Thursday Bolts: 8.17.17

ESPN picks the Thunder to finish fourth in the West with a record of 50-32: “Just as Rockets fans are wondering how Paul could be worth only two wins, Thunder fans are likely to be up in arms about the addition of Paul George resulting in a forecasted increase of just three wins. However, that boost in the win total is, according to our panel, enough to get OKC home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which is probably more important than the actual number of wins in the end.”

Russell Westbrook opens as the favorite to win the 2017-18 MVP award: “According to Bovada.lv online sports betting, Russell Westbrook is the very early favorite to win the 2017-18 MVP award at 7-to-2 odds. Golden State’s Kevin Durant, who was the MVP of the NBA Finals and won the league-wide award with the Thunder in 2013-14, is second behind Westbrook at 9/2. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (13/2), Cleveland’s LeBron James (15/2) and Houston’s James Harden (8/1) round out the top five.”

Enes Kanter’s availability for the Mexico City game remains in doubt: “It’s been three months since Turkey canceled the passport of Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter. But the story is not over yet. The Thunder will play the Brooklyn Nets in Mexico City on Dec. 7. Kanter’s status for that game remains uncertain. Without a valid passport, he is unable to travel to another country other than Canada, which allows entry from U.S. residents who have a Green Card. There is no such agreement with Mexico.”

Billy Donovan is en route to New Zealand with Steven Adams: “Steven Adams is bringing his Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan with him to New Zealand next week for his annual series of basketball camps. Adams always entices a select few from the Thunder organisation to make the trip Down Under and help out with his coaching clinics which have become hugely popular since the Kiwi NBA star set them up as his way of giving back to the New Zealand hoops community. Thunder GM Sam Presti has made the trip out previously, and assistant coach Mark Bryant, who works closest with Adams on an individual basis, has been a regular visitor.”

Paul George still loves Indiana, despite a few Twitter barbs: “Paul George says he still ❤️s Indiana, although some Indiana Pacers fans are 💔 — or even 😡 — over his desire to leave the team, which resulted in his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder. George took to Twitter on Wednesday night, initially to respond to a spurned Pacers fan who posted a photo of a broken PG-13 bobblehead.”

B/R picks the best and worst contract for every NBA team: “Best Contract: Patrick Patterson (3 years, $16.4 million) Oklahoma City announced that Patterson will miss four to six weeks as he recovers from an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. Protracted absences aren’t the best way to start a marriage, but this deal is too dang cheap to strike from consideration… Worst Contract: Enes Kanter (2 years, $36.5 million) Enes Kanter’s deal was bad before giving out bad deals become cool. He works as a revved-up engine within the second unit’s offense, but low-block and long-two specialists who don’t bolster the defense shouldn’t be making more than $17 million per year.”

ESPN picks Warriors @ Thunder on November 22 as the must-see home game for OKC: “For the rest of his career, every time Kevin Durant plays in Oklahoma City as a visitor, the game is bound to be fraught with emotion — just look at what happened for the four seasons LeBron James played in a Heat jersey in Cleveland (or the three seasons since that he’s played in a Cavs jersey in Miami). But this matchup has added drama this year, and not just because the Thunder made a big move in the offseason to try to close the gap between them and the Warriors. There have already been rumblings that Golden State will pursue Paul George in the offseason, so the Thunder will want to show George — both on and off the court — that OKC is the place he should be.”

A Reddit rumor suggests the Thunder is moving toward e-tickets only: “The resale market for season ticket holders opened up today. Like I do every year, I went to check out if anybody was dumb enough to list their Thunder/Warriors tickets for $20 each. That didn’t happen unfortunately, but what I discovered was interesting. The only option available to buy tickets is in e-ticket form, and it explicitly states that my tickets will only be available via mobile device. At the very least, this seems to confirm that the Thunder are doing away with electronic PDF tickets. Season ticket holders may still receive hard tickets in the mail, but the possibility of that being eradicated as well is certainly a possibility. When the Heat went mobile only they wiped out hard season tickets.”

Mandela Namaste (SI) on why your team won’t win the NBA title: “OKC has now climbed back to 80% of its KD-era peak with the addition of Paul George, but potential chemistry problems and George’s impending free agency loom large here.”

Russell Westbrook’s top play from every game of last season: