- The Thunder and their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, will share the Paycom Center as their home arena this season, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. They are scheduled to play home games on the same day 15 times.
The John Wall situation in Houston is nothing like the problem the team dealt with a year ago when James Harden forced his way out of town, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Whereas Harden had become frustrated with the organization and did all he could to be moved, Wall is comfortable in Houston and was viewed as a “valuable ally” to first-year head coach Stephen Silas last season, according to Iko.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN conveys a similar sentiment, writing that Wall’s relationship with team management and ownership is still strong, as all parties have remained in frequent contact throughout the offseason. Rockets sources told MacMahon that the club valued Wall’s leadership during the tumultuous Harden-related drama a year ago.
“(Wall’s) been a rock for us,” one source told ESPN. “He’s been great since he got here.”
Still, with Wall preferring the opportunity to compete for the playoffs and for a championship, and the Rockets focused on carving out enough playing time for all their young players, the two sides are no longer a great match, which is why they’ve mutually agreed to try to find Wall a new home. Rockets sources told MacMahon that the franchise wants to “do right” by its veteran players, as it did last season by sending Harden and P.J. Tucker to title contenders.
Here’s more on Wall and the Rockets:
- Sam Amick and David Aldridge of The Athletic take a closer look at which teams might be potential fits for Wall and whether his contract (worth $91.7MM over the next two years) will prevent Houston from finding a taker. Neither Amick nor Aldridge could identify any obvious trade partners.
- Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype wonders if the Thunder might be the best fit for Wall, since they’re the only team that could realistically take on his $44MM+ salary without sending out a ton of salary in return. However, the Rockets reportedly don’t want to give up first-round picks to move Wall, and Oklahoma City would likely require significant draft capital to seriously consider a deal.
- In an Instagram video, Bobby Marks of ESPN runs through a few possible Wall suitors, explaining why it would be challenging for each of them to put together the $35MM+ in salaries needed to match Wall’s $44MM+ cap hit. As Marks points out, it will be even more difficult once the regular season begins and teams are only permitted to carry 15 players on standard contracts, since matching Wall’s salary may require a three- or four-for one structure, which would require Houston to waive multiple players.
The 2021/22 NBA regular season will get underway next month, so it’s time to start getting serious about predictions for the upcoming campaign and to resume an annual Hoops Rumors tradition.
With the help of the lines from a handful of sports betting sites, including Bovada and BetOnline, we’re running through the predicted win totals for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. In a series of team-by-team polls, you’ll get the chance to weigh in on whether you think those forecasts are too optimistic or too pessimistic.
In 2020/21, our voters went 17-13 on their over/under picks. Can you top that in ’21/22?
As a reminder, the NBA played a 72-game schedule in 2020/21, so a team that won 41 games last year finished with a 41-31 record. This year, a club that wins 41 games would be a .500 team (41-41). For added clarity, we’ve noted the record that each team would have to achieve to finish “over” its projected win total.
We’ll turn today to the Northwest division…
- 2020/21 record: 52-20
- Over/under for 2021/22: 52.5 wins (53-29)
- Major offseason moves:
Trade Rumors app users, click here for Jazz poll.
- 2020/21 record: 47-25
- Over/under for 2021/22: 48.5 wins (49-33)
- Major offseason moves:
Trade Rumors app users, click here for Nuggets poll.
Portland Trail Blazers
- 2020/21 record: 42-30
- Over/under for 2021/22: 44.5 wins (45-37)
- Major offseason moves:
Trade Rumors app users, click here for Trail Blazers poll.
- 2020/21 record: 23-49
- Over/under for 2021/22: 34.5 wins (35-47)
- Major offseason moves:
Trade Rumors app users, click here for Timberwolves poll.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- 2020/21 record: 22-50
- Over/under for 2021/22: 23.5 wins (24-58)
- Major offseason moves:
Trade Rumors app users, click here for Thunder poll.
Previous voting results:
- Brooklyn Nets (55.5 wins): Over (63.2%)
- Philadelphia 76ers (51.5 wins): Under (70.0%)
- Boston Celtics (46.5 wins): Over (58.1%)
- New York Knicks (42.5 wins): Over (65.1%)
- Toronto Raptors (36.5 wins): Under (50.6%)
Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell played through an ankle injury during Utah’s two-round 2021 postseason run. In a new conversation with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Mitchell has indicated that the injury is healing nicely.
“The ankle feels good,” Mitchell said. “I’ll be ready to go. I think last year definitely was shaky. There were just so many different obstacles with the ankle and whatnot, but — like I said — no slight to Phoenix or Milwaukee or the Clippers, you know, (but) I feel like if we were healthy, you know, we… get to the Finals.”
The Jazz fell 4-2 to the Clippers in the second round of the Western Conference Finals. The Clippers were missing their best player, Kawhi Leonard, for the final three contests of the series, while Utah’s starting guards – Mitchell and Mike Conley – were coming off injuries of their own.
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Guard Vasilije Micić revealed in a podcast interview with Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews that he was tendered a strong offer to join the Thunder for the 2021/22 season, but ultimately decided to remain in Europe, with the Turkish club Anadolu Efes. Micić cited a few factors behind his decision. A big one was that he wanted to be able to play in the Olympic qualifying games for Serbia in July and wouldn’t be able to sign Oklahoma City until August, so he didn’t want to risk an injury while he was still unsigned. Micić, a draft-and-stash prospect, was named the EuroLeague MVP while helping Anadolu Efes win the 2021 EuroLeague title.
- Thunder guard Vit Krejci will resume five-on-five workouts this week, reports Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The 21-year-old Krejci, selected with the No. 37 pick and flipped to the Thunder on draft night, tore his ACL in September 2020. He recently signed his first NBA contract.
- As chatter grows surrounding a potential Timberwolves deal for Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic unpacks what a deal could look like, as well as how likely it looks that a deal could happen between these particular franchises, with Minnesota apparently uninterested in including their two most valuable players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Krawczynski notes that a trade appears unlikely before the start of training camp, and that Sixers team president Daryl Morey will do his darnedest to drum up more interest in Simmons around the league. If the market for Simmons remains relatively apathetic, Krawczynski opines that the Timberwolves have a chance to add him.
After opening up one of their two-way contract slots by waiving Josh Hall, the Thunder have filled that opening by signing Paul Watson to a two-way deal, reports Kelsea O’Brien of BasketballNews.com (Twitter link).
Watson, 26, made his NBA debut with Atlanta, but spent most of the last two seasons with the Raptors, having signed a two-way contract with Toronto in January of 2020. The former Fresno State standout had that deal converted to a standard contract for the 2020/21 season, then was released last month before his ’21/22 salary became guaranteed.
During his time with Toronto, the 6’6″ swingman appeared in 35 games, averaging 4.1 PPG and 1.7 RPG on .475/.466/.706 shooting in 10.5 minutes per contest. He spent most of his time in 2019/20 with the Raptors 905 in the G League, putting up an impressive 19.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 1.9 APG on .495/.423/.648 shooting in 30 NBAGL games (35.3 MPG).
Watson and Aaron Wiggins are now Oklahoma City’s two-way players. The team has 18 players under contract, including 13 on guaranteed salaries and three on non-guaranteed deals, leaving a pair of openings on the 20-man training camp roster.
Hall, 20, signed with the Thunder after going unselected in the 2020 NBA Draft. He appeared in 21 games with the team, averaging 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 16 minutes per contest.
Oklahoma City tendered Hall a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent last month. He ultimately signed the offer, returning to the team on a two-way deal that contained a $50K guarantee.
League rules allow teams to carry 20 players entering training camps, meaning the Thunder now have one two-way spot and two camp spots available to use. The team held the second-worst record in the Western Conference last year at 22-50.
