Pretty backloaded on emails and I really appreciate all the questions, but just a few questions I wanted to answer for a quick little mailbag this week:
Watching the Pacers play the Heat to a Game 7 got me thinking. Does Scott Brooks deserve some credit for the way the Thunder have played the Heat over the years, especially in the Finals, staying big. You said so yourself except the last game everyone was close, Miller, Battier and Chalmers never missing a 3 had more to do with that than the big three, well that and the no call with Kevin at the end of Game 2. Maybe Perk isn’t the big we can do it with, but is this a case of right philosophy poor execution on the Thunder’s part? The two teams in the east that have beaten the Heat with consistency have been the Bulls and the Pacers. Both feature Noah and Hibbert. Royce, did Scotty get it right? — Charles P.
I actually wrote about this exact thing back in January after the Heat had some troubles with the Pacers and Bulls then. But as you note, the biggest difference between the Pacers playing big against the Heat and the Thunder playing big is Perk is to Roy Hibbert what Gossip Girl is to The Wire.
So, because of OKC’s personnel gap, the Thunder’s best bet against Miami was to probably go small and just attempt to match up. Or, as I YELLED ABOUT all Finals long, play Nick Collison more beside Serge Ibaka. The thing the Pacers have in going big is two scoring threats inside. It’s not that Hibbert and West are posting up and just backing down. It’s that they can control the boards, protect the paint and still get out to shooters. For instance, Miami has gone small a lot in the fourth quarter against Indiana, but the Pacers have stayed big and David West just hovers near Ray Allen.
Another thing that’s helped: This Heat team, with Dwyane Wade clearly aging/injured and Chris Bosh playing poorly, along with Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers not making EVERYTHING, isn’t the same one OKC faced. This Heat team is a shell of the one that beat the Thunder in five games. Or even the one that beat them twice in the regular season.
I think the Pacers are showing the best way to do it, just like the Bulls did before. Add in the fact OKC has two dynamic scorers to keeping the scoreboard moving, matching Miami with size is probably the way to play them. But again, it’s about the personnel.
And while Brooks had Collison just waiting on his bench, he also has to make due with what’s on his roster. He had three choices in the Finals — Perkins, Collison or Mohammed. But I think you can see the line of thinking, and really, it’s probably the right one.
One reason though it wasn’t and is not: The Thunder have lost six straight times to the Heat. Even if it makes sense, it’s not working.
Any chance of a sign and trade with KMart and then Perk for Pau Gasol? Is it capable to do that financially? Would LA do it with DH12? Would we have to give up picks or prospects? And then finally, do you think we will keep that lottery pick or try and trade it for a future something or current player in such a “bad draft”? I know you wrote something on the pick earlier, but I think like all of us, there is no player to get excited about in this draft. — Brent P.
OK, that trade would never, ever, ever, ever happen. And in general, I hate “what do you think about this trade?” questions, because they are past a level of speculation that have any kind of substance.
But I love the thought of Pau Gasol on this Thunder team. Love it. Thinking of him in the high post running pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop with Westbrook, dropping to the block some, rebounding, playing high-low with Ibaka, who he has great chemistry with — it sounds wonderful.
How could the Thunder get him? There’s no chance of trading straight up with the Lakers, I would think. Mainly because both teams are over the cap and the salaries have to match. Outside of OKC dealing Ibaka, Westbrook or Durant, they can’t really put anything together, at least not enough to get Pau Freaking Gasol.
(One of my favorite things about fake trade is how fans overvalue their own players. Most people are like, “Perry Jones, package the picks together and get Kevin Love. Done and done.)
So, after a solid hour on the Trade Machine, the best I could come up with was this:
Lakers get: Paul Pierce, the Thunder’s No. 29 pick (or Perry Jones)
Celtics get: Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb (or the No. 12 pick in this draft) and a sign-and-traded Kevin Martin
Thunder get: Pau Gasol
The Celtics make this deal in a heartbeat, I think. Do the Lakers, though? They get back a hobbled, old Paul Pierce who is on the final year of his deal, with the ability to buy him out for $5 million if they want to, which clears cap space. Or they keep him and play him at small forward (still a big upgrade over Metta World Peace). Still, I can rationalize and justify and try and see a reason the Lakers would pull the trigger (Gasol is expiring, mind you) but I don’t really see it.
And I don’t see another viable trade partner for the Thunder to send Perk to either. Perk’s going to have some value for Eastern teams lacking a big man just because of the dominance Roy Hibbert is showing. And Perk defended Hibbert exceptionally well this season. Only other Eastern team that maybe could be interested would be the Hawks who could sign-and-trade Josh Smith to the Lakers and move Al Horford to power forward, where he should be anyway. The Lakers would happily take Josh Smith, but do the Hawks take on Perk’s salary just to get back a lottery pick or young asset?
That deal, just to lay it out:
Hawks get: Kendrick Perkins, a sign-and-traded Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb (or the No. 12 pick)
Lakers get: Josh Smith
Thunder get: Pau Gasol
(Some complications: Under the new CBA a team receiving a sign-and-traded player can’t be above the luxury tax “apron” after the trade. The Celtics would be flirting with that, so it might not make this possible. Also, I spent a good long while reading and trying to understand sign-and-trade rules. I think this works. I know I can count on 2,000 people to gleefully inform me that it doesn’t, if it doesn’t. )
Why the Thunder aren’t doing this, though: It flies in the face of the team’s philosophy — I know, I know, but it does — because you’re probably getting a one-year rental of a 32-year-old forward while giving up really good assets. The Thunder way would be to try and draft and develop the next Gasol. It’d be a one-year rental (most likely) while giving up a young asset (either a player or pick) and it would put the Thunder in the luxury tax. So yeah, it’s not happening. Also, you’re giving up most everything you got in your Harden deal for again, a one-year rental of Gasol.
But the Thunder are out of the playoffs and now is as good a time as ever to recklessly and wildly speculate and make-believe. Plus, like I said, it’s fun to think about what Gasol would bring. I’m trying to ignore things like common sense and reality for a minute. This is what you’re supposed to do when making faking trade, yes? I’m new at this.
I know people want the Thunder to do something NOW, but look at the shape of the league. The Heat could be declining, the Spurs will eventually shrivel up and the Thunder’s top competition will be the up and comers like the Warriors, the Rockets, the Pacers in the East and whoever else makes big free agency splashes along the way.
So really, the Thunder aren’t just built to last. They’re built to outlast.
Forget I ever brought this up. I already hate that I did.
Doesn’t it still totally suck that Russell Westbrook got hurt? — Royce Y.
Yes, Royce. Yes it does.
Have a question? Fire an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see when I finally get around to answering a few