Mailbag: Short Timersvia Thunder

Mailbag: Short Timers

Brandon Rahbar covers the Thunder beat for DT, and wants to answer your questions about the team. Send yours to dailythunder@gmail.com (subject: “Mailbag”) or @DailyThunder.

Do the Thunder have the most depressing jersey website in the league? It’s a graveyard of former all stars, unremarkable journeymen, and guys that likely won’t be on the team in a matter of months.

Geoffrey Storm

Rahbar: Thanks to this question, I just spent 20 minutes browsing through the Thunder’s jersey section on NBA.com. I had to get a bowl of ice cream and pull up my Sarah McLachlan playlist.

In all seriousness, the Thunder should always and forever sell Russ jerseys on their site and in their pro shops. Until the end of time, Yankees fans will buy Mickey Mantle, 49ers fans will buy Joe Montana jerseys, and Thunder fans will buy Russ jerseys.

But those Paul George jerseys gotta go. And why are those Carmelo jerseys still being sold? Might as well throw some Kyle Weaver and D.J. White throwbacks on there, they’d sell just as many. The only way Melo merch will turn a profit is if they emblazon the phrase “Ah, mother****** sh**” across the chest.

SGA hasn’t been passing much this year. Going into Saturday’s game, he is making 5 less passes per game this year (per NBA.com/stats) than he was last year, despite his usage jumping almost 8%. I know it’s early, but do you think this might be something that the team/Billy is directing, telling him not to worry about facilitating as he is usually on the court with another point guard, be it CP3 or Dennis?

acheema0

Rahbar: I don’t think Shai’s lack of passing has been due to the coaching staff directing him that way. The one specific nitpick Billy Donovan has had of SGA’s play this year was the balance of looking for his own shot versus setting up his teammates. The team wants him to do both, but I do think the fact that he is sharing the floor so often with two other point guards does have an effect. SGA is a true tweener: his split with the Clippers last year was almost dead even between playing the 1 and the 2. So I imagine when he’s out there with CP3 and Schroder, he feels like a 2 guard. I think playmaking will be an emphasis for him going forward, and when the team eventually trades away Paul and/or Schroder, I’m sure we’ll see more passing from him. It’s the natural next step in his evolution from young upstart to budding star.

I feel like the Thunder team will look very different in 5 years. How many of these players do you think will still be on the team?

@Willbanks_92

Rahbar: The NBA has more turnover these days than the McDonald’s I worked at when I was 16, so this is tough to predict. I’ll never forget when Darren was hired and left in the middle of his fry shift on his first day, never to be seen from again. 

Point is, this is hard to predict. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the one absolute given. He’s the team’s (very near) future face of the franchise, and he’s under team control for several years. Darius Bazley looks to be the young player with the next most upside, and he’s another high character guy that the Thunder loves. I wouldn’t put my house on anyone else besides those two, but I imagine Hamidou Diallo fits the profile of young player + upside that the Thunder is seeking for a rebuild. I think everyone else is gone in five years.

Of all the other young guys, Terrance Ferguson is the only other one with a shot of sticking around. But I imagine he will be included as a sweetener in a trade package at some point. He can be a rotation player somewhere, but I don’t think OKC sees him as a core piece to build around.

The big mystery here is Steven Adams. Does he re-sign via veteran extension with the Thunder on a team friendly contract and play the Nick Collison role? Does Presti let him play out his contract and sign somewhere else as a free agent? (No chance). Or does OKC’s current fan favorite get traded? My hunch is that a team will come knocking at the trade deadline, and the prospect of another 1st round pick or a young prospect would be too alluring to pass up. 

In five years, Chris Paul will be spending his time banana boating with Melo and Dwyane Wade (LeBron couldn’t make it: load management) and speaking to crowds of hundreds in Marriott Hotel Convention Centers  about the benefits of plant based diets.

As for Gallo, his tenure with the Thunder should last about as long as Darren’s with McDonald’s. What a legend.

Is there any timeline on Dre returning? And is his injury a little worse than we thought?

Robert Summers

Rahbar: I’ve now been present at a dozen practice and post game conference settings where a media member has asked Donovan about Andre Roberson, and the answer is always that they’re just being cautious with his return. But the message is the same: he will return. But nobody, I doubt even Dre, knows when that will be. I know most Thunder fans have given up on the idea of seeing Roberson on the court ever again, and they may be right, but all I can say is that the team still says he is coming back. As far as if the injury is worse than thought, I’m not sure, but I’ve seen him walk, jog and run several times up close and personal, and there’s never any limp or hitch in his step. And that’s the extent of my medical knowledge.

Do we think that Chris Paul/Dennis Schroder/Gallo will be load managed this weekend? (The Thunder play a back-to-back against the Warriors and Bucks)

John Mitri

Rahbar: Great question. If the point is to attempt to use the back to back as an excusable reason for load management to lose games, I don’t think they will go that route. While the team is headed for a rebuild, up to this point, the Thunder have played all their best players heavy minutes and genuinely attempted to win all their games. Unless you count Nader’s minutes. Now if the idea is to protect the health of future trade assets in CP3, Gallo, Schroder (and Adams), then I could see some back to back games load management. If the team rests guys against the depleted Warriors, it’s likely because they want to lose a winnable game. If the team rests guys against the contending Bucks, it’s likely because they want to avoid injuries. My gut says nobody is load managed.

How many games could we win if four players linked arms around CP3 on offense and he shot 3s from the top of the key?

Eric Allen

Rahbar: Zero. It would completely throw off CP3’s shooting form if he didn’t have a defender to flop on when he released. Crap, sorry. Old habits die hard. That’s a savvy veteran move! New answer: 98 games.