When Paul George was on the trade market in the summer of 2017, chatter around the NBA strongly suggested that the Lakers were his preferred landing spot. In a conversation with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, George confirmed as much, admitting that he almost certainly would’ve ended up with the Lakers if the Pacers hadn’t traded him to Oklahoma City.
While George’s desire to return to his hometown certainly didn’t disappear once he joined the Thunder, he eventually fell in love with his new team and new city, resulting in the Los Angeles native deciding to sign a long-term deal with OKC this past summer instead of leaving for L.A.
“It was 50-50 on deciding whether I wanted to come back home or if it was smarter to be in the situation I am in now,” George told Spears. “But it wasn’t overstated. I wanted to play in L.A. That is where I wanted to go. Had that trade never went down, had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform.”
Before Indiana shipped George to OKC in 2017, the Lakers were believed to be involved in trade discussions with the Pacers, and would have had a strong chance to acquire the forward if they’d been willing to part with Brandon Ingram or 2017’s second overall pick (which became Lonzo Ball), per Spears. A source tells ESPN that George was disappointed that the Lakers didn’t value him enough to pull the trigger on a deal at the time.
Interestingly, Spears also reports that when George was still a Pacer, he discussed his potential future plans with LeBron James. However, George and James didn’t have any similar conversations after George was sent to the Thunder.
Having declined to even meet with the Lakers this past summer, George won’t be joining his hometown team anytime soon, but he feels good about his free agency decision, as he tells Spears.
“Going toward the summer and going toward free agency, I kind of had my mind made up talking with the team, talking with [Russell Westbrook] and talking with the front office,” George said. “I kind of felt good where we were at. Last [season], I didn’t get a chance to start with this team fresh. I got traded late. So, I picked up things late with the team. I wanted to get to it right away this time and start creating early.”
The 2018/19 NBA regular season gets underway tonight, which means it’s time to get serious about predictions for the upcoming campaign. With the help of the lines from Bovada and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, we’re running through the predicted win totals for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division, to have you weigh in on whether you think those forecasts are too optimistic or too pessimistic.
Having already looked at the other five divisions, we’re moving onto the Northwest today…
- 2017/18 record: 48-34
- Over/under for 2018/19: 50.5 wins
- Major offseason moves:
(Trade Rumors app users, click here for Jazz poll)
Oklahoma City Thunder
- 2017/18 record: 48-34
- Over/under for 2018/19: 48.5 wins
- Major offseason moves:
(Trade Rumors app users, click here for Thunder poll)
- 2017/18 record: 46-36
- Over/under for 2018/19: 48.5 wins
- Major offseason moves:
(Trade Rumors app users, click here for Nuggets poll)
Portland Trail Blazers
- 2017/18 record: 49-33
- Over/under for 2018/19: 42.5 wins
- Major offseason moves:
(Trade Rumors app users, click here for Trail Blazers poll)
- 2017/18 record: 47-35
- Over/under for 2018/19: 41.5 wins
- Major offseason moves:
(Trade Rumors app users, click here for Timberwolves poll)
Previous voting results:
- Boston Celtics (59.5 wins): Over (53.63%)
- Toronto Raptors (55.5 wins): Over (56.95%)
- Philadelphia 76ers (54.5 wins): Under (51.19%)
- Brooklyn Nets (31.5 wins): Under (56.04%)
- New York Knicks (28.5 wins): Under (54.13%)
- Houston Rockets (56.5 wins): Over (69.33%)
- New Orleans Pelicans (45.5 wins): Under (53.4%)
- San Antonio Spurs (44.5 wins): Under (60%)
- Dallas Mavericks (34.5 wins): Over (55.16%)
- Memphis Grizzlies (34.5 wins): Under (60.87%)
- Indiana Pacers (47.5 wins): Over (62.04%)
- Milwaukee Bucks (47.5 wins): Over (73.7%)
- Detroit Pistons (38.5 wins): Over (56.36%)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (30.5 wins): Over (55.42%)
- Chicago Bulls (29.5 wins): Over (61.8%)
- Golden State Warriors (62.5 wins): Over (53.45%)
- Los Angeles Lakers (48.5 wins): Over (55.2%)
- Los Angeles Clippers (36.5 wins): Under (55.7%)
- Phoenix Suns (29.5 wins): Under (53.4%)
- Sacramento Kings (25.5 wins): Under (63.87%)
- Washington Wizards (45.5 wins): Over (56.28%)
- Miami Heat (43.5 wins): Under (57.42%)
- Charlotte Hornets (35.5 wins): Over (56.73%)
- Orlando Magic (30.5 wins): Under (68.41%)
- Atlanta Hawks (23.5 wins): Under (58.38%
Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2018 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2018/19 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Standard contracts:
- Paul George: Four years, maximum salary ($136.91MM). Fourth-year player option. Re-signed using Bird rights.
