Don’t Panic…. Yet

Scared money don’t make none. These words echoed throughout our hearts and souls in this seemingly perfect off-season. Two consecutive years now OKC has had a summer that did nothing short of inspiring the entire state into believing greatness was coming, but for the second consecutive start to the season something is wrong. Yes, Russ missed the first two games, but losing at home to the Kings and then another second-half collapse to the Celtics have given birth to that familiar worry we have felt as Thunder fans all too often. Don’t press the panic alarm yet though, there are some simple steps this team can take and get back on the right track in this wild wild west.

Let’s start with the obvious. Terrance Ferguson needs to play less. MUCH MUCH LESS. He is playing about 20 minutes per game and shooting a whopping 18.8% from the field and less than 10% from three. The 2nd year guard has looked lost and is a net negative for OKC right now. He doesn’t even appear to want the ball on offense at times just standing in the corner as if he were Andre Roberson. I have no quarrels with getting your young 20-year-old minutes to develop him, but 20 minutes a game from someone who is a net negative is absurd.

Now we need someone to start in place of Ferguson. We need a guy who can step in right away and contribute. Someone with experience and has something this team desperately needs. SHOOTING! Alex Abrines needs to start and play close to 30 minutes a night. He adds a different element to this team none of the other guys can provide right now. He isn’t shooting stellar right now, but we know the Spaniard can catch fire quickly.

Lastly, OKC has to hit free throws. Everyone knows OKC doesn’t have great shooters. We all understand that this team doesn’t have great free throw shooters necessarily. But 64%???? That is just awful and good for dead last in the NBA. Andre Roberson has yet to step foot on the floor and this team is last in free throw percentage. It’s unacceptable. It is early and they won’t continue to be this bad, but in order for this team to compete with the best of the best, they have to hit free throws. They don’t have the luxury of elite shooters on the wings to get them back in the game. This team is going to win games through swarming defense, relentless attacks on the rim and taking advantage at the line.

OKC is not in panic mode. Fans should be worried, players should be on edge, and Billy Donovan should be squirming in his seat a bit. The panic button is starting to vibrate a bit. It’s over in the corner of the office looking enticing. Don’t press it. Resist the urge. This team has two All-Stars and elite athletes across the board. They will be fine. But hey, if they lose to the Suns Sunday. Sound the alarms.

Advertisements

10/25 Celtics vs Thunder Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Boston 101, OKC 95

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Donovan changed up the starting lineup tonight. Not exactly the change Thunder fans were expecting, but Grant blended in nicely.
  • Can Ferguson do anything right offensively?
  • The defensive frenzy OKC put on display in the first half was nice to see. While Boston was simply missing some good looks OKC defended incredibly hard.
  • Now the third quarter was a different story. OKC went back to their old ways and were lazy defending the 3 point line. Boston absolutely tore them apart.
  • Russ didn’t shoot particularly well, but it was nice to see him shooting 3’s off the ball. He is clearly a little rusty. Only going to get better. 
  • The free throws continue to be a problem for this Thunder team. 14-25 on the night. Yikes!
  • Outside of the magical 3rd quarter in the opener PG hasn’t been great offensively. The All Star Small Forward had another poor shooting night going a measly 7-22.
  • This Thunder team has to adapt. They need to play a different kind of basketball. They don’t know who they are yet and until they do are going to continue to see more L’s pile up.

Who’s up: Jerami Grant, Hamidou Diallo, Patrick Patterson

Who’s Down: Paul George, Terrance Ferguson

Next Up: Sunday vs Suns

Boston Celtics

  • Boston needed a good performance coming into tonight’s game and the 16 point start was not exactly what I’d label a “good performance”.
  • This may be unnecessary, but I am going to say it anyway. I am NOT a fan of what Kyrie has going on with his hair right now.
  • A rough first half for Boston, but they outscored OKC 40-23 in the 3rd to take the lead going into the 4th.
  • These guys COULD NOT MISS in the third. Threes were flying from all over the court and Al Horford is really good at basketball.
  • Terry Rozier played some phenomenal defense tonight. He’s a great high motor guy who is relentless on both ends of the floor. 6th man of the year candidate for sure.
  • Marcus Morris has a habit of making big shots against OKC and he did so again tonight. He had 21 on the night and the biggest shot in the game. 
  • Boston made 10 more free throws than the Thunder on the night as well.
  • At what point does Boston become a little worried about Hayward? Just 5 points on 5 shots tonight.
  • Jayson Tatum is a stud. I am wondering how long before we call this Tatum’s team?Are we there already? Surely not, but the question does linger.

