Archive - February 2017

Westbrook heroics stun Utah, Thunder win 109-106

The Oklahoma City Thunder (35-25) are breathing a sigh of relief after almost giving away a win to the Utah Jazz (37-23) in an otherwise great shooting performance from the Thunder. Oklahoma City inched out a 109-106 win in a thrilling finish where Utah outscored them by eight in the fourth quarter. It was another amazing crunch time performance as well from Westbrook, who had two huge three-point plays with less than a minute remaining.

Two things came through huge for the Thunder outside of Westbrook’s heroics. It was two things that Thunder have needed all season long: Bench contribution on the offensive end, and outside shooting. Both of those things were apparent in a big time win for Oklahoma City, in a game that had pretty decent sized playoff implications.

The Thunder began the night unconscious from beyond the three-point line, hitting their first 12, yes twelve, three-pointers in a row. It was a Oklahoma City record, 12 made threes in a half. It was a combination both of wide open attempts, and just great shot making. It really showed that it was just Thunder’s night after Westbrook hit a wild prayer three that turned into a four-point play.

Russell led the way from three, hitting six of the 15 makes by Thunder, but seven of them combined coming from Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott.

Oklahoma City finished the night shooting an unbelievable 68 percent from beyond the arc, this coming from a team that is dead last in three-point percentage as a team.

The bench for the Thunder was phenomenal, especially offensively. In a night where Roberson and Adams played their tail off defensively, they only chipped in a combined five points. That is where Oklahoma City’s bench came in huge. They combined for 48 bench points on 60 percent shooting from the floor. In particular, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott were the ones with the biggest contribution, combining for 31 of those 48 points. It was nice sight to see McDermott get it going, especially from three-point land, as he had struggled a bit in his first two games as a Thunder player.

Even with the huge offensive performances, Utah hung around pretty much all night, keeping the deficit manageable, never down by more than 13 all game.

It started to pay dividends for the Jazz, as they started to make their run in the fourth quarter. As the offense became stagnant for Thunder and some sloppy turnovers, Utah made their move. After the Jazz went down 94-85 halfway through the fourth, Utah went on a 17 to four run to take a four-point lead with a little less than two minutes remaining.

However, as the Thunder have been all year, they were once again incredible in the clutch, especially Westbrook. After going down four, Westbrook responded with a big three, getting the deficit down to one. After a Utah miss, Westbrook went coast to coast, finishing off a three-point play putting the Thunder on the highside by two to essentially seal the win.

Westbrook is indescribable, as he can just turn the switch and hit the big time shots no matter the momentum of the game. He also recorded his 30th triple double of the season, his fourth in a row. As I “casually” type that because Westbrook has somehow made that seem normal, it is not out of question for him to catch Oscar Robertson in most triple doubles in a season. What he is doing is simply unbelievable. It was also Russell’s sixth triple double this season that he recorded 40 points or more.

The Thunder are now 2-1 this season versus Utah. As mentioned, the Thunder winning this season series versus the Jazz could have big implications on where each team is seeded come playoff time. After this win, Oklahoma City is tied for the sixth seed, and only two games back from the Jazz who are currently the fourth seed.

Oklahoma City finished the month of February 7-4, and up next will travel to Portland to take on the Blazers on Thursday night.

Keys to the game

Defend the three: B

The Utah Jazz shot 40 percent from three, hitting nine of their 22 attempts. Oklahoma City, though, made Utah miss when it counted, especially late in the game. Thunder also defended the three-point line very well on the last possession, when Utah was trying to send the game to overtime.

Rebound: B+

Oklahoma City definitely won the rebounding battle, out-rebounding Utah by nine, but Rudy Gobert definitely made the Oklahoma City bigs disappear at times. Other than that, the Thunder came down with the loose ball battles when they needed to, which was huge in their three-point win.

Hey Bench, show up: A+

I thought about adding a lot more “+” symbols because the bench was excellent for Oklahoma City tonight. Putting up 48 points, Thunder’s bench unit was an integral part of this big win. With the trade Oklahoma City made on trade deadline day, it is already starting to payoff as having experienced guys helps a ton. This bench unit will be huge in how deep and competitive Oklahoma City will be in postseason play.