- Jerami Grant: Three years, $27.35MM. Third-year player option. Re-signed using Bird rights.
- Nerlens Noel: Two years, minimum salary. Second-year player option. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Raymond Felton: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
- Two-way contracts:
- Non-guaranteed camp contracts:
- Abdul Gaddy: One year, minimum salary.
- Donte Grantham: One year, minimum salary.
- Scotty Hopson: One year, minimum salary.
- Dez Wells: One year, minimum salary.
- Bryce Alford: One year, minimum salary (waived).
- K.J. McDaniels: One year, minimum salary (waived).
- Richard Solomon: One year, minimum salary (waived).
- Acquired the draft rights to Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick) from the Hornets in exchange for the Thunder’s 2019 second-round pick and cash ($243K).
- Acquired Rodney Purvis from the Magic in exchange for Dakari Johnson and cash ($1,978,242).
- Acquired Abdel Nader and cash ($450K) from the Celtics in exchange for Rodney Purvis.
- Acquired Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in a three-way trade with the Hawks and Sixers in exchange for Carmelo Anthony (to Hawks) and the Thunder’s 2022 first-round pick (top-14 protected) (to Hawks).
- 2-45: Hamidou Diallo — Signed to three-year, minimum salary contract. First two years guaranteed. Third-year team option. Signed using taxpayer mid-level exception.
- 2-53: Devon Hall — Will play overseas.
- 2-57: Kevin Hervey — Signed to G League contract.
- Carmelo Anthony
- Corey Brewer
- Nick Collison (retired)
- P.J. Dozier (two-way)
- Daniel Hamilton (two-way)
- Josh Huestis
- Dakari Johnson
- Kyle Singler (waived)
Other offseason news:
- Andre Roberson suffered setback, expected to be out until at least December.
- Hired Bob Beyer as assistant coach to replace Adrian Griffin.
Salary cap situation:
- Remained over the cap.
- Carrying approximately $145.6MM in guaranteed salaries.
- Projected tax bill of $73.8MM.
- $4.5MM of taxpayer mid-level exception still available ($838K used on Hamidou Diallo).
Check out the Oklahoma City Thunder’s full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.
Story of the summer:
The Thunder knew that trading for Paul George a year before he hit unrestricted free agency was a huge gamble. George had already expressed his desire to return to his home state of California and play in Los Angeles, which motivated Indiana to seek the best deal it could find for the All-Star forward.
What made it an even bigger risk was that George would be joining forces with Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City had already seen a former league Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant, ditch the franchise in part because he never completely warmed up to the headstrong All-Star point guard.
The Thunder’s brass still figured it was worth a dice roll. In order to remain competitive in the Western Conference, the Thunder needed a top-shelf forward to complement Westbrook. When the calendar approached July 1st, everyone associated with the franchise held their breath. Turns out, they had nothing to worry about.
George decided weeks before the start of free agency he wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t even bother meeting with the Lakers before signing a four-year mega-deal with OKC that includes a player option in the final year of the pact.
As George explained shortly afterward, “Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. … I just wanted my free agency to be over with.”
Without George, the Thunder would have become over-reliant on Westbrook, as they did the season after Durant bolted, and struggled just to make the playoffs. With him, they remain one of the few teams that could threaten Golden State’s supremacy.
The moves pare Oklahoma City’s training camp roster to 16 players.
Gaddy saw spot duty in four preseason games. He has mostly played overseas since going undrafted out of Washington in 2013.
Grantham, Hopson and Wells were signed earlier this week. All could wind up with the team’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, once they clear waivers.
Grantham was averaging a career-best 14.2 PPG and 6.9 RPG for Clemson last season before tearing his ACL in January.
Hopson played in Turkey last season, averaging 11.1 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 27 games with Galatasaray. He played one game with the Mavericks last year after signing a 10-day contract in February and played two games for the Cavaliers in 2013/14.
Wells played in Italy last season, averaging 11.3 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 52 games with Sidigas Avellino.
Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery in his right knee on September 12, and the former NBA Most Valuable Player is still unable to participate in full-contact drills. His status for Tuesday’s season-opener against Golden State is uncertain.
“Every day for him, he feels better and better,” coach Billy Donovan said after a team practice Thursday. “I don’t want to say [if he’ll be ready for Tuesday]. I know you guys want to know that, but that’s too far out and there will be a lot of things that will go into that decision.
“There’s certain things he’ll have to go through to get himself fully cleared to play, but he’s certainly moving in the right direction and he’s worked really hard at his rehab to get himself back.”
