Darnell Mayberry: “The rookie continues to impress. His energy, athleticism and activity on both ends are what fans have been craving from the center position. Against the Sixers, he showed an ability to be an effective offensive rebounder and again proved he can finish at the rim. On one possession, he caught a pinpoint drop-off from Durant on the baseline and finished with a powerful dunk. At the other end, Adams has a tendency to bite on pump fakes, which leads to foul trouble, but he should gain discipline in time.”
Kelly Dwyer of BDL: “This was Durant’s game, though. The Thunder clearly came out expecting the lowly 76ers to eventually go pear-shaped in the face of a more accomplished OKC squad, but Philly hung in there throughout. As a result, Kevin Durant had to keep the technical “home” team at arm’s length, nailing a series of step-back jumpers and looking to keep his teammates engaged with extra passes that he may have forced at times. In the preseason, though, those forces are beside the point – Durant is preparing to connect on these dishes in June, not caring about a sloppy turn in October, as he looks to provide another wrinkle to a Thunder offense that has a history of going stagnant in the postseason.”
Ben Golliver of SI.com on potential first time All-Stars: “Westbrook’s early-season absence should allow Ibaka additional opportunities on offense, plus the benefit of newfound attention that comes with being the No. 2 guy (if only temporarily) on a contender. Will that be enough to vault Ibaka above players like Nowitzki and Aldridge, who should be productive No. 1 guys for their respective teams, or to keep him above Westbrook on the recognition pecking order if the point guard comes back on schedule? Probably not. Receiving an All-Star selection can often be a multiyear stepping-stone process, and Ibaka will be in position to make real progress this season.”
Scott Rafferty of Ridiculous Upside thinks Perry Jones should stay in the D-League another year: “In saying that, if Jones is able to add a reliable face-up jumper in the near future, that would only help him become a formidable option off of the Thunder’s bench, as it would do wonders in opening up his game. Yet the main point here is that the sooner he learns how to score consistently without relying on his athleticism – whether that is around the basket or by improving his range – the better. But until he puts it all together, Jones would be better off spending some more time in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers.”
A Redditor defends the Harden trade: “At its core, the Harden trade attempted to make the best of a bad situation. Sam Presti wanted to keep Harden in OKC, but the Thunder just couldn’t afford to keep both Harden and Ibaka. It’s very clear that Harden is better than Ibaka in a vacuum, and he proved it in Houston. However, he would never have reached such heights in OKC. Ibaka’s defense and complementary game was a better match for the Thunder and thus Harden had to go. Presti presumably found the best deal possible by landing two good prospects who can help the Thunder regain historic greatness 2 or 3 years down the line and an excellent shooting guard who helped out right away – an excellent package that wouldn’t have been available if he held onto Harden for the entire year12.The Thunder aren’t a big market team; they can’t pay exorbitant fees or punt future flexibility to have an excellent, instead of a “merely” great, chance to win the title. They’re playing the long game, and while it’s not fun to sacrifice the present for the future, it looks like the smart thing to do. At the time of the trade, it looked like the right deal for the Thunder, and that is all that matters.”
I’m speaking at a conference in OKC later this month. Sign up here if you’re in to that sort of thing.