Who’s up: Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum

Who’s Down: Gordon Hayward

Next Up: Saturday @ Pistons

11 Thunderous Statements

Year 11. It’s actually been that long. My heart can’t believe it. I remember several years ago when my dad and I were sitting on the couch watching ESPN together. A regular occurrence. A topic came up about whether OKC would get an NBA team someday and I remember looking at my dad asking him if he thought it would ever happen. He responded with a sort of bluntness that put me into a mini depression. He said he couldn’t see it happening because frankly, we are Oklahoma. That shook me. Flash forward to the not so distant future and it was announced the Sonics were coming to us. Talk about the greatest gift of my life and it was given to me by some rich dude named Clay Bennett I didn’t even know existed. All I knew was my dream was coming true. Look at us now. 11 years later and we are firmly supplanted in NBA lore forever. So for our 11th season I am going to put out 11 predictions that I can say with absolute certainty will come true. Bookmark them. Take a screenshot and come back to me when they have all come to pass. Let’s go.

 

1. Russell Westbrook won’t reach 20 triple doubles this season.

  1. Triple doubles are hard. I don’t care what Colin Cowherd says. Russ will probably miss a bit of time this season and might start slow. 20 triple doubles seem like a lot in a season where Russ should be asked to do less than previous years.

 

2. Steven Adams will have 100 moments this season where he looks like the biggest human on the planet.

  1. He was voted the toughest player by GM’s. Players say he is the strongest man in the league and he is somehow the offspring of Khal Drogo. The man is the world’s most beautiful force of nature.

 

3. TFerg will shoot 40% from three this season.

  1. Before you call me crazy just know  this man shot 44% from three post All Star break. I believe in TFerg and his Gatorade commercials awkwardness

 

4. Abdel Nader won’t quite be as weird Singler, but he will come close.

  1. The former Celtics legend will don No. 11 in addition to his throne at the end of the bench. I don’t know a lot about Nader honestly, but I have heard grumblings of potential weirdness ensuing.

 

5. Dennis Schröder will run away with 6th man of the year honors.

  1. Showcasing his skills in the starting lineup while Russ misses a few games will give him the early season hype train advantage. When Russ returns this man will terrorize opponents bench lineups.

 

6. Michael Cage will be blatantly and painfully biased in every Thunder broadcast.

  1. Disclaimer: I like Michael Cage. Not for his abilities as a broadcaster or his viewpoints, but just for the sheer enjoyment of the Cage experience. My dad and I frequently text each other memorable “Cage quotes” from games. It’s fun. Give it a shot

 

7. OKC will be the 3 seed, but the media will act like it’s a disappointment

  1. The irrational hate against us is so weird. Bill Simmons started it and since he is slowly drifting off into irrelevance others have taken up the mantle. It won’t stop this year.

 

8. Billy Donovan will be a Coach of the Year candidate.

  1. As a Billy Donovan truther I believe he hasn’t been given a shot to prove how good of a coach he can be. With continuity entering his 4th season we will finally find out if this guy can be a coach in this league.

 

9. 2 Pat will start more games than Grant. (and it won’t be close)

  1. 2 Pat can shoot, is a versatile defender and an underappreciated passer. He will blend in nicely with the other starters.

 

10. PG and Russ will make All NBA teams

  1. PG is 100% healthy and Russ will be Russ. Better chemistry and not having the insane amount of pressure of last year will allow these guys to play without a massive weight on their shoulders. Expect greatness.

 

11. Russell will set a new career high in snarls this season.

  1. Previous career high is unknown so I will allow you to set that number yourself. I promise whatever number you set he will beat it.

Talking Thunder With Andrew Schlecht

I was recently able to speak with Down To Dunk and OKC Dream Team podcast host Andrew Schlecht. We talked about a number of Thunder topics including which young wing might pop, how Russell can change, how great Steven Adams is and much more! If you aren’t listening to Down To Dunk or OKC Dream Team, you need to start right now!!! It’s great content for any Thunder fan. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewKSchelcht. I hope you enjoy this!