Despite not being able to play with full contact, Westbrook has participated in portions of team practices this month. The Thunder hope he can make his return next week, but they refuse to rush the process.
“He’s been in controlled situations that the medical staff has allowed him to do,” Donovan said. “And hopefully with the way he responds physically after going through a workout, they’ll be able to add a little bit more and more.”
There’s more notes out of the Northwest Division:
- Like Westbrook, Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless may also miss his team’s season opener, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Harkless has dealt with a sore left knee, a lingering injury that stems from when he underwent surgery in March. Portland opens its season next Thursday against the Lakers.
- Jazz guard Raul Neto is slated to miss at least two more weeks of action, the team announced this week. Neto is dealing with a right hamstring injury and will be sidelined to start the regular season.
- Dennis Schroder has refocused after leaving the Hawks and is looking forward to a new season with the Thunder, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes.
The Thunder moved back to the preseason limit of 20 players today, announcing a series of signings in a press release. Veteran guard Scotty Hopson and forward Dez Wells joined the team, along with forward Donte Grantham, whose signing has been expected since late August.
Hopson played in Turkey last season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 27 games with Galatasaray. He got into one game with the Mavericks last year after signing a 10-day contract in February and played two games for the Cavaliers in 2013/14.
Wells was in Italy last season, averaging 11.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per night in 52 games with Sidigas Avellino.
OCTOBER 10: The signing is official, according to Real GM.
AUGUST 26: The Thunder are signing former Clemson forward Donte Grantham to a one-year contract, reports TigerNet.com. Terms have not yet been disclosed but it’s likely a training camp deal with little to no guaranteed money.
Before tearing his ACL in January, Grantham was averaging a career-best 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Tigers while also shooting a career-high 56.0 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
Despite injuring his knee as a senior, Grantham, 23, still became just the sixth player in Clemson history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in a career. He finished his four-year career with the Tigers starting 113 out of 114 career games and leaves as the 33rd leading scorer in program history.
Meanwhile, the Thunder already have a roster full of guaranteed salaries, so it’s likely that the team is planning on Grantham playing for the Oklahoma City Blue, its G League affiliate.
The Thunder have waived three players from their preseason roster, the team confirmed today in a press release, announcing that guard Bryce Alford, forward K.J. McDaniels, and center Richard Solomon have been released.
Although Alford, McDaniels, and Solomon joined the Thunder for training camp and the preseason, they were never considered likely to make the club’s regular season roster. However, they could end up playing in the G League for the Thunder’s affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, assuming they clear waivers.
After today’s roster moves, the Thunder now have 17 players under contract, including 14 on guaranteed salaries and two on two-way contracts.
While Oklahoma City could technically carry its current squad into the regular season, the club will likely leave its 15th roster spot open to start the season to avoid increasing its projected tax bill. Still, the team’s final non-guaranteed player – Abdul Gaddy – remains on the roster for now.
With Andre Roberson now out until at least December, the Thunder won’t rush into the free agency market to find a replacement, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Coach Billy Donovan plans to give closer evaluation to players who have either been injured or haven’t been used in prominent roles during training camp, such as Abdel Nader, Alex Abrines and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.
“That’s something [general manager] Sam [Presti] and I will probably talk about together with [assistant GM] Troy [Weaver], the three of us would,” Donovan said, “but right now having the number of players that we have on the roster for training camp, there’s enough.”
Oklahoma City has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, so a roster spot is available if the team opts for the free agent route. The Thunder are well over the luxury tax line with a team salary in excess of $145MM, but they cut their tax bill by about $20MM by waiving and stretching Kyle Singler. OKC has its entire $5.6MM taxpayer mid-level exception available.
There’s more tonight from the Northwest Division:
- Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t willing to brush aside his team’s slow starts as a product of the preseason, relays Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Minnesota’s first unit fell behind 34-22 in Wednesday’s game against the Clippers and 31-20 after one quarter Friday against the Thunder. “You can fall into a trap thinking it’s preseason, we’ll get it, we’ll get it,” Thibodeau said. “That fact of the matter is, we open in 12 days. So the urgency has to be there.” Part of the problem, of course, is that the Wolves are missing a key member of their starting five as Jimmy Butler has remained in limbo since issuing his trade request.
- Jazz forward Joe Ingles believes he’s among the league’s best shooters, relays Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. He has the statistics to back up that statement, shooting 44% from 3-point range over the past two seasons. “The numbers I’ve shot, the percentages, they obviously are what they are and people are going to dissect everything,” Ingles said, “but, I honestly feel like they’re all going to go in when I shoot the ball.”
- The Timberwolves have announced a few promotions, naming Todd Checovich as scout/GM for the G League Iowa Wolves, Nick Restifo as senior basketball operations analyst and Troy Sutton as head strength and conditioning coach.