Tag - stats

Three takeaways from Thunder’s 113-101 win over T-Wolves

The game really wasn’t in doubt. Oklahoma City took their show on the road, added in a little special feature of Paul George. Then, it led with the main act of destroying what little hope the T-Wolves had in this preseason game with a multitude of Steven Adams rebounds and box outs.

Yeah, I’m pretty amped about a preseason box out.

In reality, the Thunder did things better than they did on Wednesday night. They took care of a team that made the playoffs last season. They led by double digits throughout the entire second half and a good chunk of the first half, too.

With all that, here are three things I noticed in the first half.

Steven Adams, you lovely man

Steven Adams is the new mayor of the twin cities. Well, in the preseason sense. The fifth-year man out of Pittsburgh dominated in a way that had their own Timberwolves faithful doubting themselves. He was a monster. Is it just the lackadaisical attitude of the the Timberwolves on the night of a preseason game? Who knows but Steven Adams went 7-of-11 from the floor and only took one shot in the second half as the Thunder didn’t really need anything from him in the second half. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Diallo stepped up 

I try to keep expectations to a minimum in preseason. However, I look back to Adams, who beast mode all over the preseason his rookie season. He ended up starting over Kendrick Perkins. Then, there was Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, who both had good preseasons. So, Hamidou Diallo could be anywhere in there. Tonight, against the Diallo was 3-of-8 from the floor. He had eight points and six rebounds and two steals. He did also have one monster dunk.

Diallo is averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 23.5 minutes this preseason. Stats come and go but his movement off the ball and his defensive executions are what really get your gears going about his ceiling.

The boards

Oklahoma City’s ability to dominate the boards all night. Five different players pulled down at least five rebounds. Adams and Nerlens Noel had 10 rebounds in only 20 minutes tonight. They all were able to limit What Karl Anthony-Towns did tonight. A guy who averaged 12.3 rebounds per game last season really had no other option but stand around and look around. Oklahoma City did a great job tonight on the glass.

The Thunder were 35-11 last season when they won the rebounding battle. If the Thunder are able to rebound at this rate, they’ll put on a really good show this season.

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Thunder Summer League roster announced

There will be a few recognizable names for Oklahoma City but for the most part, they’ll be bunch of players just trying to get action and noticed by other NBA teams. There are some previous players who’ve gone on to big things with other NBA teams such as Dwight Buycks and Garrett Temple.

Oklahoma City will play three games in Vegas, here they are:

Date Opponent Time/Channel Location
Friday, July 6 vs. Charlotte 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU) Thomas & Mack Center
Saturday, July 7 vs. Brooklyn 6 p.m. (NBATV) T-Mobile Arena
Monday, July 9 vs. Toronto 2:30 p.m. (NBA TV) Thomas & Mack Center

Roster

Terrance Ferguson

T-Ferg started a handful of games and was the 21st pick overall last season. He didn’t play in last year’s summer league due to FIBA clearance and he hadn’t agreed to a contract because of the clearance. Ferguson averaged 3.1 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 61 games. He stated 12 games as well. He averaged 14.7 points on 47.2 percent shooting in 3 G League games last season.

Dakari Johnson

Dakari was a surprising signing last season. Not even a two-way deal, it was a full on contract. He performed admirably in back up duty and even started a couple of games with Steven Adams out. However, the big man out of Kentucky is still a step too slow and looks overweight. It’s unknown if he’ll stick in this league but at least he has his shot.

Daniel Hamilton

Hamilton, the G League triple-double machine, gets his shot with the Summer League team again. He starred in Orlando last season Hea veraged 11.7 points, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds in only 30 minutes per game in the summer league. For the Thunder last season, Hamilton appeared in six games, averaging less than five minutes and averaging only 2.0 points per game.

PJ Dozier

The other two-way contract, Dozier was a surprise pick up by the Thunder. Out of South Carolina, Dozier played well in the G League. He appeared in He played for the Lakers in Summer League last year, only scoring two points in two games. In Thunder games, Dozier appeared in two games. He averaged a point on 50 percent shooting. So, two shots and he hit one. There we go. As for the G League, Dozier averaged 13 points on 47 percent shooting in 38 starts.

Devon Hall

Oklahoma City’s first pick in the second round. The kid out of Virginia was highly praised at the NBA Draft Combine. It’s unknown what he can do offensively as he played in an offense that was super limited and they primarily stuck to defense. The defense is nice but if he can duplicate that 42 percent three-point shooting at the NBA level, Hall will become the steal of the draft.

Kevin Hervey

Hervey might’ve blown out both ACLs but he can still ball. During his senior year at UT-Arlington, Hervey averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season, while shooting 33.9 percent from three-point range last season. That 33.9 percent was up from 28 percent. He continued to get better with the long ball. He was a first round talent before blowing his ACLs. Can he stay healthy? His pick at 57th overall was an easy low risk high reward pick for Oklahoma City.

Deonte Burton

Burton is no real stranger to Oklahoma City. Sort of. He starred at Iowa State. However, not catching on in the NBA, Burton went over to the Korean Basketball League. He averaged 24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists as he was named the MVP last season. During his senior year at Iowa State, Burton averaged 15.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The 6-5 guard shot over 40 percent his senior year at Iowa State.

Awudu Abass

You may have not heard of Abass. He played last season for Olimpia Milano in Italy. He’s never had a real shot at the NBA Dream but he really hasn’t done anything to really wow you in Italy, stats wise. He averaged only 2.8 points in 11.8 minutes per game. He appeared in 45 games for Olimpia Milano throughout all levels of play last season.

Rashawn Thomas

Thomas is a big man out of Southeast High in Oklahoma City. He played with Team USA last season as they had some friendly games on the West coast and he was a large reason why the Oklahoma City Blue would go on and win the Midwest Conference. Thomas averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 46 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, including 35 starts. He played in five games for the Thunder in last year’s summer league, averaging 4.8 points on 45.5 percent shooting in five games.

Michael Carrera

He’s a South Carolina player, much like PJ Dozier. They both were on the team during their run to the Elite 8. He played for the Blue last season and did okay. He averaged 7.0 points per game in 11 games. Before that, he played in Russia, which is pretty gnarly. He’s no stranger to summer league as he played the Miami HEAT last year in Orlando and Vegas.

Justin Leon

Leon is a feisty guard out of Florida. He’s doesn’t seem 6-8 but he definitely plays like it. He played with the Oklahoma City Blue last season He averaged 7.0 points per game in 11 games. Before that, he played in Russia, which is pretty gnarly. He’s no stranger to summer league as he played the Miami HEAT last year in Orlando and Vegas.

Phil Pressey

Pressey was actually an NBA Player at one point! He’s played almost 150 games with four teams. He even started 11 games as an undrafted rookie in Boston! He’s not a stranger to the Summer league as he’s played with Boston and Detroit in the Orlando Summer leagues. Last season, Pressey spent training camp with the Golden State Warriors and then with their G League affiliate, Santa Cruz, during the season. Before the NBA, Pressey played at Missouri for three seasons.

Richard Solomon

Solomon used to be a member of the Oklahoma City Blue a few years ago before going overseas. Solomon’s current team is Uşak Sportif, a Turkish club. After leaving the Blue, Solomon played in Tokyo and in France. He spent the training camp in 2014 with the Thunder before being cut. That’s when he went to the Blue, their first season in Oklahoma City. Last season for Usak Sportlif, Solomon appeared in 19 games, and averaged 10 points per game on 59 percent shooting.

Also:

Hamidou Diallo

The surprise of the draft, taken 45th overall by Charlotte from the pick they received from Brooklyn. I know, it’s confusing. However, what’s confusing is Diallo’s availability for Summer league. Diallo might be available for Summer League. The trade in which Diallo was acquired cannot be completed until July 6. So, if we see him, it’ll be the later games. If we see him at all. He’s athletic and can score in bunches. It just is unclear if we’ll see him.

Full roster:

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Summer League roster taking shape

The Oklahoma City Thunder are set to play in the Las Vegas Summer League for the first time in a decade. Last time the Thunder set foot in Vegas, they were the Sonics and Kevin Durant was involved.

There will be a few recognizable names for Oklahoma City but for the most part, they’ll be bunch of players just trying to get action and noticed by other NBA teams. There are some previous players who’ve gone on to big things with other NBA teams such as Dwight Buycks and Garrett Temple.