Tyler: I noticed on your twitter account you threw a poll out asking who the best reserve wing for the Thunder will be. Abrines, Ferguson and TLC were the three guys listed and Ferguson finished last. You have been talking TFerg up on the pod saying he will shine off the bench. Why do you think people refuse to get excited about his second season?

Andrew: It’s all based on Summer League. Summer League is a tough place to analyze anybody. I mean, you can see little things here and there, and I remember the first time I thought Steven Adams was going to be good was when I saw him in summer league setting screens like he did.[1] Ferguson not shooting the ball well played into that. They gave him a completely different role then what he will have on the Thunder, like being a facilitator, and you could just see him thinking about everything. That’s what raised a lot of red flags. We have to realize he will play the same role as last year while being stronger and having more experience. The coaching staff and the players like Russell and PG love this guy. Billy has always kind of favored athleticism, and at the end of the day I think it will be between TFerg and Abrines, and I think he will lean toward TFerg.

Tyler: Speaking of Billy, I tend to think of myself as a Billy Donovan truther. I have always tried to focus on the positives he has done. My theory is simply having continuity from one season to the next will be huge. He hasn’t had two years in a row with that consistency. Do think that will help him, and what could we see from Billy this year?

Andrew: Yeah, I think it’s a good point. Billy has been in the NBA for three seasons now and had three completely different teams. I don’t even know what kind of coach he is to be honest, and I don’t think he has been given a shot to show that yet. I have been in the locker room and have seen the stuff he has put on the board, but it doesn’t really seem like it has translated onto the court. I think we will find out what kind of coach Billy is this year. We have seen really good things from him like the 2016 run to the West Finals. As we both know they were one Klay Thompson flamethrower away from the Finals.[2] Then onto the next playoff run. I don’t think he was good against Houston, and I don’t think he was very good this last year. I think he is a good coach. I know that Russell and Paul George believe in him, and that can be half the battle sometimes with your superstars. I think he will finally get a fair shake.

Tyler: Russ and Paul believing in him is huge, but let’s say the team underachieves this year again. Do you think their trust in him will begin to wane and you could see some potential stress on his job?

Andrew: Yeah, I think that is something you’d have to look at. He will have two years left on his contract. He is heading into that year where you have to figure it out. I know that Sam Presti loves him, and that is a big deal. If the ownership group and GM believe in the coach they usually get to stick around. If they don’t then they usually go find somebody else, but I’m under the belief that Sam Presti has found his guy in Billy Donovan and they are going to give him a real chance to prove it. I don’t think anything would happen this season unless they lost in the first round again, but I wouldn’t anticipate that. If that were to happen and they were the 6th seed and lost in the 1st round, then I think the following season he would be under the microscope. But as of right now I don’t think he is in any danger.[3]

Tyler: Let’s talk about Russell. He is such an interesting player. At worst he is the 8th best player in the world, but he does have some flaws. I recently published an article about these and how he can improve to maximize the team’s potential.[4] There are a couple things I want your thoughts on. There are about four or five possessions a game that Russ simply wastes rather than continue the flow of the game or get other guys involved, and we see him force a three or force an early shot. Second, when he is off the ball he doesn’t really move, but there have been instances where he will float around or come off a screen, set a quick screen and immediately go on the attack. Why hasn’t he been willing to do a little more of that in his career especially since Durant left?

Andrew: Yeah, the screening stuff has been there his whole career. I did a study with Michele Berra and Vantage Sports during the 2016 season when Durant was still on the team, and Russ just never screened at all. He would some out of timeout plays, but to me it’s just a lack of willingness. That is where it lies. Is he willing to set the screens? Billy loves off the ball movement. He values screening and Russell hasn’t really been a guy to do that at all. They do have a guy now who can handle the ball better than anybody they have had in while in Dennis Schroder. If Russell is going to change then this will be the season to do it, and we can kind of see what the rest of his career will look like if he is willing to play off ball. I think it’s really all about him being willing to shoot threes off the ball. If he can just be willing to catch and shoot more, his three point percentage will go up.

As far as the possessions he will waste or the dumb possessions. That isn’t going to go away. That is part of what makes Russell, Russell. He is a reckless player at times, but sometimes being that reckless will lead to greatness. I will just point to the 2017 season against Denver when he hit the record for triple doubles and hit that amazing shot to win the game.[5] That same recklessness that takes dumb shots earlier at the end of the third quarter is the same that wins the MVP and that game in Denver. I don’t think the organization has any interest in eliminating that or trying to get that out of him because they know you kind of have to take the good and the bad with Russ.

