Patrick Patterson

Thunder Increasing Efforts To Shed Salary

The Thunder have increased their efforts to reduce team salary for the 2019/20 season, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). According to Fischer, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and Andre Roberson are all “very available,” as is the No. 21 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

After being on the hook for a league-high luxury tax bill in 2018/19 (reportedly $61.6MM), the Thunder project to be well over the tax line again next season. Currently, the team has committed approximately $144.5MM in guaranteed money to nine players for ’19/20, per Basketball Insiders. The tax threshold is projected to come in at about $132MM.

As I pointed out when I previewed the Thunder’s offseason, team ownership may not be on board with paying another big tax bill for a roster that has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive years.

Attaching the No. 21 pick to the expiring contracts of Roberson ($10.7MM) and/or Patrick Patterson ($5.7MM) would be one way to shed salary. Moving a key rotation player like Adams ($25.8MM) or Schroder ($15.5MM) – both of whom have two years left on their deals – would represent a more drastic cost-cutting measure.

Head of basketball operations Sam Presti has some experience finding creative ways to trim team salary without sacrificing Oklahoma City’s on-court upside. Last summer, he moved Carmelo Anthony‘s $27MM expiring salary for Schroder, substantially reducing the Thunder’s projected tax bill while securing a veteran in Schroder who would play a more significant role than Anthony.

We’ll have to wait to see whether Presti has a mandate to reduce team salary again this summer, and if he can figure out another creative way to do so.

Western Notes: Cousins, Cook, Valanciunas, OKC

While Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been the most-discussed free-agents-to-be on the Warriors‘ roster all season long, a handful of the club’s other players who are headed for the open market are seeing their stocks impacted by what they’re showing in the postseason.

As Marc Berman of The New York Post writes, DeMarcus Cousins is one of those players. When he tore his quad in the first round of the playoffs, he seemed unlikely to return into the fall, raising uncertainty about what sort of offers he could expect in free agency. However, Cousins helped key the Warriors’ Game 2 win on Sunday, and is now in position to take on an even more crucial role with Kevon Looney sidelined for the rest of the NBA Finals. Cousins could be earning himself some extra money with each game he plays this series.

Meanwhile, one of the Warriors’ most reliable contributors off the bench in Game 2 was Quinn Cook, who played 21 minutes and knocked down three big 3-pointers to help hold off the Raptors. After the game, Draymond Green referred to Cook as “our Patty Mills,” adding that the young guard “should be here for a long time” (Twitter link via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated).

The Warriors will have to decide in a few weeks how strongly they agree with Green, as Cook will be up for restricted free agency. Even if Golden State issues a qualifying offer to gain the right of first refusal on Cook, a rival suitor could swoop in with an offer sheet that the Warriors may be reluctant to match, given the luxury-tax implications.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Jonas Valanciunas once again stated this week that the Grizzlies‘ head coaching decision will play a part in his decision on his $17.6MM player option for 2019/20, as Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas relays (via Twitter). “Deeper into the summer, we’ll have a better picture [of] who’s staying and what are the team’s plans,” Valanciunas said. “First, I want to see who’s the head coach. It’s gonna be a huge factor.”
  • With Darko Rajakovic prepared to head to Phoenix, the Thunder will have three openings to fill on Billy Donovan‘s staff, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Mark Bryant and Bob Beyer also accepted jobs with new teams.
  • Brett Dawson of The Athletic explores Patrick Patterson‘s outlook as the Thunder forward prepares to enter a contract year. Despite two up-and-down years in Oklahoma City and the possibility that he’ll be on the trade block, Patterson could be a rotation player if he returns, Dawson writes.
  • The Nuggets worked out six prospects at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday, bringing in Javon Bess (Saint Louis), Kavell Bigby-Williams (LSU), Jordan Davis (Northern Colorado), Justin James (Wyoming), Tanor Ngom (Ryerson), and Josh Reaves (Penn State), per a team release.

Patrick Patterson Opts In For Next Season

Thunder power forward Patrick Patterson has decided to exercise his $5,711,200 player option for next season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Patterson’s decision comes as no surprise, since he was highly unlikely to get a better offer on the open market. The 30-year-old Patterson averaged 3.6 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 13.7 MPG over 63 games, including five starts. He appeared in all 82 regular-season games the previous season with Oklahoma City, posting averages of 3.9 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 15.5 MPG.