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Thunder sign Norris Cole for remainder of the season

Feb 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Norris Cole (30) drives the ball defended by Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed free agent point guard Norris Cole for the remainder of the season as they make their push to the playoffs.

Cole last played for the New Orleans Pelicans last season, averaging 10.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting from the floor. He appeared in 45 games, starting 23 of them.

When the Pelicans did not re-sign Cole, he put his sights on China. He played for Shandong in the Chinese Basketball Association. Cole averaged 19.1 points per game in nine games for Shandong. He shot only 41 percent and 28.9 percent from three. Cole only played for Shandong for three months and hasn’t played organized basketball since the beginning of December.

For his career, Cole is averaging 7.1 points per game on 32.6 percent from three and 40.9 percent from the floor. He’s a defensive minded player who was a catalyst off the bench for the Miami Heat during their Championship runs. Cole won two NBA championships with LeBron and Co. while in Miami.

Cole spent for years at Cleveland State before being drafted by the Bulls with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. His rights were traded on Draft night to Minnesota for Nikola Mirotic, who in turned flipped those to Miami for Bojan Bogdanovic.

The price of Cole’s contract is unknown but the flamboyant personality of Cole and his hard nosed defense could be a god send to a second unit that can struggle at the point guard position.

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Could Oladipo be a backup point guard

Dec. 9, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) drives to the basket between Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward Trevor Ariza (1) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Oladipo is arguably the second-best player on the Thunder roster.

His ability to slash to the rim and finish is great; his shooting stroke from the corners is even greater. He can defend and create on offense.

Oladipo is listed as a shooting guard, and he can play the position well. When he plays with Russell Westbrook passing him the ball, it makes his job much easier.

The past two games, Oladipo has been sidelined with back spasms. Alex Abrines has started in his place and played well. Abrines has made eight 3-pointer’s and scored a career-high 19 points against the Lakers on Friday night. He played 35 minutes against the Pelicans on Sunday night and he is relishing his first two starts of his NBA career.

Abrines has shown he is capable of starting in the NBA. His shooting ability helps space the floor with the starting unit, and if he continues to knock down shots it will make him more valuable to this team.

None of this is Oladipo’s fault. His health is important to this team with about a month and a half until the playoffs start. But with the recent trades and improvements to the roster, it gives Thunder coach Billy Donovan more flexibility with the roster.

Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott are both capable of starting. They both give you scoring on offense. Gibson is one of the best defensive bigs in the league and McDermott’s defense has improved greatly since he entered the league.

Donovan has a problem, but a good one. There’s a lot of talent on the roster and its hard to figure out minutes especially with the new pieces around.

When the Thunder traded away Cameron Payne, they lost a player who was the most reliable backup point guard on the roster. Semaj Christon is growing and needs to continue to play to grow his game, but the Thunder could benefit from Oladipo being the backup point guard.

Oladipo has come off the bench 57 times in his career. He’s started all 48 games he’s played with Oklahoma City, though Donovan has experimented with him in the backup role. Oladipo would go to the bench early and come back with the second unit. He wasn’t the point guard, but he handled the ball in the second unit a lot.

If Oladipo was the backup point guard, the starters could be Westbrook-Abrines-Roberson-Gibson/Sabonis-Adams. Oladipo could come off the bench while still playing 30 minutes a night. He’s playing 33.7 a game as a starter. The minutes wouldn’t change much.

Oladipo-McDermott-Grant/Sabonis-Kanter could be the players to make contributions of the bench. OKC would have three scorers coming off the bench with Oladipo, McDermott and Kanter. Sabonis and Grant could switch depending on matchups and if you need more offense or defense.

Therefore, Oladipo could be a backup point guard and help this team tremendously. His ability to create off the dribble and score would open up the bench’s offense and help the team become stronger heading into the playoffs.