Oklahoma City will play three games in Vegas, here they are:

 

Date Opponent Time/Channel Location
Friday, July 6 vs. Charlotte 4:30 p.m. (ESPNU) Thomas & Mack Center
Saturday, July 7 vs. Brooklyn 6 p.m. (NBATV) T-Mobile Arena
Monday, July 9 vs. Toronto 2:30 p.m. (NBA TV) Thomas & Mack Center

Here’s the known roster so far:

Terrance Ferguson

T-Ferg started a handful of games and was the 21st pick overall last season. He didn’t play in last year’s summer league due to FIBA clearance and he hadn’t agreed to a contract because of the clearance. Ferguson averaged 3.1 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 61 games. He stated 12 games as well. He averaged 14.7 points on 47.2 percent shooting in 3 G League games last season.

Dakari Johnson

Dakari was a surprising signing last season. Not even a two-way deal, it was a full on contract. He performed admirably in back up duty and even started a couple of games with Steven Adams out. However, the big man out of Kentucky is still a step too slow and looks overweight. It’s unknown if he’ll stick in this league but at least he has his shot.

Daniel Hamilton

Hamilton, the G League triple-double machine, gets his shot with the Summer League team again. He starred in Orlando last season Hea veraged 11.7 points, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds in only 30 minutes per game in the summer league. For the Thunder last season, Hamilton appeared in six games, averaging less than five minutes and averaging only 2.0 points per game.

PJ Dozier

The other two-way contract, Dozier was a surprise pick up by the Thunder. Out of South Carolina, Dozier played well in the G League. He appeared in He played for the Lakers in Summer League last year, only scoring two points in two games. In Thunder games, Dozier appeared in two games. He averaged a point on 50 percent shooting. So, two shots and he hit one. There we go. As for the G League, Dozier averaged 13 points on 47 percent shooting in 38 starts.

Devon Hall

Oklahoma City’s first pick in the second round. The kid out of Virginia was highly praised at the NBA Draft Combine. It’s unknown what he can do offensively as he played in an offense that was super limited and they primarily stuck to defense. The defense is nice but if he can duplicate that 42 percent three-point shooting at the NBA level, Hall will become the steal of the draft.

Kevin Hervey

Hervey might’ve blown out both ACLs but he can still ball. During his senior year at UT-Arlington, Hervey averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season, while shooting 33.9 percent from three-point range last season. That 33.9 percent was up from 28 percent. He continued to get better with the long ball. He was a first round talent before blowing his ACLs. Can he stay healthy? His pick at 57th overall was an easy low risk high reward pick for Oklahoma City.

Deonte Burton

Burton is no real stranger to Oklahoma City. Sort of. He starred at Iowa State. However, not catching on in the NBA, Burton went over to the Korean Basketball League. He averaged 24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists as he was named the MVP last season. During his senior year at Iowa State, Burton averaged 15.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The 6-5 guard shot over 40 percent his senior year at Iowa State.

Awudu Abass

You may have not heard of Abass. He played last season for Olimpia Milano in Italy. He’s never had a real shot at the NBA Dream but he really hasn’t done anything to really wow you in Italy, stats wise. He averaged only 2.8 points in 11.8 minutes per game. He appeared in 45 games for Olimpia Milano throughout all levels of play last season.

Hamidou Diallo

The surprise of the draft, taken 45th overall by Charlotte from the pick they received from Brooklyn. I know, it’s confusing. However, what’s confusing is Diallo’s availability for Summer league. Diallo might be available for Summer League. The trade in which Diallo was acquired cannot be completed until July 6. So, if we see him, it’ll be the later games. If we see him at all. He’s athletic and can score in bunches. It just is unclear if we’ll see him.

While Thunder Digest won’t be in Vegas for Summer League, we’ll have your complete coverage with recaps and pointless breakdowns.

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Thunder select Devon Hall with 53rd pick

The Oklahoma City Thunder have selected Devon Hall with the 53rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Hall, 21, has good size at for a two-guard, 6-6. Given he went to Virginia and they literally had no real offense. It was based off just their defense, the fact he shot over 40 percent from three is eye raising. He went to the NBA combine and impressed scouts. He was considered one of the most polished players invited in May.

He wasn’t projected to go too high in the second round. He’s not the best offensive player but he’s a hard nosed worker who learned defensive fundamentals at Virginia. That could go along way in the NBA. He shot over 43 percent from three and in the league where space and pace is key.

“He’s real unselfish,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said about Hall. “He has a good way about him, too. I just marvel at that. But his maturity, with his willingness to work and not get too shook if it didn’t happen right away, was remarkable in today’s day and age.”