Patterson lost his rotation spot in mid-February and did not appear in the opening-round series against Portland.

His decision will cost the Thunder far more than his salary. Oklahoma City is already over the luxury-tax threshold and Patterson’s salary will give it approximately $143.5MM in guaranteed commitments to just nine players, unless the Thunder are able to move some salaries in trades.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Tolliver, Jensen

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has been sidelined with a left popliteus strain since March 16, but has ramped up his on-court work as he nears a potential return, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. McCollum still wasn’t ready to commit to a specific return date, but sounded optimistic that he won’t be on the shelf for much longer.

“I think, having did some stuff today, I’m going to see how my body reacts, try to get through this week, see where I’m at and kind of go from there,” McCollum said on Wednesday. “When I first got hurt there were some dates that I kind of circled and I’m getting close to them, so I’ll see how I feel. But the biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m symptom-free, make sure I don’t have any lingering issues before I step back on the court.”

With four games left in the season, Portland has a two-game cushion on Utah for the No. 4 seed. The Blazers will finish their season against the Nuggets (twice), the Lakers, and the Kings as they look to secure home court advantage for the first round — it remains to be seen whether McCollum will be able to get back for any of those games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers recorded their 50th win on Wednesday night, which means that injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially earned a $1.25MM bonus. As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details, Portland is now on the hook for another $2.19MM in tax costs, though that number will decrease a little when Maurice Harkless fails to shoot 35% on threes. Nurkic’s cap hit for 2019/20 will rise from $12MM to $13.25MM, since that 50-win bonus is now considered “likely” for next season.
  • When the Timberwolves faced the Mavericks last night, Anthony Tolliver could have been playing against the Wolves rather than for them, notes Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that he thinks Minnesota should have accepted Dallas’ trade offer of J.J. Barea and a second-round pick. Wolfson has previously reported that the Thunder and Raptors offered second-round picks attached to Patrick Patterson and C.J. Miles, respectively, for Tolliver, but those deals would’ve taken the Wolves into the tax.
  • In a discussion at The Athletic, Britt Robson and Jon Krawczynski look ahead to the Timberwolves’ offseason, examining the return from the Jimmy Butler trade, Ryan Saunders‘ future, and much more.
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen interviewed for the head coaching position at BYU this week, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) first identified Jensen as a potential frontrunner for BYU.

Western Notes: Smith Jr., Parsons, Saric, Patterson

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is trying to put a damper on speculation that Dennis Smith Jr. will be dealt. Carlisle said that Smith and rookie sensation Luka Doncic form a ball-handling duo that can coexist and put steady pressure on opposing defenses, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. “We have two point guards out there. Let’s quit looking at it as Dennis is getting relegated to playing off the ball,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got two point guards out there, which is a great advantage, and we’ve just got to take advantage of that and create a balance and cause problems for teams.” A report surfaced earlier this week that Dallas was gauging the market for the second-year guard.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Chandler Parsons has been medically cleared to play and has participated in four 5-on-5 scrimmages but it’s uncertain when the Grizzlies will begin using him again, according to David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Parsons, who has been battling knee soreness since being sidelined in late October, has yet to be activated. “He is dying to play,” Parsons’ agent, James Dunleavy, told Cobb. Parsons is making $24.1MM this season and another $25.1MM next season before his contract expires.
  • The duo of Taj Gibson and Dario Saric has provided a comfort level to Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. They have shared the spot since Saric was acquired from the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler deal. “Taj is playing unbelievable, and so is Dario,” Thibodeau told Hine. Gibson, who is making $14MM, will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
  • The backup power forward spot has been problematic for the Thunder, according to an Oklahoman report. Jerami Grant is averaging 12.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG as the starter but there’s a dropoff when he needs a rest. Patrick Patterson, the most likely candidate, has seen his minutes decline. He’s averaging just 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG. Patterson holds a $5.7MM option on his contract for next season.