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Thunder win third straight, beat NOLA 118-110

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A thunderous throw down over DeMarcus Cousins really was the epitome of what the Thunder brought in their 118-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City improves to a season best nine games over .500 and OKC is 34-25 on the season. It’s only a half-game out of sixth place in the Western Conference.

Westbrook finished with 41 points, 11 rebounds and 11 rebounds.

“I thought our team did a really good job tonight,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I knew tonight would be a challenge.”

Despite 69 points from Anthony Davis and Cousins, the Thunder never wavered or panicked as they stayed the course. OKC overcame an early nine-point deficit and tied it up at halftime 59-all. New Orleans found the bottom of a couple of three-point shots in the early part of the third quarter, but OKC never let New Orleans get a comfortable lead from there on out.

Enes Kanter continued to knock the rust off. He scored 20 points in his second game back from his broken arm. He was an offensive juggernaut who couldn’t be stopped, Cousins and Davis be damned. He’s a ballerina on the block and can spin a pivot foot with the best of them.

However, all of this would be for naught if it wasn’t for Westbrook. His 31 points and nine rebounds in the second half was the real catalyst for the Thunder. He had 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the final 16 for the Thunder. His marksmen ability in the clutch is second to none in this league. Not Isaiah Thomas. Not Steph Curry. It’s Russell Westbrook. He’s a bounty hunter looking to lock down a victory like it skipped bail.

Westbrook’s ability to find his teammates and get them involved was apperent tonight. Westbrook had nine assists on OKC’s 24 made buckets in the first half. Westbrook assisted or scored 22 of OKC’s 59 points.

“Nothing Russell [Westbrook] does surprises me anymore,” Donovan said.

OKC will round out its homestand against the division leading Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. Utah is 37-22 on the year and has a three-game lead on the Thunder. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Defend the paint: A+

Against Boogie and Davis you’d expect the Thunder to struggle to win the paint scoring, but it wasn’t all that hard tonight. OKC really controlled it all around, outscoring the Pelicans 56-40 in the paint.

Play fast: A+

While there weren’t a lot of fast break points scored tonight, only 14 overall, the Thunder went fast. They were like Ricky Bobby in the Daytona 500. OKC was in control and dominated the Pelicans on the break while in the same sentence, not allowing a team like New Orleans to win something it shouldn’t.

Hit the three: D

Those not named Russell Westbrook shot 4-of-13 from deep. Westbrook was 2-of-8 from deep and the Thunder’s bench was 0-for. OKC has to figure out how to hit the three but really have gotten lucky so far. Some of the three-point bench shooting could change if and when Victor Oladipo returns and Alex Abrines heads back to the bench. Abrines was 3-of-7 from deep tonight.

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Thunder Game Day #58: vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Oklahoma City Thunder (32-25, 20-8 home) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (19-39, 7-25 away)
Friday, Feb. 24 :: 7:00 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)

Thunder Game Day #58: vs. Los Angeles Lakersvs. Thunder Digest

TV: FS Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27, U-Verse 751/1751 HD)
Online Streamhere.
RadioWWLS Sports Animal 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: Oklahoma City is a 10-point favorite. O/U is 221
Notes: Thunder: here | Lakers: here

SETTING THE SCENE

  • Oklahoma City comes into the second half of the season with only 28 games remaining.
  • The Thunder beat the Knicks right before the break. Before that Oklahoma City had lost three of four games.
  • The Lakers are 19-39 on the season, second worst in the West.
  • Los Angeles dropped two straight before the break and are only 3-7 in their last 10 games.
  • Oklahoma City and Los Angeles are 1-1 in their series meeting this year.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Brian Davis and Michael Cage call the game on the Thunder’s flagship station, Fox Sports Oklahoma. You can watch the game there, catch it on NBA League Pass, or use the Fox Sports App (If you’re in Oklahoma).

WIN OVER THE KNICKS HIGHLIGHTS

  • After the Knicks built an early 17 point lead, The Thunder outscored New York 35-21 in the second quarter to take a halftime advantage.
  • Victor Oladipo scored 12 of his 21 in the second quarter.
  • Russell Westbrook tallied his 27th triple-double of the season by recording 38 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, giving him the third-most ever in an NBA season.
  • Five players were in double figures for Oklahoma City, including Jerami Grant who had his seventh double-digit scoring game of the season, 13 points, to go along with five rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes.
  • Oklahoma City outscored New York on the break, 25-8.

