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It’s been awhile since we opened up the Thunder mailbag. Let’s see what OKC fans on Twitter are asking about their team and give the people some answers.
This was in response to the buzz that the Clippers may be sellers at the trade deadline and Serge Ibaka could be traded back to his original home away from home to alleviate some LA luxury tax. While OKC would be happy to take any solid players off of the Clippers’ hands since the Thunder own their 2022 1st rounder, the problem is LA is short on assets. And Sam Presti has leverage. OKC is the only team in the league with true cap space and several teams may be looking to dump salary. I’m not so sure the speculation of a couple 2nd rounders gets it done. But if the Clippers wanna slip Presti that 2028 1st rounder, Loud City would welcome Air Congo back with open arms. And then be broken hearted all over again once he’s bought out.
Taking on Kemba Walker’s contract added to OKC’s cap space, but the Thunder still have plenty. (Shout out good guy Kemba for that discount buy out). If any team wants to dump salary, OKC is the only available toilet in the league. The Thunder can generate up to $34 million in cap space. That’s a whole lotta possible 1st round picks and/or young prospects.
Josh Giddey has been a consensus, no doubt Top 5 rookie this season. Tre Mann has been a human highlight reel every time he steps on the court. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has become a full time starter and shown promise as a stretch big. And Aaron Wiggins has had games of 24 and 22 points and a stretch of 7 straight double digit games as the #55 overall pick. The Houston Rockets’ foursome of Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher oozes upside, but OKC’s rookie quartet indubitably has them beat thus far.
This one is a toughie. Both SGA and Josh Giddey need the ball in their hands to be most effective. Shai so that he can drive and Josh so that he can dish. Giddey is the more natural playmaker and SGA has proven he is still a weapon off the ball when he played with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. Both players will be far better once they’re surrounded by more shooting. SGA will take advantage of the extra space to dominant once again in the paint, and Giddey will finally have dudes who can finish off his beautiful passes. The only solution in the team’s current state is that they continue sharing the lead role and building chemistry. Hopefully by the time the team is competing again, the roles and positions will come about organically. (But yeah, Giddey’s usage needs to go up dramatically. If the ball’s not in SGA’s hands, it needs to be in the teenager’s hands.)
Purdue shooting guard Jaden Ivey has been wowing college basketball buffs and climbing up NBA draft boards, so naturally Thunder fans have wondered about his possible fit in OKC. A top four has emerged and set themselves apart from the rest of the 2022 NBA Draft: Jabari Smith Jr, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Ivey. The first three are all either power forwards and/or centers, and OKC’s big need is bigs. But if the Thunder land the #4 pick and Ivey is the guy remaining, Sam Presti will sprint to his Blackberry (RIP) and shout Ivey’s name into Adam Silver’s ears faster than the Micro Machines guy. “But Brandon, he’s a guard! OKC has too many guards! You’re a dummy!” Your last point may be true. But right now, there are only two players on this roster you can say for sure are slam dunk, blue chip, build-a-contender-around-them guys. No disrespect to Lu Dort. He might be too. But he projects to be a great role player on a playoff team, not a star. This early in a rebuild, you draft the greatest talent and worry about positions later. Especially when those “guards” are 6’6” and 6’8.5”. SGA and Giddey’s size gives OKC tons of options and versatility. Oh and I’d argue OKC’s biggest need isn’t a center or power forward. It’s shooting. Enter Ivey.
I like the idea of OKC trading for a young prospect instead of a draft pick for once. Jalen Smith is an unrestricted free agent after this season, but maybe Presti can trade for him with the understanding he can sign him to a multi-year contract later. Or maybe he feels like the youth, the culture, a featured role and being teammates once again with Maryland bestie Aaron Wiggins will convince Smith to stay. And I think Cam Reddish’s pedigree and flashes of brilliance are enough to roll the dice on, depending on how big a contract he wants to sign. As far as Kenny Hustle goes, I’d hate to see the fan favorite sparkplug and plus/minus king leave, but he’s pulling a Mike Muscala and wrecking the Thunder’s upcoming draft pick because he’s just too good with his all-out effort and swarming defense and underrated offensive skills. So it’s a win-win: OKC gets worse in the short term so they can get better in the long term.
Football coaching legend Bill Parcells once said this about a young Tony Romo after his play on the field had fans and media buzzing about his talent after just a handful of games: “Let’s not break out the anointing oil just yet.” Too late on this one, Billy. I broke that stuff out halfway through Giddey’s first preseason game. Whether he was a 19 year old rookie, a 5 year vet, a 15 year vet or retired and crashing Michael Cage’s church league, Giddey’s got the goods.
Sunday’s game against the Nuggets offered the Thunder the first chance at being fully healthy after falling prey to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Few on the roster managed to avoid being placed in the H&S protocols, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and even coach Mark Daignault missing time. But the stint of health did not last, with Kenrich Williams entering health and safety protocols the very next day. It’s obvious that this will be a consistent part of the season–players coming in and out of H&S protocols. (And, we all hope that the inconvenience of missing time is the only impact that Covid has on the players.)
But, thinking about how year 2 of the rebuild is going, I’m glad that the Thunder aren’t a team desperately trying to maximize the remaining productive years of expensive veterans. If anything, these last few weeks of musical chairs and 10-day contracts have barely adjusted what OKC was planning to do anyway–giving lots of young players experience.
– John Napier
Last night in DC, the Thunder dropped a close one to the Bradley Beal-less Wizards, 122-118.
Though Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played the hero, with a bank-shot three to give the Wizards a 3-point lead with under a minute remaining, he also got into a physical altercation with teammate Montrezl Harrell during halftime, per Shams Charania. Weird.
Sam Lane (Inside the Thunder) thinks the Thunder should use their open roster spot on Andrew Wiggins, who’s currently on a two-way contract.
Speaking of Kenny Hustle, there are some in Brooklyn who think that the Thunder power forward should be strongly pursued by the Nets. Sean Devaney (Heavy on Nets) acknowledges that Brooklyn has little to offer the Thunder.