Tyler: That remind me of a game that same season against Washington where Russ was having an awful shooting night, but hit two clutch threes at the end of the game. I think it was Nick Gallo that asked Russ about his mentality. Russ just gave a smile and gave one of my favorite quotes saying, “I ain’t ever gonna stop”.[6] That’s Russell Westbrook right there.

Andrew: That’s exactly right. You want him to stop taking the dumb shots and forcing things, but that’s just Russell. In some ways the Thunder have created a monster with him, but also, they have a guy who won MVP two seasons ago and not many teams have that. It’s always going to be a wild ride with Russell Westbrook as your alpha dog.

Tyler: Is Steven Adams the greatest interview ever?[7]

Andrew: He’s awesome. He’s really down to earth and tries to answer your question. He’s really smart, and that is one of the most underplayed things about him. He might have the best basketball mind on the team. He knows the game so well and is such a student of the game. He is incredibly funny and great in the locker room, but if you want a technical basketball question answered, he’s the guy to talk to. He will really give you an insightful answer.

Tyler: How confident are you one of the young guys is going to pop in the near future on a 1-10 scale?

Andrew: An 8. I think they have some really talented guys. TFerg is at the top of that list. The Thunder really like Hamidou Diallo, and they have him on a nice contract.

Tyler: I was surprised by how polished Diallo looked in Summer League.

Andrew: He showed quite a bit. He was impressive no question about that. You also have to take into account that he was told to just go out there and play. If I had to bet I would put him behind TFerg and Abrines in terms of who will become a top 8 rotation player.

Tyler: To close us out I have a few rapid fire True/False questions for you.

Tyler: First, OKC will finish as a top three seed in the regular season.

Andrew: True

Tyler: Russell Westbrook will finish top three in MVP voting.

Andrew: False

Tyler: The national media will end their irrational hate of OKC after this season.

Andrew: False

Tyler: The Thunder’s new City Edition Jerseys will be worse than last years.

Andrew: True. I kind of liked the grey ones.[8]

Final notes from the Interview:

  1. A Kyle Singler emergency pod will probably not happen if he gets jettisoned.[9]
  2. I go to a University in Indiana and Andrew gave some insight in how to deal with the irrational Paul George hate. Shouts to him for that.
  3. The future of Abrines is quite murky with the Thunder after this year.
  4. After talking to Andrew I want to meet Steven Adams more than ever.

I’d like to thank Andrew for agreeing to chat with me for a while. I have been a big fan of his for a few years now, and it was great to chat Thunder basketball with him. I look forward to listening to Andrew in the future and perhaps chatting with him again. One last time, if you aren’t listening to Down To Dunk or the OKC Dream Team podcasts YOU NEED TO START RIGHT NOW!

  1. I love this point on Adams Summer League. It makes me wonder how many NBA dreams were crushed by a bruising Steven “Khal Drogo” Adams screen.
  2. This is the part where I try not to cry during our chat.
  3. Thank goodness. Any coach who casually drinks from the prop Gatorade in the post-game presser is a coach I want to have.
  4. It’s fun and it’s about Russ. Definitely worth checking out.
  5. Are you really a Thunder fan if that shot doesn’t give you chills?
  6. Other favorite Russel Quotes are “Sting for Who” and “Shoes make an outfit”
  7. It is my dream to ask Steven a question and him respond by referring to me as “mate”.
  8. Here we learn to go to Tim Duncan before Andrew for fashion advice…
  9. Andrew assured me he won’t be on the team come September.

 

The Next Step for Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

Before I begin I want to preface this with the fact I believe Russell Westbrook is at worst the 8th best player in the world.  Where you have him in that top eight is not important.  I will also say I truly have a deep fandom and passion for Russell the player and person.  He is our ride or die in Oklahoma, and I would want no one else leading the way.  He is the King of the Prairie for a reason, but he has to change in order for this team to rise in the West.  I’m not talking wholesale changes.  That would be ludicrous. But Russ does have to adjust his game this year in order for this team to reach their ceiling.  Criticizing Russ has become almost like treason in Oklahoma.  It isn’t right or wrong; it’s just the reality of the fandom.  Saying Westbrook needs to evolve isn’t a harsh criticism though because nearly every Hall of Fame caliber star wanting to get over the hump and win a championship has to evolve.  While it is wrong to say Russ hasn’t changed over the years, it is equally incorrect to suggest he doesn’t need to change anymore.  While we could nitpick every minute detail of Russ’s game, I’m just going to lay out a couple of ways he can improve and evolve next year.