SCOUTING THE LAKERS

  • The Los Angeles Lakers are 19-39 on the season, 14th in the Western Conference
  • In their last 10 games, the Lakers are 3-7.
  • The Thunder is 18-12 vs. Los Angeles during the Oklahoma City era.
  • Oklahoma City is 10-4 overall vs. the Lakers at home.
  • Los Angeles hasn’t beaten the Thunder in Oklahoma City since Feb. 2011, nine straight.
  • Oklahoma City’s won those nine games by an average of 20.7 points per game.
  • The Lakers beat Oklahoma City 111-109 on Nov. 22 in Los Angeles.
  • Teams have split their two games in the regular season series.
  • Tyler Ennis (coach’s decision) is out tonight.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Los Angeles came on Dec. 19, 2015, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 118-78 (40-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (18 points) vs. Lakers occurred during an 89-107 loss on March 24, 2009.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK TRIP-DUBS

  • Russell Westbrook has 64 career triple-doubles, that’s best for sixth all-time.
  • 20 of the 64 are against Houston, Orlando, Washington, Minnesota, and Philadelphia. He has four against each team.
  • Russell Westbrook seven triple-doubles in a row this season is the most since 1989 when Jordan had seven in a row and 10 in 11 games.
  • Westbrook is fifth all-time in triple-doubles.

ALL-TIME TRIPLE-DOUBLE LIST

Rank Name Triple-doubles
1 Oscar Robertson 181
2 Magic Johnson 138
3 Jason Kidd 108
4 Russell Westbrook 79

INJURY REPORT

  • Enes Kanter (ulna fracture) is probably for tonight’s game.
  • Taj Gibson (trade) is questionable for tonight.
  • Doug McDermott (trade) is questionable for tonight.

50 IS NIFTY

  • On March 24, the Thunder claimed a 22-point home victory over the Jazz and in the process, OKC recorded the team’s 50th win of the season.
  • Oklahoma City has now finished with a winning percentage of .610 (equivalent to 50 wins) six times dating back to the 2009-10 season.
  • Only the San Antonio Spurs (seven seasons with .610 winning percentage), have reached that benchmark more during this period.

STILL GOOD ODDS

  • According to Sportsbook, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the eighth best odds to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • They have the fifth best odds to win the Western Conference behind, the Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and the Warriors.

NEXT UP

  • On Sunday, Feb. 26, the Thunder will host the new look New Orleans Pelicans.
  • New Orleans is 23-35 in the regular season, 11th in the Western Conference.
  • The Pelicans is 4-6 in their last 10 games.
  • New Orleans will be on a back-to-back as they are in Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City on Sunday.
  • Oklahoma City is 3-0 this season vs. NOLA.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Defend the three

Oklahoma City has struggled to defend over their losing streak and over the long list of the bad games, the Thunder are allowing a horrible 44.5 percent from three, second worst in the association. In victories, the Thunder are only allowing 32 percent from deep That’s pretty simple, Oklahoma City will need to defend better if they want to win.

Rebound

If Kanter returns tonight, the Thunder will dominate the glass. However, if he’s out the rebounding is still just as important. Oklahoma City cannot be giving extra opportunities to the Lakers. It’s imperative they win the glass.

Hey Bench, show up

If the bench shows up, Oklahoma City runs away with this game. However, they’re non-existent at times, especially defensively. If Oklahoma City is short players due to the trade, Oklahoma City will really need the extra step for this team. They have to find a way to defend, the Thunder are going to find a victory. The Thunder’s bench averages 35.7 points per game, 14th. They’re giving up 35.2 points on the bench, which is ninth. Oklahoma City has to defend better.

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OKC sharp with the new guys; beat Lakers 110-93

Feb 24, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) reacts after a play against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook began the second half of the 2016-17 NBA season how he finished the first.