Hall averaged 11.7 points on 43.4 percent shooting from the floor and 44 percent from three. His real/plus minus was 10.5, one of the best in the nation. His PER was over 20. So, the stats are there but the eye test needs to be met. He’s a real three-and-D type of person.

“Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in certain situations just for the betterment of the team and we won a ton of games, so I think it helped us a lot,” Hall said.

It’s unknown if he’ll be in the immediate plans for Oklahoma City or he’ll be across the street with the Blue. That will be learned at a later day.

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One year ago: Russ makes history with No. 42, then does the impossible

It is crazy to think it has already been a year since Russell Westbrook made history with 42 triple doubles in a season, but it is almost crazier to see how much the roster has changed since then. Out of the 13 guys that were on the active roster for that game at Denver on April 9, 2017, only six are on the current Oklahoma City Thunder roster.

It was a big game in few ways: Russ was looking to put his name in the history books, the Thunder were looking to gain some rhythm heading into the postseason all the while the Denver Nuggets had to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Pepsi Center was packed and electric. They wanted a win to maintain hope for a playoff spot, but they were also not so secretly hoping to witness Russ make history.

There were plenty of fans in the arena cheering for the road team, but they weren’t the only ones keeping count of Westbrook’s stats as the game went on. It seemed with each Russell bucket, assist, or rebound that the crowd grew with anticipation waiting for him to get that triple double.

For much of the game, it was an offensive battle as both teams were scoring at will. Each team was getting close to putting 30 points up for each quarter, at least for the first three quarters of the game. Denver even opened up the second half with a scorching 38-point third quarter performance.

The Nuggets obviously knew what was at stake; losing was not an option as they wanted to make the playoffs. They led for most of the game, and were even up comfortably by double digits for the majority of the second half.

Much like many times last season, the fourth quarter was Westbrook’s quarter. So many times last season he won games for Oklahoma City that they most certainly should have lost. Not only with big time game tying or winning shots, but with improbable comebacks when the Thunder were down late in games.

Oklahoma City found themselves down by as much as 14 points midway through the fourth quarter. Westbrook was just a couple rebounds and one assist away from his 42nd triple double, and the Nuggets crowd could feel it.

Just a couple possessions later, Westbrook had grabbed those rebounds he needed and all that was left to make history was one more assist. With just over four minutes left, Oklahoma City was down 13 with Westbrook driving to the lane. As Russ was doubled, he kicked it out to Semaj Christon in the corner, who was wide open. Christon, who shot 19 percent from three last season, hit the corner three to give Westbrook his tenth assist, and more importantly the 42nd triple double of the season.

The home crowd, feeling comfortable with the Nuggets still up 10, did not hold back as they cheered and acknowledged what Westbrook had just achieved. That should have been the story of the game for Nuggets fans: “Westbrook has historical moment, but Nuggets get win to keep playoff hopes alive.”

That isn’t what Russell had in mind, though.

With less than three minutes to go, Westbrook led the Thunder on another improbable comeback, this one maybe the most improbable of them all last season. Down double digits with three minutes left, and even down seven points with just 57 seconds left in the game, Russ was about to crush all the Nuggets fan’s hearts that had just once cheered for him moments ago.

As Oklahoma City got one more stop with just two seconds left in the game while down two, the Thunder were going to get one shot to either tie it or win it with a three. As Russ’ career shows us, we knew what shot he was looking for.

As Westbrook got the ball near half-court, he heaved it as the buzzer sounded and ultimately crushed 18,000 fans, making the most impossible shot go in, while simultaneously ending Denver’s playoff hopes.

It was a game that couldn’t have been better told if it was in a book. Not only did Russell get to make history, he also got to hit one of the craziest buzzer-beating game winners that happened in the 2017 NBA season. Westbrook finished the night with 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists.

It is a game, one year ago, that is still fun to look back on and hard to imagine how many things lined up perfectly to happen the way it did. It will definitely be one of the more memorable games Thunder fans will always remember.

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Death March has been tough on OKC

With the Oklahoma City Thunder dropping another game to the Golden State Warriors, they keep demonstrating how they can always play just good enough to lose.

With the last five games that the Thunder have played, all have come down to five points or less. All of these games are becoming crucial as the playoffs are just around the corner. To Thunder fans disappointment, this is not how we were expecting this team to play this late in the season.