Thunder Notes: Westbrook, George, Grant, Patterson

The Thunder remain the only winless team in the Western Conference but Russell Westbrook said it’s far too early to push the panic button, Royce Young of ESPN reports. Oklahoma City is 0-4 after blowing a 16-point halftime lead against the Celtics on Thursday. Westbrook had a brutal fourth quarter, missing all seven of his shots while making three turnovers. “We’re OK. We’ll be all right,” Westbrook said. “It’s early. I’m confident in my guys in this locker room, I’m confident in myself and my abilities to make sure that we have an opportunity to win a ballgame. There’s no need to panic. Obviously we’re not starting the way we wanted to, but we’ll be OK and I will make sure of that. So, not worried.”

We have more from Oklahoma City:

  • While Westbrook rubs some people the wrong way, he was an integral reason why Paul George decided to stay instead of joining one of the Los Angeles teams in free agency. “A lot of it was I liked our chemistry,” George told Young in a detailed piece on OKC’s year-long recruitment of George. “I liked what he brings to the table, I liked his competitiveness and I loved him as a teammate, as a friend, as a brother, as a dude in the locker room. He had a lot to do with me coming back here.”
  • Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson continue to share starting duties at the power forward spot, Thunder digital reporter Nick Gallo relays. Grant got the nod against Boston because coach Billy Donovan wanted to play a smaller, quicker unit. Against a more rugged frontcourt, Donovan will go with Patterson. “For us, it’s going to be game-to-game in terms of the roster and having a plan of how to utilize those guys,” Donovan said.
  • What can the Thunder do to fix their issues? Erik Horne of The Oklahoman takes a closer look.
  • The Thunder have until the end of the month to decide whether to pick up the rookie scale options on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Terrance Ferguson. Find out more here.

Thunder Notes: Westbrook, Roberson, Patterson, Grant

The Thunder’s starting backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson should be back early in the season, GM Sam Presti told Erik Horne of The Oklahoman and other media members during a Thursday press conference. Roberson, who suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee in January, will be a non-contact participant at the start of the preseason. There is no timetable when Roberson will get back to contact, Horne continues. Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week and is expected to be re-evaluated in three weeks, Horne adds. “It was a pretty minor thing he had to have done. And he’ll be back,” Presti said.

We have more on the Thunder:

  • Presti deferred questions regarding who will replace Carmelo Anthony at power forward to coach Billy Donovan, Horne relays in the same story. Patrick Patterson and Jerami Grant are the top candidates. “We have to let Billy make those decisions,” Presti said. “He’s in charge of what happens once the ball is tipped up and once we are competing.”
  • Presti admitted the team would love to have more 3-point shooting, Royce Young of ESPN.com tweets. Paul George is the only sure-fire member of the starting five who is an above-average 3-point shooter. The top way to solve the issue would be to make a deal but the Thunder would have to give up players they like, Young adds.
  • Presti provided his input on how Oklahoma City could use its quickness to maximum use in another Horne story.

Thunder Notes: Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nader, Patterson, Adams

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is a world traveler, but he hasn’t spent much time in his new home of Oklahoma City, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The second-year forward, who played in today’s NBA Africa game, spent just one day in OKC after being traded from the Sixers in a three-team deal July 25.

“It’s a new start,” he said. “Everything is new. I haven’t been there for more than a day, so I can’t even fully realize that it’s gonna be a new life, a new city, a new coach, a new staff, new players, new friends, new things to do in the city, new restaurants. Everything is gonna be new. I love learning new things when I move somewhere.”

Luwawu-Cabarrot hopes the change of scenery is accompanied by an increase in playing time. He was a first-round pick in 2016, but had limited opportunity to show off his skills in Philadelphia, spending part of his first season in the G League and averaging 16.5 minutes of playing time in 121 NBA games. The Sixers didn’t use him at all in the playoffs.

“I feel like it’s a very good opportunity for me,” he added. “I feel like Philadelphia didn’t want me anymore, so it’s a good thing that they traded me.”