In a little less than 20 minutes, the MVP candidate recorded his 28th triple-double in a dominant 110-93 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers (19-40). It was a new beginning for the Oklahoma City Thunder (33-25) who showcased their newly acquired players in Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

Per sports-reference.com, Westbrook became the first player since the 1983-84 season to register at least 17 points, 18 rebounds and 17 assists. In addition to the triple-double, Westbrook actually had an off-shooting night, shooting 4-of-18 from the floor.

“He was unbelievable in so many ways tonight,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game.

The rest of the starting five came to play as well.

Filling in for the injured Victor Oladipo (back spasms, game time decision), Alex Abrines put on a shooting barrage from distance. The rookie tied the Thunder team high in scoring with a career-high 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the three-point line. It was Abrines’ first start of his NBA career and he certainly made it count.

“I was a little nervous,” Abrines said when asked about his first start. “After a few shots fell, I was able to settle in and play.”

Andre Roberson continued his stellar February also with a career-high 19 points on 3-of-3 shooting from deep.  The much offensively maligned Roberson has made an incredible turn on the other side of the floor as of late.

The entire starting five all fell on the plus side of the +/- stat — combining for a monster +129.

It was surprising that both Gibson and McDermott were available in their first game since the trade on Thursday. Donovan expressed in the postgame that both Oklahoma City newcomers had “a lot of questions in timeouts,” but that is to be expected with not even one shoot around with the team in the 24 hours since the trade.

Gibson’s reputation of being masterful in the pick & roll offense translated well to Oklahoma City. Gibson, a 31-year-old NBA veteran, scored 12 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in his Thunder debut and dazzled fans with a few monstrous dunks.

McDermott’s ability to move off the ball and gain separation already proved valuable for the Thunder. The former Creighton star scored eight points and grabbed four boards.

Lost in the Westbrook/newcomers excitement was the return of Enes Kanter, four weeks to the day from his surgery on his forearm. Kanter, unsurprisingly, looked out of sync for most of the night and missed some shots that he normally makes. There appeared to be no ill-effects from the injury to his forearm. The reserve big scored four points and grabbed seven boards.

The Lakers fought hard to stay within arms length in the first half. A 28-19 explosion in the third quarter all but blew Los Angeles’ chance of stealing a road win out of the water. The lead ballooned to 20 points in favor of Oklahoma City.

DeAngelo Russell led the Lakers with 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting.

A strong fourth quarter push by the Lakers saw the come as close as nine points before Westbrook pulled the Thunder away for good.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Defend the three: A+

The Lakers were held to 20 percent shooting on 7-of-35 shooting. The Thunder never allowed Los Angeles to find rhythm from beyond the arc and they allowed the defense to exert themselves most of the contest.

Rebound: A

Oklahoma City out rebounded the Lakers 59-51 and were the more physical team in the paint. Westbrook and Adams combined for 28 rebounds alone. The Thunder had a businesslike performance on the glass.

Hey Bench, show up: B

All things considered, the bench played as well as you could expect. With Kanter returning from injury and Gibson/McDermott making their debuts, some mistakes were going to happen. The bench never let the Lakers take full advantage, however. Oladipo being out moved Abrines from the bench into the starting lineup.

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Thunder eye Chicago’s Taj Gibson

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City is a usual trade deadline team and it appears this year could be no different than last. ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting Oklahoma City is eying Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson.

Gibson and the Thunder have been linked in the past but no real traction has taken place before.

Gibson who is only 31 years old, has been a staple in Chicago for many years. This season Gibson is averaging 11.6 points and seven rebounds on 52.6 percent shooting from the floor.

While Gibson would be a significant upgrade over the youth of Domantas Sabonis, he’s on an expiring contract this season. He’s making $9 million this season.

Fun fact about Gibson: He was originally drafted by Chicago in 2009 with the first round draft pick Oklahoma City sent to Chicago in exchange for Thabo Sefolosha.

