Zach Lowe of SI.com on former Thunderer Byron Mullens: “I’m not sure any player in the league looks to shoot as quickly upon receiving a pass as Mullens does. He knows the rules allow him to pass to the other four guys in his uniform, right? In fairness, Mullens is a 7-footer with a jump shot, and he has shown flashes as a useful rim protector on defense. His assist rate is only a hair below that of Andrew Bynum, but unlike Bynum, Mullens is shooting a below-average percentage (just 44 percent) for a big man. He’ll have to diversify going forward.”
Jonathan Tjarks on OKC’s future: “Dealing Harden would lower their chances of winning a championship in 2013, but it could open up a much larger title window. Let’s say they hit on one of the two picks they could acquire in 2012. In four years, they could spin this cycle forward again, flipping elite young talent looking for a payday into more elite young talent on cost-controlled salaries. Oklahoma City has one of the NBA’s most forward-thinking front offices. If they leverage Harden’s contract situation correctly, they could get so far ahead of the rest of the league their competition will never be able to catch up.”
David Aldridge of NBA.com on the Harden-Ibaka dilemma: “If Presti can somehow convince one of them to take less than what they’d likely get on the market, he still could pull this off. But we play devil’s advocate here at the Tip, and so, the question: If you could only keep one of them, which would you keep, and why? We sent out feelers to 24 of the other 29 teams in the league, also asking a couple of former coaches and executives their learned opinions. Of those who responded, seven picked Harden outright. Six picked Ibaka outright. And another six either couldn’t decided or wanted more time to think about it.”
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop on tanking: “Speaking not of the New Orleans decision, but about the league generally, the NBA’s president of basketball operations Joel Litvin says: “It’s the best way to improve yourself. Go young. Lower your payroll. Draft intelligently. Be smart about your free agent signings and your rookie extensions and hope you can become the Thunder.” The tough news is that it almost never works.
Berry Tramel on Popovich resting players: “I know why Popovich did it. He believes resting his veterans is more important than homecourt advantage in the playoffs. You can’t blame him for doing what he thinks is best for his team. But it still stinks for the NBA.”
ESPN.com power rankings: “Suppose you could us accuse of jinxing OKC with last week’s promotion to the highest of perches, except that pretty much everyone on Earth had them at No. 1. In the subsequent three straight L’s to the Grizz, Heat and Pacers, with his approval rating at a season high, Westbrook shot 21-for-65 from the floor.”
NBA.com power rankings: “After earning the No. 1 spot in the rankings for the first time ever, the Thunder promptly lost three straight, struggling to score against three good defenses. And after earning a little love in MVP discussions, Russell Westbrook promptly shot 21-for-65 in the three games. What a difference a week makes.”
Darnell Mayberry: “The Thunder’s length also was a major factor on the defensive end. Serge Ibaka helped set the tone on that end by blocking shots early and often and against almost everyone. Ibaka had four blocks in the first quarter and had five at halftime. All five were against five different players. By the midway point of the second period, the Bucks had begun unnecessarily hesitating on shots, seemingly out of fear of them getting sent back.”