Play a little more off the ball       

Great players need to have the ball in their hands, but great players also know how to impact the game away from it as well. Russ hasn’t really shown an aptitude as a screener or cutter, but there have been flashes where him simply moving away from the ball is devastating for the defense. Just floating around and staying active can lull your defender to sleep at times or cause confusion, and when that happens Russ can make them pay.

Russ can also screen from time to time.  Rarely will you see him do it, and he shouldn’t do it often. But something as simple as a dribble hand off or a quick screen for George or others can give them that space needed to take advantage.

Here Russ does a mixture of a dribble handoff and ball screen because he was so close to George when he passed it. But look at the space George has coming off of it. Durant had switched to Russ, and Klay was sitting at the free throw line when George came around.  George goes full steam ahead right at Klay and gets the bucket.  When two players like Russ and PG work together like that it puts an incredible strain on the defense.

Russ can afford to play off the ball a little more this year than in the past because of the acquisition of Dennis Schröder. In his young career Schröder has proven to be a competent scorer and facilitator. He is adept at running an offense and at times shows off the same flashiness we love about Russ.  Schröder will be an integral cog in the OKC offense this season allowing Russ to rest and at times play alongside him away from the ball. Russ could benefit from less ball handling responsibilities, and we could see more plays like this from Schröder.

Critical Decision Making

There is nothing more thrilling than a Westbrook go ahead pull-up three.  We have all gone berserk when he knocks them down.  However, I have found myself praying too many times for a flailing three to somehow drop in crunch time.  It’s not only in crunch time.  There are a few spots throughout the game where Westbrook takes horrible shots. Sometimes they go in, but it doesn’t change the fact a pull up three off a ball screen for one of the leagues worst three point shooters isn’t a good shot. Neither is a possession where Russ dribbles out the majority of the shot clock and is forced to heave one.  These videos below come in the clutch and demonstrate how his decision making in critical moments needs to improve.

While there isn’t much time left in this game there is plenty of time for OKC to try and get a better look, whether it’s a quick two or a game tying three. As you can see Melo was wide open on the opposite wing, but instead Russ took a wild pull up three.

In this instance OKC is down 4 with 1:40 left. Plenty of time to still win this thing. Russ forces a tough pull up three trying to draw a foul, but instead only draws backboard.

This is from a few years ago, so as you can see it isn’t a new phenomenon.

Russ is a fantastic player and simply incredible to watch. I love every second of Russell Westbrook, the good and the bad. Yes, he has the ultra will to win, and the fire of competition burns so brightly inside him that we look past these things.  But it’s okay to point out there are a few things he needs to improve for this team to rise in what is about to be an all out war for supremacy in the Western Conference.

Recent Articles:

The Brooklyn Nets have the NBA’s Deepest Backcourt

Thank You Tony Parker

A Legacy of Consistency: Nick Collison

In every relationship there needs to be consistency.  In order for a relationship to flourish someone has to be intentionally consistent.  Now, consistency isn’t the most flashy thing to look for and may not be one of the first traits you think of when describing your dream significant other, but without it a relationship falls apart.  It’s the straw that stirs the drink. In basketball, consistency within a franchise or a player is not always the biggest attention getter. While important, it won’t garner many headlines.  Nick Collison is the embodiment of consistency. Putting himself on the grinder day after day knowing he won’t be getting any love on the next edition of SportsCenter. Nick Collison went to war with OKC on his chest every year since the team got here.  We never heard a complaint or a grumble, all we heard was the refs whistle as he drew yet another charge. He was the ultimate fan favorite who battled with Dirk, Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol and so many others while stepping up and taking on the dirty work each and every night.  Nick Collison became Mr. Thunder and the consistency he brought is gone.