Adrian Wojnarowski has already reporting Oklahoma City looks to be buyers today and could definitely be in the mix for someone, even if it’s not Gibson. Woj reported Oklahoma City

A report earlier this week suggested that the Thunder would like to add a wing scorer to their roster. Gibson doesn’t fit that bill, but he would add some additional toughness to a frontcourt that already features Steven Adams. Oklahoma City has also been linked to Wilson Chandler this week. That’s no longer in the works according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

Oklahoma City’s interior defense is one of the worst in the association. They’re giving up a ton of shots in the paint and give up the second most points in the paint. Gibson could really be a plug that helps stop this leak.

However, one thing to note: This is probably a leak from Chicago. They’re gauging value and trying to drive value up. Oklahoma City often doesn’t make the move that’s been reported. They often find a way to surprise you. This could be a deal that’s already dead in the water.

We’ll continue to give you the most recent updates on today’s trade deadline, which is set for 2 p.m. Thunder Time. Make sure you’re following on twitter at @Thunder_Digest.

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Thunder acquire Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson for Payne, Morrow, Lauvergne, and pick

The Thunder and Sam Presti have done it again. Shortly before the trade deadline was reached, Oklahoma City is sending Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for a second round draft pick, Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

Cameron Payne, second year out of Murray State struggled last season and the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft has yet to come on after being injured in the summer. Oklahoma City now has only two point guards to show for their roster. He’s averaging 5.3 points on 33 percent from the floor and only 30 percent from three. He had a lot of interest over the summer, primarily the Sacramento Kings. His foot injury nixed any opportunity for a trade.

Morrow was a beloved player who fell off the mountain. His shooting numbers plummeted and he’s really never really recovered. He’s shooting a career low 29.4 percent from three-point range. He’s averaging only 5.8 points per game, second lowest of his career.

Joffrey Lauvergne was acquired in training camp from Denver and he’s a stretch four who adamantly does not want to play the center position. He tries to shoot threes and struggles when he does. His defense leaves you guessing what he’s going to do as he makes unorthodox decisions that hurt his team.

Gibson who is only 31 years old, has been a staple in Chicago for many years. This season Gibson is averaging 11.6 points and seven rebounds on 52.6 percent shooting from the floor.

While Gibson will be a significant upgrade over the youth of Domantas Sabonis, he’s on an expiring contract this season. He’s making $9 million this season.

Fun fact about Gibson: He was originally drafted by Chicago in 2009 with the first round draft pick Oklahoma City sent to Chicago in exchange for Thabo Sefolosha.

McDermott was a three-time First-Team All-American at Creighton. He averaged 21.7 points in his four years as a Blue Jay.

McDermott is averaging a career high 10.2 points per game on 37.6 percent from deep, also a career high, and 44.5 percent from the floor. His 25 minutes a contest are also a career high.

While McDermott can shoot the lights out, his defense leaves little to be desired. His defensive rating of 113 rivals that of Anthony Morrow. In fact, their offensive and defensive ratings are almost identical.

He’s set to make $2.4 million this season and the Bulls already picked up his option for 2017-18, giving him $3.3 million next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent if no one can sign him by Halloween.

Oklahoma City also acquired a second round pick from Chicago in the upcoming draft. That’ll provide Oklahoma City with a few more assets. They also used some of their trade exception from acquiring Jerami Grant to finish off the deal.

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Thunder in play for Doug McDermott

Oklahoma City has been linked to another Chicago Bull. This time it is Doug McDermott.

Royce Young of ESPN said Oklahoma City is hot on the tails of the third-year player out of Creighton. Oklahoma City was also linked to Taj Gibson earlier today.

McDermott was a three-time First-Team All-American at Creighton. He averaged 21.7 points in his four years as a Blue Jay.

Since McDermott, properly nicknamed McBuckets for his outstanding shooting ability, he’s played three years with Chicago. He was drafted 11th overall in 2014 by the Denver Nuggets, but his rights were traded on draft night to Chicago.

McDermott is averaging a career high 10.2 points per game on 37.6 percent from deep, also a career high, and 44.5 percent from the floor. His 25 minutes a contest are also a career high.