There’s more tonight from Oklahoma City:

  • Also getting used to a new home is Abdel Nader, whom the Thunder acquired from the Celtics July 23, notes Dan Shalin for The Chicago Tribune. A second-round pick in 2016, Nader played one season in Boston, but was dealt when it became clear there wasn’t a roster spot for him. He is doing rehab work on his right wrist after undergoing surgery in June. “When [the trade] happened, I was a little bummed,” Nader said. “But I flew down instantly to OKC, met with the GM [Sam Presti] and with the coaching staff. Everybody is on the same page, and they welcomed me with open arms, made it seem like they wanted me. It felt good that the organization was putting their trust in me.”
  • Patrick Patterson is hoping to put up better numbers in his second season with the Thunder, writes Nick Gallo of NBA.com. Even though he played in all 82 games, Patterson was limited at the start of last year because of a summer procedure on his knee.
  • Steven Adams blasts former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson in his new book and says players were relieved when he was traded to the Pistons in 2015, relays Ashish Mathur of AmicoHoops.

Western Rumors: Patterson, Burks, Kokoskov, Paul

Forward Patrick Patterson admits he’s disappointed with the way his first season with the Thunder played out, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman reports. Patterson appeared in every regular season game but averaged career lows in points, rebounds, minutes and field goal percentage after signing a three-year, $16.5MM contract last summer. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t what I expected,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t what my teammates and coaching staff expected, or even the fans.” Patterson saw very little playing time with the first unit at power forward due to Carmelo Anthony‘s presence, Horne notes.

In other Western Conference news:

  • Jazz guard Alec Burks, who has endured an injury-plagued career, headed into the offseason healthy but his future with the club is uncertain, according to Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. Burks fell out of the rotation behind rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell and another rookie, Royce O’Neale. Burks has one year and $11.5MM remaining on his contract and his expiring deal could be traded in the offseason, Sorensen adds. “I’ve been here a long time, since I was 19, and hopefully it keeps going,” Burks told Sorensen. “I’ve seen a lot in seven years. There’s been high times, low times and even-keel times. Hopefully there’ll be more good times in the future.”
  • The Suns may have one of the youngest rosters in the league but new coach Igor Kokoskov insists that shouldn’t lower expectations, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic relays. Kokoskov, the NBA’s first European-born coach, made the comment during his introductory press conference. “This is not a development league. This is the NBA,” Kokoskov said. “We won’t ever hide it or use it as an excuse.”
  • Chris Paul knew what he was doing when he orchestrated a trade from the Clippers to the Rockets, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. Pairing up with James Harden gave the perennial All-Star point guard his best chance to win an NBA championship, Woike continues. He has quieted the doubters by getting to the Western Conference Finals, Woike adds. “All the people who talk about it don’t know this game better than I do,” Paul said.

Northwest Notes: George, Mitchell, Patterson

There’s no indication that Paul George has decided what to do as a free agent this season but Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that we’ve already seen a glimpse of what’s possible if he decides to stay with the Thunder and continue to suit up alongside Russell Westbrook.

The scribe writes that the forward’s decision to leave or stay with the Thunder will be seen, fairly or not, as a referendum on playing next to the club’s superstar. George himself lamented that it was a significant adjustment tweaking his game to complement Westbrook’s but the pair would occasionally fall in step and thrive.

George’s first season with the Thunder saw him touch the ball five fewer times per game and also hold possession for less. That’s not all that surprising given that he was necessarily obligated to play off the ball but it could play a role in the decision he makes heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Yes, Donovan Mitchell had an impressive rookie campaign, but plenty of other players had solid first years before plateauing. One particularly intriguing perspective that may reassure Jazz fans that they’re not witnessing the next O.J. Mayo is teammate Thabo Sefolosha‘s. “I was a teammate with Derrick Rose when he was a rookie, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant when they were young in their first two seasons in OKC, and the talent level is right up there with those guys,” the 34-year-old told Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.
  • There’s no denying that Patrick Patterson is a sharp-shooting veteran presence for the Thunder, exactly what he was expected to be when he signed a three-year, $16MM deal last summer, but declining athleticism limited his ability to contribute off the bench in 2017/18, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes.
  • He may not win the Rookie of the Year award (according to our own staff) but ESPN’s Mike Schmitz believes that Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has the highest future potential of any of this year’s rookies. Co-writer Kevin Pelton placed him No. 2 behind Ben Simmons but Schmitz raved about the Louisville product’s demonstrated ability to improve upon his weaknesses.