Collison 2
Mark D. Smith – USA Today Sports

It’s been a few months since “The Old Man” announced his retirement and the thought of an OKC roster without him still feels unholy.  “The Old Man” is a term of endearment given to Commanding Officer William Adama by his crew in the popular show Battlestar Galactica. In the twilight of Collison’s career my father and I attributed this affectionate nickname onto one Nick Collison. The commanding officer of this team is gone now so to speak and the man who led with a cool confidence is no longer our face of consistency.  It will be impossible to gaze onto the Thunder bench next season and not feel a little empty at times knowing Mr. Thunder is no longer sitting there with his hair given to him by the basketball gods. When you feel this way just remember that while he is no longer physically on the court taking a charge or making a backdoor pass look sexy, his presence on the court is manifested by Russell Westbrook who called Nick Collison a mentor. He is seen in Steven Adams as well and every single one of his former teammates. Can we pause for a minute and remember how hilarious Collison was in those Stache Bros videos campaigning for a Russ MVP? Nick had a way of influencing every teammate he had with one thing he did better than everyone else.  He was consistent.

OKC felt a strong connection with Nick from the beginning.  Perhaps it was the way we felt drawn to a true unsung hero. Oklahomans feel underappreciated on a national scale all the time. His perfect hair played a major part of course as it sat upon his head with impunity.  Nick Collison made looking completely ordinary a cool thing, but most of all OKC fans appreciated his consistency. It was a trait he passed down to every teammate he played with. It was something this franchise will embody even now that he is gone because Nick Collison left a legacy and he will always be remembered as Mr. Thunder.

The most untouchable player for every Western Conference team

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry

Well, the doldrums of the NBA offseason did not last too long. The NBA world was rocked as Kawhi Leonard got shipped to Toronto. Conversely, DeMar DeRozan is now headed to San Antonio. Still, we must strive forward and continue on with the untouchables list.

If you missed the Eastern Conference list, then click here.

 

1. Dallas Mavericks – Luka Doncic

This is a no brainer. The Mavs just surrendered a future pick for the Slovenian point-forward. Doncic has the potential to be a transcendent NBA player. This pick and roll maestro will enter the league as one of its premier passers. If you need a reminder on just how good Doncic is, I dug up his ProCity Hoops profile for you.

 

2. Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic

What gave this one away? Jokic just signed a 5 yr/$147 million deal. The center finished last season with a better field goal percentage that Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins. Plus, he is one of the best passers in the game, regardless of position. Jokic finished 15th in assists per game last year, and 12th for total assists. Wow. This kid isn’t going anywhere.

 

3. Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry

Let’s get this out of the way. No one on this roster is getting traded anytime soon. This team has a few more finals appearances on the horizon, despite any players that LeBron guy lands in LA. While I do not expect a trade, I still chose Steph here. Trading him would be detrimental to the team’s fan base. You simply cannot throw away a home grown kid like Steph and expect everything to be okay.

 

4. Houston Rockets – James Harden

Did you expect anyone else? Here is a clip of every stepback J Harden hit last season.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Although it is merely summer league, this rookie has looked awesome. His octopus tentacles doubles as arms nowadays, and he used them for stealing basketballs. Offensively, he has the potential to play both guard positions. Jerry West has a steal on his hands.

Jerome Robinson was considered but, he does not have SGA’s ceiling. Tobias Harris was also in competition here, but his trade value is high enough to warrant being available. Check out SGA’s scouting report.

 

6. Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

Moving on.

 

7. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr.

This was an easy selection. Triple J has looked like he will immediately be an elite rim protector in this league. On the other side of the ball he has shown promise by draining 8 thress during his first summer league game. His full report is here.

More importantly, however, it seems as though Memphis is looking to make the playoffs. They added Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple this offseason and drafted NBA ready Jevon Carter. In a loaded Western Conference, is this feasible? Memphis should be looking to unload Conley and Gasol instead of making the postseason.

 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns

Kat is my most underrated player in this league. He put up statistics last year that have never been done before. Not one player in league history has put up a stat line of 54 percent FG%, 42 percent 3P% on at least 14 field goal attempts and 3.5 three-point attempts.