In this latest game against the Warriors, the Thunder missed 56-of-93 shots taken. That means that besides three-pointers and free throws, the Thunder only made 37 shots. With that said, the Thunder went 9-of-35 from beyond the arch. Carmelo Anthony went 2-of-9 from three-point range. the Thunder would have won the game by one point.

“It’s frustrating when we see that [Westbrook going off],” Paul George said. “When we notice that, and we can’t help him by making shots.”

And their missing isn’t all about bad shot selection. We saw all of Melo’s open looks throughout the game. We would have blamed him for not taking them if he hadn’t.

“Yeah, I don’t worry about that stuff, man, as far as missing or making shots,” Anthony said. “I’ve made a lot of shots in my career, and I’ve missed a lot of shots in my career. Those same shots, I’ll probably make tomorrow, and we won’t even be talking about that.”

Against the Warriors, he didn’t make those shots.

Going from one of the top defenses in the league to one that suffers from defensive breakdowns every game has been a hard pill to swallow. Losing Roberson has made it seem even harder for this team to hold a solid defense. To put it in stats, the Thunder were the fifth best defensive team in the league, and have now dropped to 23rd.

With all of these issues going on, the Thunder still seems to have a good head on their shoulders as the playoff continue to get closer.

“As long as we’re good in this locker room — regardless of what anybody says outside of this locker room — it really don’t matter,” Westbrook said. “As long as we’re good as a team, as a unit, as brothers, we have a great relationship on and off the floor.”

Let’s hope that this great relationship is enough to be able to pull through and start playing good enough to win.

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Steven Adams for Most Improved? Maybe.

There’s probably one player who’s running away with the Most Improved Player award this season. That’s former Thunder player Victor Oladipo. However, what discussion would be complete without adversaries for said award.

That’s where Steven Adams comes in.

In his fifth year with in the NBA, Adams has shined this season on the court, arguably becoming the second or third best player on the court this season. Many may see Adams’ large contract as a negative to his inclusion within this award race. A $100 million contract last season. Many detractors say Adams didn’t earn it last season. That’s large in part to the Thunder’s lack of offensive identity in a season where Russell Westbrook was really the only offense the Thunder had. They put it in the MVP’s hands and let him do work. Because of this, defenses sagged into the paint, causing a log jam and limiting the overall impact of Adams.

Enter Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The two acquisitions this summer for the Thunder have opened all of the space in the paint and Adams has thrived. His averaging a career high in points, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, blocks, steals and shooting percentages, The 2-man game with Westbrook and Adams pick-n-roll that is deadly for any opponent is complying an almost instant score when the two initiate it.

When you dive more into the advance stats, Adams is once again thriving. His win shares, measures the number of wins contributed by a player per 48, 9.3, is a career high by almost three full wins per 48. While PER is largely an offensive statistic, is a career high at 21.3 over a previous high of 16.5 according to Basketball-Reference.

Adams’ 16.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage, which measures the percentage of available offensive rebounds a player or team collects while on the floor, is the best in the NBA. It’s a drastic rise over his 12.7 percent last season. His rebounding rise is a large reason why the Thunder are one of the league’s best rebounding teams in the NBA.

Though, it also should be pointed out, Oklahoma City is 4-1 without Adams in the lineup this season. Their lone loss: a one-point win over Denver back in December.

Sure, Oladipo is going to run away with this award. His points per game are a third higher than they’ve been in his career. He’s taken the flailing Pacers, who missed the playoffs last season, to a potential home court advantage in the first round. The impact he’s made since his trading to Indiana.

However, it’s not without the discussion. Adams is there. He may not win it but the recognition should be warranted.

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Thunder continue to Brewer up some wins

Some may not have been found of the signing but with the Oklahoma City Thunder adding Corey Brewer, it may have just saved their season.

The entire season changed on Jan. 27. Oklahoma City was riding a six-game winning streak and then an ill-fated alley-oop sent Andre Roberson to the sidelines for the rest of the season and the Thunder with their hopes of taking down the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets were left blowing in the wind.

There have been some that’ve called it already.

“There’s a bounce to him all the time. He brings energy,” Billy Donovan said. “I’m not comparing him and Andre in any way personality-wise or player-wise, but the one thing I will compare them, they both have a pop and a bounce to them where they play the game where they find the ball. They find it and are able to make plays.”

