Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com writing beautifully about the Spurs: “Over the past two decades, the Spurs have created some of the league’s most valuable intellectual property, a gift to the game. Their innovative approaches to the draft, international prospects, player development and the D-League have been groundbreaking. Subtle examples of their influence include the way Kevin Durant speaks almost as a co-owner of the Thunder, not in a presumptuous way, but as a young player who has claimed a rare accountability for the team’s future because management has empowered him. That’s classic San Antonio Spurs, where Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti cut his teeth working for Popovich and Buford. The Spurs’ coaching and managerial tree has spawned numerous acolytes who apply the Spurs’ best organizational principles to their own team-building. Parker and Duncan boast a bit about this: You may not care, but people inside the NBA worship the Spurs, marvel at how easy they make the day-to-day enterprise of a basketball franchise seem.”
Darnell Mayberry on Mason Plumlee: “Mason Plumlee is 23 years old. Strike one. He’s a four-year college player. Strike two. He lacks post moves, has a funky shooting motion and has trouble containing the ball. Strike three. So why would the Thunder even consider taking a chance on the Duke center with the 12th overall pick? Maybe because Oklahoma City concentrates more on what players do well rather than dwelling on what they don’t. Maybe because Plumlee’s four years of college experience will be viewed as a positive instead of a negative. Maybe because underneath all his perceived warts, Plumlee has a skill set that just might fit perfectly with the Thunder.”
Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com: “In Durant, Texas is tied to a player who could end his career as one of the top 10 players in NBA history. And with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett likely retiring soon, the next great NBA power forward very well may be Aldridge, who has averaged at least 21 points and 8 rebounds in each of the past three seasons. He’s made the last two All-Star games and has evolved into one of the premier players in the NBA. And he’s only 27. Durant is just 24. So the Longhorns’ stock will probably rise in the coming years. It’s necessary to mention Durant and Aldridge because the rest of this list is not necessarily pristine when compared to the other teams we’ve ranked thus far and those we’ll unveil in the coming days.”
Darnell Mayberry: “Draft idea: Thunder sends 12th pick to Atlanta for picks 17 and 18…who says no?”
Here’s why I don’t get that: What do the Thunder need with three more rookies? They already couldn’t find space for Lamb or Jones last season. What are they going to do with three first round picks?
Fran Fraschilla on Trey Burke: “His size won’t be as big a factor as his athleticism. He’ll have to deal with some of the NBA’s most dynamic players. Guys like Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry scare everyone — not just rookies.”
Henry Abbott talks following Kevin Durant: “His second year in the league, Kevin Durant was a bundle of promise, but the fact was that his team played better when he was on the bench. (He took a lot of shots, wasn’t terribly efficient back then, and almost all young players struggle on defense). I wrote about this, and he Tweeted something about how it wasn’t right to criticize someone who worked too hard to get better every day. Fair point. And, I’m able to report, those same kinds of stats love Durant’s game now.”