Offensively, he is the best scoring center in the league and it is not even as close as we think. Check out how his numbers from last season rank against the premier offensive centers in the league last year.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS
1 DeMarcus Cousins 2017-18 48 8.5 18.0 .470 2.2 6.1 .354 6.3 11.9 .530 .530 8.2 .746 12.9 5.4 3.8 25.2
2 Joel Embiid 2017-18 63 8.1 16.8 .483 1.0 3.4 .308 7.0 13.4 .527 .514 7.4 .769 11.0 3.2 3.3 22.9
3 Al Horford 2017-18 72 5.1 10.5 .489 1.3 3.1 .429 3.8 7.3 .514 .553 1.7 .783 7.4 4.7 1.9 12.9
4 Nikola Jokic 2017-18 75 6.7 13.5 .499 1.5 3.7 .396 5.2 9.7 .538 .554 4.2 .850 10.7 6.1 2.8 18.5
5 Karl-Anthony Towns 2017-18 82 7.8 14.3 .545 1.5 3.5 .421 6.3 10.8 .585 .596 4.9 .858 12.3 2.4 3.5 21.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2018.
If you considered Andrew Wiggins for this list, seek help. Take a “me” day. With Jimmy Butler a free agent flight risk, KAT is the selection to go with.

9. New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis

The Brow is the future of the NBA. A 6’11” power forward (who should be playing center) who can shoot from all three levels and has DPOY potential? Sign me up. Davis was only 22-years-old when he led the NBA in both blocks and PER. He has an MVP season in him somewhere, hopefully the Pelicans can unlock it for him.

 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook

I debated Paul George here for a second. Why? A big name free agent signing like that in OKC will be rare going forward. What message would it send to the league if OKC just shipped him off? Despite this, Westbrook gets the nod. Not only is he an MVP player, but he is the heart and soul of Oklahoma basketball.

 

11. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker

Because, duh. Devin Only two players have put up 24 point per game, 4 assists per game on 38 percent 3P shooting during their first 5 seasons in the league. One of them is Devin Booker. The other…Steph Curry.

DeAndre Ayton was never seriously considered here. He is a heck of a talent but, it is easier to find a rim protecting, three point shooting big than it is someone with Booker’s talent and ceiling. Josh Jackson was never truly in consideration.

 

12. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard

I struggled with this pick. Half of me thinks that Portland should just blow it up. The West has gotten even harder and they look to be a team with a second round ceiling. Why pursue the same result every year, if that result is not winning a title?

The other half of me thinks that Portland may have just enough assets to acquire a third star. Zach Collins still has a ton of potential and Portland is very high on him. Anfernee Simons balled out during summer league and turned the heads of many executives. Gm Neil Oshey should certainly consider bringing Kevin Love back to his home state. Send a package of prospects and picks over to Cleveland. Buddy up Love with McCollum and Dame, go all in.

 

13. Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox

This selection was harder than it looked. Marvin Bagley is the Kings new toy. The 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft was not ranked as the #2 overall prospect by many scouts. Yet, the Kings loved Bagley and his desire to actually want to play in NoCal. I had Bagley ranked behind duke teammate Wendell Carter, and through summer league is appeared that I was right to do so.

Fox is a different story. He will help rebuild a culture in Sac’Town. Fox may possibly be the quickest end to end player in the league, and he has a developing jumper. Having already shown leadership and clutchness, I would be willing to trade Bagley before Fox.

De'Aaron Fox
USA Today Sports

14. San Antonio Spurs – DeMar DeRozan

Aw. So sad, DeMar.

Yesterday I wrote that no one on the Raptors should be untouchable, and apparently GM Masai Ujiri agreed with me. San Antonio clearly wants to take advantage of the remaining years that they have with Pop (bad decision.) So, they went out and traded Kawhi for DeMar. Shipping him off now would only would blow my mind, literally. GM R.C Buford had made brilliant moves for the Spurs for almost two decades now, but this move was horrendous.

 

15. Utah Jazz – Donovan Mitchell

Spida Mitchell made a bunch of GMs look dumb last year. He looks like a modern day D Wade. Mitchell has an All-NBA ceiling and I cannot wait to watch him develop. Gobert was never truly in contention here. In fact, I would consider trading the big man at his peak value.

During last year’s playoffs, we saw how stretch bigs can draw rim protectors away from, well, the rim. Ask Joel Embiid to explain what Al Horford did to him. Gobert will be less and less effective in the playoffs as teams play smaller. For now though, rejoice in having one of the most exciting players in the game back in Utah.

 

Recent Articles:

The most untouchable player for every Eastern Conference team

Can Zach LaVine live up to his price tag?

Busts of the NBA: Michael Carter-Williams