- The contract that Vit Krejci signed with the Thunder is a four-year deal, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Krejci’s first-year salary of $925,258 is guaranteed. The second year salary of $1,563,518 includes a partial guarantee of $781,759, while his $1,836,096 third-season salary is non-guaranteed. The final year of the deal is a team option at $1,988,598. The draft-and-stash wing was selected in the second round of the 2020 draft and acquired in a draft-night deal with Washington.
- Thunder first-round pick Josh Giddey is already a big star in his native Australia, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman details. In Melbourne, Australia, his fans snapped up Thunder merchandise after he was drafted, his mother Kim Giddey said. “As soon as the draft ended they all went out to buy Oklahoma merchandise,” she said. “It sold out.”
- Argentinian forward Gabriel Deck faces an uncertain future with the Thunder, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. He’s set to make $3.67MM this season, but the team hasn’t stated how much he’s guaranteed or how the contract is structured. There are two more years on the deal he signed in April, but they are both non-guaranteed. There were rumors last month that the 26-year-old was considering a return to Spain. He averaged 8.4 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 10 games last season.
- The Thunder will have plenty of bench players who are worthy of a spot in the rotation, and Brandon Rahbar of Daily Thunder tries to sort out the hierarchy of which ones should get playing time.
As the Thunder‘s roster has undergone a teardown in recent years, one of the most surprising constants has been big man Mike Muscala, who has spent the last two seasons in Oklahoma City. On the surface, a veteran role player like Muscala seems like an odd fit for a team in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild, but he said during his end-of-season interview in May that his time with the franchise has helped him “a lot as a man and as a player.”
As Paris Lawson of OKCThunder.com writes, the Thunder appreciate Muscala’s dedication to the team and rewarded him this offseason with a two-year, $7MM deal that’s fully guaranteed for the 2021/22 season.
“I am tremendously grateful and very moved by the way he feels about the team and the organization,” executive VP of basketball operations Sam Presti said. “I think he really connects with the vision that we have for what we stand for and how we try to operate on a day-to-day basis. We’re not trying to be all things to all people, but there are going to be people that really thrive in this environment and enjoy it, and those are also the people that really help make it what it is.”
Here’s more on the Thunder:
- Zach Harper of The Athletic was underwhelmed by the Thunder’s offseason moves, giving the team a C-minus grade for the summer. Harper questioned the decision to draft Josh Giddey at No. 6 when prospects like Jonathan Kuminga, James Bouknight, and Davion Mitchell were still on the board.
- In his latest mailbag, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman identifies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort as the only Thunder players who are guaranteed to be in the starting five on opening night (health permitting). Mussatto also discussed Gabriel Deck‘s status and Isaiah Roby‘s potential, among other topics.
- In case you missed it, the Thunder have signed 2020 second-rounder Vit Krejci. Assuming Krejci received a guaranteed salary for 2021/22, Oklahoma City now has 13 players on guaranteed contracts, three on non-guaranteed deals, and a pair on two-way pacts, leaving two openings on the 20-man offseason roster.
A 6’7″ point guard from the Czech Republic, Krejci was selected by Washington with the 37th overall pick in the 2020 draft and was sent to Oklahoma City in a draft-night deal. After spending the last several seasons with Zaragoza in Spain, Krejci came stateside earlier this year to join the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G League affiliate. He spent the season rehabbing an ACL injury and didn’t play at all for the Blue.
Prior to signing Krejci, the Thunder were carrying 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts, with Kenrich Williams, Gabriel Deck, and Charlie Brown on non-guaranteed deals. Williams is a safe bet to stick around, so Krejci will likely claim one of the last two spots on the 15-man regular season roster over either Brown or Deck.
The expectation is that Krejci will once again spend most of his time in the G League in 2021/22, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).
Details of the 21-year-old’s new contract aren’t yet known, but the Thunder could have used a portion of their mid-level exception to offer a three- or four-year deal with a starting salary above the rookie minimum.