Thunder (1-0, 5 points) vs. Clippers (0-1, 0 points)
Time: 4:00 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder used a predictable formula to win their first summer league game: use the veterans. Mitch McGary, Cameron Payne, and Josh Huestis all played well enough to give the Thunder just enough of a push to win 86-85. The NBA vets all played to their strengths and the rest of the Thunder squad did their parts to Oklahoma City closer to their goal of championship hats. The Dallas roster was not very good, but Marquis Teague, Andre Dawkins, and Vander Blue all had good games from the perimeter and kept the game close.
Next up for the Thunder is the Los Angeles Clippers squad that might be even worse than the Mavericks. The only players of any significance are CJ Wilcox and Brendan Dawson, who both played minimal minutes for the Clippers last season. Diamond Stone, Brice Johnson, and David Michineau were all drafted by the Clippers in this past draft, but had mediocre to bad games in their first summer league match-up against the Miami Heat.
I hope to see some refinement to the OKC veterans in this game. They all look okay, but I want for them to start looking good in these summer league games. In addition, Semaj Christon and Dakari Johnson need to add some consistency to their games to become viable options for the NBA.
Time: 8:00 AM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks open up the Summer League season with a 8:00 AM CST tip in Orlando. Each team in the Orlando Summer League will play 4 “regular season” games and one “playoff” game on the last day of the Orlando Summer League. The match-ups on the final day are determined by record and points (Each game won is worth 4 points and each quarter won counts as 1 point. If the two teams tie in a quarter, each team will get 0.5 points for that quarter.).
The Thunder bring a lot of familiar faces to Orlando. Mitch McGary, Cameron Payne, and Josh Huestis all saw time with the Thunder this season. Dakari Johnson, Semaj Christon, Richard Solomon, Reggie Williams, Marcus Lewis, and Tomislav Zubcic have all been on the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue in one or both of the last two seasons. In addition, the Thunder’s 2nd round pick from this past draft, Daniel Hamilton, will be available and will likely be suiting up for the Blue later this season. Noticeably absent from the roster is the Thunder’s first round pick that was acquired from Orlando, Domantas Sabonis. His absence is due to his commitment to the Lithuanian national team that is gearing up for the Olympics in late August. I guess that’s an acceptable excuse for missing summer league.
The Thunder’s summer league schedule is as follows:
3 Things I’ll Be Watching For In This Game
1. Mitch McGary
Last season was supposed to be a big one for McGary. He surprised many with his performances during his rookie year and had Thunder fans wondering if they had drafted a gem with the 21st pick in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, McGary’s second season never really materialized into much of anything. He suffered a concussion late in training camp and had to sit out the first couple of games. Once he returned, he was out of shape, out of rhythm, and definitely out of the rotation. He never made up the ground he lost during that period and played mostly for the Blue all season. When he did get time on the Thunder, he was extremely ineffective.
Then at the end of the season, McGary was mysteriously absent for the stretch run and for the first few games of the playoffs. No explanation was ever given by McGary or the Thunder, but for a player wanting to solidify his foothold on the team, that absence could not have been for a good reason. So this becomes the beginning of McGary’s redemption. We’ve seen what McGary is capable of. We’ve loved the “bull in a china shop” routine that McGary plays with. But the time for gimmicks is over. We need to see McGary, the professional basketball player. Hopefully it starts in Orlando and continues throughout the season.
2. Cam Payne’s defense
When Payne saw time on the floor last season, two things usually happened: 1) the ball starting moving around for the offense while the reserves were on the floor, and 2) opposing guards usually had their way when Payne was on the floor. Offense is not an issue for Payne. Shore up the handles and get some consistency on that jumper and Payne will be primed to be a player in this league on one end of the court. But it’s the other end that gets him in trouble. Payne had issues staying in front of the ball handler. And when he did stay in front, he usually made rookie mistakes, like reaching in for a foul or biting on a pump-fake. Summer league likely won’t tell much about his defense, but it’ll be the little things that’ll show whether he can be disciplined on defense or whether he’ll be destined to be a one-way player.
3. Dakari Johnson
Of all the players currently on the summer league roster that aren’t under contract for the Thunder, I feel like Johnson has the best bet to garner a roster spot this season. With Serge Ibaka gone, the Thunder will likely be needing some form of rim protection moving forward. Currently the Thunder have only Steven Adams as someone that can be termed a rim protector. Sabonis is viewed more as a good positional defender, while Enes Kanter is now viewed as a mediocre positional defender. Johnson would automatically be the 2nd best rim protector on the team if he was signed. With the rumors that the team may also move Kanter this offseason, having someone like Johnson in the pipeline could be big for this team moving forward.
I really don’t see anybody on the Mavericks’ squad that is worthy of mentioning. Marquis Teague has played with the Blue the last two seasons, so he may be familiar with a lot of the Thunder’s personnel and sets. But other than him, nobody on their roster is really worth of mention.
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Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “A successful meeting with Kevin Durant and his closest confidantes Thursday has put the incumbent Oklahoma City Thunder in a strong position as Durant moves into meetings with five other free-agent suitors, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN that Thursday’s five-hour meeting with Thunder officials at Chesapeake Energy Arena “went well” before Durant, his agent and business manager Rich Kleiman and longtime friend and manager Charlie Bell boarded a flight to New York to start huddling with other teams on Friday.”
Marc Spears of The Undefeated: “So relax, Oklahoma City. Durant leaving would be as stunning as James’ departure to Miami and subsequent return to Cleveland. Instead, look for him to sign a one-year deal with the Thunder that would allow Durant and Westbrook to be free agents together in 2017 and co-star in next year’s NBA free agency reality show. That is when it will become much more real. If the Thunder fall short in advancing to the NBA Finals again, it will be a lot easier for Durant to depart from Oklahoma City in 2017. In other words, Thunder fans, save your popcorn for next summer.” Keep Reading…
Everybody has had that one moment in their life. The moment where many are telling you to go in one direction, but you just feel the pull from the other direction. Be it a decision early in life, such as choosing between colleges or between going to college or joining the military. Or maybe something life-altering, like choosing a spouse. Or maybe it’s deciding how you want to live your live. Regardless of the decision, people that care for you (and sometimes those that don’t) like to offer opinions as to what they would do if given the same circumstances. In the end, though, you, as a person, have to do what you feel is right. Everybody has been there. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes it turns out to be disastrous. But whatever you chose, it was your decision. Keep Reading…
Zach Lowe of ESPN.com: “Clippers coach Doc Rivers has talked publicly about keeping the gang together in Los Angeles, and even the much-discussed Griffin-Durant sign-and-trade is unwieldy; any player acquired in a sign-and-trade must sign for at least three seasons, meaning Durant would forfeit the one-year-deal route in agreeing to that arrangement.”
Anthony Slater: “Would Horford be worth all of that? He’s a four-time All-Star, a double-digit per night scorer, an adept passer and one of the league’s smartest defenders. Plus he’d seem to fit beautifully into Billy Donovan’s familiar system. Horford played three seasons under Donovan at Florida and won two national titles. The two remain close. There’s no telling which direction OKC will go. But it’s clear that Sam Presti is formulating some intriguing options just in time to present them to Durant on Friday.” Keep Reading…