Pre-Andre Roberson Oct. 19-Jan. 27 (49 games) (NBA Rank)

OKC 106.0 (13th) ORTG 106.9 (10th)

OPP 101.8 (4th) DRTG 103.1 (5th)

Scoring Differential: 4.2 (5th)

Rating Differential: 3.9 (5th)

During the 15 games without Roberson and before Brewer, Oklahoma City ran really three different starting lineups on the floor (We’re ignoring three games where Oklahoma City had other starters out).

The first one was the addition of Terrance Ferguson. The rookie’s ability has been questionable at best this season. He’s had some moments where you really like what he has to offer but there are other games where you question his ability as an NBA player. In 12 starts this season for Ferguson, the Thunder are only 5-7.

When Roberson went down, he got the nod over the next five games, Ferguson posted a minus-8.2 on the plus/minus scale. The worst on the the team during that span. In fact, over the span of those dates (Jan. 28-Feb. 4), Ferguson posted the 12th worst plus/minus in the NBA. It showed as the Thunder went 1-4 with Ferguson as the starter.

Post-AR Jan. 28-March 2 (15 games)

OKC 108.8 (12th) ORTG 107.5 (17th)

OPP 110.0 (19th) DRTG 108.4 (18th)

Scoring Differential: -1.2 (20th)

Rating Differential: -0.9 (19th)

The next option was Alex Abrines, the second year Spaniard. While the Thunder ended their losing streak, it’s still not the same. In eight games, the Thunder are only 4-4. Abrines started two games with the full starting line up, one without. In those two games, Oklahoma City gave up 120 and 114 points.

Next, it’s Josh Huestis, who many feel is under-utilized on the roster. He’s started 10 games this season, like Abrines only going .500 in his time in the lineup (5-5). While Hustis provides some length, it’s his inexperience at times.

In walks Brewer.

Corey Brewer Era March 3-Present (10 games)

OKC 111.3 (11th) ORTG 109.4 (13th)

OPP 105.6 (11th) ORTG 104.5 (9th)

Scoring Differential: 5.7 (7th)

Rating Differential: 4.9 (9th)

In seven games as the starter in Oklahoma City, Brewer has inserted a renewed energy and vigor. Oklahoma City is 7-1 over that span and the stats are sporting more than only wins. Over those eight games, the Thunder are sporting an offensive rating of 111.5, compared to a defensive rating of 101.9. Only the Jazz and 76ers sport a better differential over the same span.

“It’s great, man, to be able to get a guy moving around, cutting,” Russell Westbrook said. “Kind of fits right back in because Dre was really good at that as well, moving around, cutting, and he did a good job of that tonight.”

 

Corey Brewer Starting March 8-Present (8 games)

OKC 112.6 (7th) ORTG 111.5 (7th)

OPP 103.3 (6th) ORTG 101.9 (6th)

Scoring Differential: 9.4 (2nd)

Rating Differential: 9.6 (3rd)

Brewer is the real deal. While he may not be Roberson. He may not be the Defensive Player of the Year. What he Brewer is, is a player who’s bought in and has something to prove. He’s only 32. While he may be on the back end of things, he’s showing he can still be a valuable player to a playoff team. He’s everything the Thunder wanted out of other buyout players such as Derek Fisher and Caron Butler.

Before Brewer, Oklahoma City had a realistic chance at making the playoffs. Now that Brewer has arrived in Bricktown, the Thunder are right in the middle of getting home court in the first round of the playoffs.

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Raymond Felton shining in back up role

Besides the Thunder’s lifelong search for a serviceable 3-and-D wing player, the backup point guard position for the team has also been a wasteland. That’s where Raymond Felton comes in.

Since Eric Maynor, bet you weren’t expecting to hear him, the Thunder has seen the likes of Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Cameron Payne, and *shudders* Derek Fisher running Westbrook’s backup.

While Payne excelled at running the pregame dance routine with Westbrook, Jackson saved the Thunder’s season against the Grizzlies and Fisher did Fisher things, none of these players did what a backup point guard is supposed to do: make the game easier for his team.

Now enter “Treymond” Felton, the backup point guard of your dreams. While Felton’s body does not scream NBA point guard, Felton has done everything the Thunder have desired from its backup point guard. Felton can actually run the offense, whether he is with the starters or with the bench.

As most experts observed during Westbrook’s One-Man Band Triple Double Tour and especially during the first round matchup with the Rockets, once Westbrook hit the bench, the Thunder went from outscoring opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions to being outscored by 51.3 points per 100 possessions. It does not take a math genius to know figure it out.

