Thursday Bolts: 8.10.17

The Thunder is headed south of the border next season: “Russell Westbrook will have the chance to collect a triple-double on foreign soil when the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Brooklyn Nets in Mexico this season….The Thunder’s Westbrook — the reigning Most Valuable Player — and his new All-Star teammate Paul George face the Nets on Dec. 7. The Nets, featuring Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, then play the Heat and Hassan Whiteside on Dec. 9. ESPN and Televisa in Mexico will televise the game, which will also be available to watch on NBA League Pass.”

Steven Adams shaved all of his facial hair and it’s actually quite unsettling: “Steven Adams, is that you? The Thunder center has shaved off all his facial hair and teammate Enes Kanter revealed a picture of the “new Adams on Twitter. Adams, who was starting to resemble a member of the Dothraki from Game of Thrones, looks almost unrecognizable.”

ESPN ranks Paul George as the second best newcomer of the offseason: “In their first-round playoff series last season against the Rockets, the Thunder were outscored by 58 points in the 46 minutes that Russell Westbrook was off the floor. Simply put, they could not survive without him. George is not only the perfect complement to Westbrook in that he’s a great catch-and-shoot option, he’s also fully capable of running the show when Westbrook is off the floor, and gives coach Billy Donovan another pick-and-roll facilitator and end-of-the-shot-clock creator.”

Tim Kawakami believes the Warriors will pursue Paul George next summer: “Marcus and I have teased this for more than a year. We think they’re going to go after Paul George somehow. I think Joe Lacob is going to try to find a way to get Paul George. I don’t know how that would happen, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen three years ago when they said they were go after Durant. Well, they didn’t say it. But they might have whispered it.”

Chris Mannix on why “super teams” may cripple small markets: “If Westbrook elects to test free agency, Oklahoma City faces the staggering reality of losing three top-five players (Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden) in six years and another (George) widely considered top-15. It would be an unprecedented talent drain and a crippling blow to a well-run franchise. Yet there is a potentially bigger issue. The health of small-market teams has rarely been so tenuous. Two small-market playoff teams (Utah, Indiana) suffered devastating losses this summer. Another (Cleveland) could be thrust into a rebuild if LeBron James defects next summer. Anthony Davis told reporters this week he was happy in New Orleans, but the Pelicans could be one more rough season away from having to explore trading Davis — or risk losing him for nothing in 2020.”

A Grizzlies blog discusses the Thunder roster: “Over the last seven years, the Thunder were one of the Memphis Grizzlies’ biggest rivals. The stakes were always high between these two teams during the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook era.  Playoff games such as the triple overtime thriller from 2011 epitomized their rivalry. Now, with the acquisitions of Paul George and Patrick Patterson, the Thunder are poised to become elite once again. They may no longer have Kevin Durant, but they still have George, an elite two-way player, and the reigning MVP in Russell Westbrook.”

The Ringer evaluates every new Nike jersey released thus far: “Oklahoma City Thunder: Still the same. Still pretty bad.”

Dan Rafferty on why big man pick-and-rolls could be the future of the NBA: “Having a 7-footer who can protect the rim, switch onto guards and space the floor out to the perimeter is a huge luxury nowadays, especially if that player can also put the ball on the floor and make a play for themselves. If they can, the next logical step is putting them in a pick-and-roll as a ball-handler rather than the roll man, the latter of which is how power forwards and centers are traditionally used. It’s not something we’ve seen much of over the last couple of seasons, but there could be a noticeable shift next season as some of the younger big men in the league begin to refine their skills.”