While McDermott can shoot the lights out, his defense leaves little to be desired. His defensive rating of 113 rivals that of Anthony Morrow. In fact, their offensive and defensive ratings are almost identical.

He’s set to make $2.4 million this season and the Bulls already picked up his option for 2017-18, giving him $3.3 million next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent if no one can sign him by Halloween.

A report earlier this week suggested that the Thunder would like to add a wing scorer to their roster. McDermott definietly fits that bill for Oklahoma City, but it’s weird you would trade for a player who’s similar to someone you already have. Except McDermott has about six years on Morrow. Oklahoma City has also been linked to Wilson Chandler this week. That’s no longer in the works according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

We’ll continue to give you the most recent updates on today’s trade deadline, which is set for 2 p.m. Thunder Time. Make sure you’re following on twitter at @Thunder_Digest.

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!

Is Enes Kanter close to returning?

Dec 14, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) reacts during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 109-89. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

With the All-Star game in the rearview mirror, the Oklahoma City Thunder set their sights to the unofficial second half of the season.

The next seven games set up with for the current seventh seed in the West. With the way the Thunder were playing leading up to the annual mid-season break, a soft schedule could work well into Oklahoma City’s fortune.

All this is a blessing, considering the Thunder could very well be seeing their star reserve return. Perhaps sooner rather than later.

Reports of Enes Kanter knowing his return date have trickled out over the last few weeks from The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne and The Norman Transcript‘s Fred Katz. This comes as great news considering the early predictions that suggested Kanter’s 2016-17 year could have ended with the chair smash.

When the Thunder take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at the Chesapeake Arena, it will be four weeks to the day when the franchise announced Kanter’s successful surgery and four week reevaluation.

At this point, to expect Kanter back Friday or shortly after is still a tad too optimistic. While Oklahoma City would certainly benefit from the Turkish big man returning to the rotation, the Thunder’s schedule may afford the team more time to be cautious with Kanter.

When the Thunder returned to practice on Wednesday, Kanter was participating in what was described as a non-contact, heavy conditioning practice.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Billy Donovan said earlier today at practice. “Enes doesn’t have a problem shooting.”

Donovan elaborated on Kanter’s status in the short term.

“As it relates to Friday, it will be more of a medical decision, so I don’t wan’t to say he is in or out,” Donovan shared.

This comes as welcome news for Oklahoma City.

Back in the Thunder’s January road-dog schedule, Oklahoma City went 7-6 with Kanter. That stretch included road games at Golden State, Houston, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Utah. From Kanter’s first missed game against Cleveland on January 29th to now, the Thunder’s record was 4-6 — a more home friendly schedule but two meetings against the Cavaliers, road game against San Antonio and Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City.

While the schedule grew favorable with more home games in Kanter’s absence, the opponents were much tougher than the January slate.

Why is it okay to be excited to expect Kanter to not only return at some point this season, but make an impact with the team as they close out the regular season? The recent news about Kanter being cleared to practice shouldn’t be shocking.

If you have been listening to the Peake & Roll Podcast — if you haven’t, shame on you. Subscribe and listen here! — then you may have heard a little anecdote concerning the injured Kanter on episode 14.

The week of the Golden State game in Oklahoma City, two weeks after the surgery, Kanter was seen walking around the practice facility in full practice jersey garb and no cast on his arm. He was moving in a way that made it seem he did not want to be seen by the media, as he waited to walk on the floor after a player was made available for questions — backs turned to the court, before he quickly walked down a corridor.

This could be a case of looking to much into a common occurrence, but it was an odd sight to behold considering no one expected to see Kanter until after the All-Star break.

At 32-25, Oklahoma City finds itself a mere three games back from the fourth seed. There are 25 games remaining, with eight of those being against teams with winning record — the fewest in the NBA per The Oklahoman‘s Brett Dawson. Even if the Thunder decide to remain on the cautious side concerning Kanter’s injury and save him for the postseason at the latest, its no pipe dream that the Thunder could gain some ground without him.

But all things considered, it may be okay to expect to see the mustached big back soon. Only Kanter knows, as he shared with reporters with his trademark grin.

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