“That’s what he does,” Russell Westbrook said. “It’s what he’s been doing all season long, just being solid.”

The main reason for this drastic drop off was the Thunder’s bench could not run an offense to get any quality looks at the basket and it certainly did not help having Semaj Christon piloting that unit. Although Felton’s stats: 7.0 points; 2.7 assists; and 2.1 rebounds per game are not eye popping, they do not reflect Felton’s real value to the team.

“His greatest strength is how cerebral he is, how smart he is,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “That to me is the biggest thing, that he’s a very smart, experienced player who’s got a calmness and a disposition when he’s out there.”

With Felton—an experienced 12-year NBA veteran—Donovan has felt comfortable allowing Felton to run pick and roll with Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson. Whether it leads to a Grant drive or dunk, or a Patterson three-pointer, Felton makes the game easier for his teammates.

Sometimes the best way to judge a player is to use the eye-test. Despite only shooting 34 percent from three and 40 percent from the field this season, and averaging 32.7 percent from three over his career, you’ll notice Felton’s uncanny ability to hit key threes in succession to hold of an opponent’s run or take the lead. Felton’s impact is being felt by the opposing teams, because Felton has demonstrated an ability to hit an open three, so the opposing teams have to respect that threat.

Felton’s underrated ability to control the pace can go unnoticed.

“Really good feel how to play,” Donovan said. “Great tempo. Reads defense. Understands matchups.”

Even when Felton is playing alongside Westbrook and the starters, Felton helps make the game easier for the team than Payne or Christon could. If Donovan chooses to keep Felton in with Westbrook, then both players can take turns bringing the ball up court and initiating the offense, which allows the other to conserve energy. If Donovan plays Felton with either Carmelo Anthony or Paul George, Felton can either initiate a pick and roll, or play off the ball Anthony and George can draw attention looking for their shot, which leads to either an open three for Felton or another Thunder player.

“A lot of guys I play with demand a lot of double-teams and a lot of attention, so it’s giving me chances to have a lot of open shots,” Felton said. “And I just got to take advantage of it.”

While this season the bench is scoring 25.1 points compared to last season’s 36.1 points, there are reasons to explain the drop: this season’s starting unit is vastly stronger. You can account that to Donovan staggering his lineups to usually have one starter with the bench, and the Thunder shortening its bench in the two 2-for-1 player trades it made for Anthony and George.

Say what you want about the Felton’s numbers and his body, the guy has been the backup point guard the Thunder have needed for years.

“Whatever it is this team needs me to do, whatever coach needs me to do to help this team out, to help us get a win that night,” Felton said, “I’m gonna do.”

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Paul George selected as All-Star replacement

With DeMarcus Cousins hurting his Achille’s in New Orleans’ win over Houston on Friday, Jan. 26., the NBA had to find a replacement for the 2018 NBA All-Star game in February.

George is slated to make his fifth All-Star appearance, joining teammate Russell Westbrook on Team LeBron, replacing New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins.

George was considered the biggest snub in the Western Conference. One of the best defenders in the league, George had started to find his groove, averaging almost 22 points per game since Dec. 1. His defensive stats are second to none this season.

Cousins sustained a season-ending ruptured left Achilles tendon against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 26.  An All-Star selection for the fourth consecutive season, Cousins was voted to start and drafted to Team LeBron by captain LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When an All-Star is unable to participate, Silver will choose a replacement from the same conference as the player who is being replaced.  Cousins and George both represent the Western Conference. George received the most voting points from NBA head coaches among Western Conference players who were not selected as reserves.

George is currently averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.17 steals (ranks 2nd). In 46 games this season, he is averaging a career-best 42.0 percent from 3-point range on a career-high 7.3 3-point attempts per game. He ranks first in deflections (4.4) and third in loose balls recovered (1.7).

George is currently on pace to become the fifth player in NBA history to average 20.0 or more points on .420 percent 3-point shooting to go along with 2.00 or more steals per game (Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, Hersey Hawkins and Larry Bird).

This season, George has helped Oklahoma City to a 29-20 record and the league’s longest active win streak at seven games.

The 67th NBA All-Star Game will air on TNT and ESPN Radio. Featuring a new format in which team rosters were drafted by James and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, the All-Star Game will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

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