Thursday Bolts – 3.16.17

Neil Johnson of ESPN Insider projecting picks: “The Thunder are now basically a lock for the playoffs and should pick in the 18-21 range. A guy such as Terrance Ferguson or OG Anunoby would definitely help them on the perimeter.”

Brett Dawson: “The Thunder on Thursday will face Ibaka for the second time since trading him to the Orlando Magic last summer. This time, he’ll be a Raptor. And the Thunder will hope he makes less impact on the game than he did with Orlando. In the Magic’s Nov. 13 win at Oklahoma City, Ibaka had a season-high 31 points along with nine rebounds and four blocked shots, and he made the game-winning basket with 0.4 seconds to play. In 10 games with the Raptors, Ibaka is averaging 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots.”

Brett Dawson on post trade: “On the day the Thunder traded for Gibson and McDermott, Oklahoma City had played 57 games and was scoring 104 points per 100 possessions and allowing 105. Since the trade, both numbers are up – the offense to 109.4, the defense to 107.8 – but since Gibson moved into the starting lineup, the Thunder reserves are scoring 114 points per 100 possessions and allowing 104.1.”

Henry Abbott of ESPN on the MVP debate: “Ben, you’re stirring up some debate here. I see your point about Westbrook’s essential nature. But I also notice as you go further right on the chart, the teams tend to get better! If the best teams have multiple stars … is the most valuable player one who can recruit/coexist/maintain long-term relations with other stars? And, thinking with the aid of unhealthy amounts of caffeine, if Westbrook had more of that, would he still be playing with Durant?”

Kevin Pelton on Kawhi’s MVP case: “Again, there’s an extreme version of this, which holds that Leonard is the only two-way player in the group. I don’t quite understand this use of the expression, as there are no designated hitters in basketball, but it is perhaps fair to say that Leonard is a two-way contributor, and Westbrook and Harden — who both rate below average defensively in RPM, though Westbrook rates better than the average point guard — are not. (The same argument doesn’t hold with James, who actually has a better defensive RPM than Leonard, but more on that to come.)”