with the Pelicans during 2019/20. Across 15.6 MPG with those clubs, Gray has averaged a cumulative 4.9 PPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 RPG and 1.14 SPG.
In addition to significant draft pick compensation, Oklahoma City added Gray, George Hill, Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams, and Zylan Cheatham to their roster in the Adams deal. Along with Gray, Williams and Cheatham had to be thrown into the deal for salary-matching purposes, so it would not be a surprise if the team announces that it will be cutting one or both of them soon.
For the money to align in the Adams deal, Gray inked a three-year contract with the Pelicans ahead of the move. The contract was non-guaranteed in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.
The Thunder have yet to announce their final training camp roster, unlike many other teams, since a number of their roster moves aren’t yet official.
The Pelicans won’t be choosing between Lonzo Ball and recently-acquired Eric Bledsoe as their starting point guard, according to executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. New Orleans’ top executive envisions that they’ll form the starting backcourt, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. The Pelicans had a similar setup last season, when Ball and Jrue Holiday shared ballhandling duties. The Pelicans acquired Bledsoe from the Bucks and center Steven Adams from the Thunder, along with draft picks, in a four-team deal that sent Holiday to Milwaukee.
New head coach Stan Van Gundy said that Griffin has prioritized toughness and competitiveness at a very high level, and Bledsoe and Adams fit that mold, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune tweets.
Griffin and Van Gundy dropped some interesting tidbits during their Monday press conference:
- Griffin had pursued Adams for a very long time, according to Kushner (Twitter link). Griffin was impressed with Adams since meeting him prior to the 2013 draft. Adams, who was selected with the No. 12 pick that year, received a two-year, $35MM extension as part of the four-team deal.
- The front office wanted to do right by Holiday by trading him to a title contender, Lopez notes (Twitter link). Griffin said Holiday’s career timeline to compete for a championship differed somewhat from the Pelicans’ timeline.
- Brandon Ingram‘s five-year contract doesn’t include a player option, Lopez adds in another tweet, but there is a trade bonus. Ingram officially signed the $158.25MM contract on Monday.
- Zion Williamson will not have any restrictions heading into training camp, according to Van Gundy. The coach anticipates the early days of camp will look different because they haven’t played as much pickup due to COVID-19 restrictions and a short offseason (Twitter link).
- The team’s disappointing showing in the Orlando restart convinced Griffin the team needed more “elite competitors” and didn’t have “enough of a work ethic identity,” Kushner relays (Twitter link).