Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

No Durant, what does that mean for Thunder in these playoffs? Trouble.

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Kevin Durant isn’t going to play basketball again until next season now that he will have his third surgery on his right foot in a year.

One other fact: The Thunder will still make the playoffs as the eight seed in the West this season. They have a three-game lead over the Phoenix Suns with 10 games to play. Mathematically they can blow that lead, but the reality is with Russell Westbrook playing at an MVP level (even though Stephen Curry will win the award) the Thunder are not going to blow that lead. They are in.

Next question: What are the Thunder’s prospects in the playoffs?

Poor. Terrible. Nonexistent. About the same as Katy Perry inviting Lady Gaga over for dinner.

There are a few reasons for this.

Number one is injuries — remember Serge Ibaka is out still recovering from knee surgery. He should be back around the start of the playoffs, maybe part of the way into the first round, but even when he first returns he’s not at 100 percent. Combine that with Durant being out, and now two-thirds of OKC’s core is not there or not 100 percent. Westbrook is superhuman, but even he can’t cover that.

Second, the Thunder defense has gone the way of the Dodo. It’s extinct. In their last 15 games, the Thunder have allowed 109.4 points per 100 possessions on defense, second worst in the NBA in that stretch. This ties back to injuries to a degree — Ibaka is the defensive anchor of this team, Durant is long and can be disruptive on that end of the court. But some of the moves the Thunder made to add depth added to this — Enes Kanter puts up points but is a turnstile defensively. (Notice that Scott Brooks tried to pair Kanter with Ibaka for a reason, before the injury). The Thunder just can’t stop anyone.

Finally, they will play Golden State in the first round. The Warriors are for real. They have statistically the best offense and best defense in the NBA this season. It’s not Curry vs. the world; they roll out a very versatile lineup that can go small (Draymond Green at the five) or bigger (Andrew Bogut is key to them on both ends). Steve Kerr and staff can figure out what you can’t defend, and then they can throw good players at it. At full strength, this could have been the best 1/8 matchup in NBA history. As it is, Golden State is going to win comfortably.

Then Oklahoma City needs to turn its attention to next season — they have one more year to win a title, making it much harder for Kevin Durant to walk away in the summer of 2016.

Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell discuss what’s in James Harden’s beard (VIDEO)

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans
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This weekend, Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell’s new movie “Get Hard” hits theaters.

This Sunday, the Houston Rockets and MVP candidate James Harden take on the Washington Wizards on ABC, one of the NBA’s national, marquee game.

The NBA, not one to miss out on cross promotion opportunities, got Hart and Ferrell to talk about Harden’s legendary beard, plus who would win an arm wrestling match between Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat. (Howard may be stronger but do you have any doubt Gortat wins that?)

It’s pretty amusing, so we pass it along. And go see “Get Hard,” you know it’s going to be better than anything from that teen-aimed Divergent series.

Report: UNLV freshman guard Rashad Vaughn to enter NBA draft; Vaughn denies it

San Jose State v UNLV
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To me, this is why the proposed changes to the NCAA rules on when players can announce for the draft — and letting some underclassman go to a combine where they can get honest feedback from teams, not agents/family/hangers-on — is so needed.

UNLV freshman guard Rashad Vaughn may be entering the NBA draft.

We say may be because it depends on who you ask. The very-well connected and rarely wrong Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that Vaughn has decided to go pro.

University of Nevada-Las Vegas freshman guard Rashad Vaughn has plans to enter the 2015 NBA draft, league sources told Yahoo Sports. A formal announcement is expected in the near future, sources said.

Vaughn denied that on twitter.

Here’s the thing: He shouldn’t. Not yet. (Unless there is a real financial hardship for his family.)

Vaughn is likely a mid second-round pick at this point (DraftExpress.com has him at 48) and it is highly unlikely he moves up to the first round. Second round picks do not have guaranteed contracts, which at best means Vaughn is on the end of an NBA bench for a season making the minimum. More likely he spends time in the D-League or overseas.

Maybe the highlight of his season was when Vaughn dropped 21 on Arizona in UNLV’s upset win over the Wildcats. However, a film breakdown of that at DraftExpress.com shows likely top 5 pick Stanley Johnson, as well as the rest of the Arizona defense, pushing him around and making his life difficult.

Vaughn needs more time in college to develop.

Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft expert Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog had to say about Vaughn:

“Though injuries cut short his season, Vaughn was able to show that he was the scorer many expected when he got to college. He has a nice shooting stroke, even from long-range, though his shot selection seemed to be a problem. Vaughn likes to attack off the dribble, though he can have some trouble getting all the way to the basket, and relies on a variety of mid/short-range jumpers, floaters, etc. to try and create shot attempts. 

“Vaughn is not a very good defender, and though UNLV played a good amount of zone this year, he wasn’t very good at challenging opposing players, and a lot of the fundamentals, moving his feet, seeing the floor, getting his hands up, seemed to be lacking. Vaughn is a good athlete and has the physical tools to be a decent defender, he just hasn’t figured it out, or been taught how to, yet.
“The bottom line is that I don’t think Vaughn is near ready yet for the NBA, and though there is long-term potential there, possibly as a scorer off the bench, there’s not a lot that stands out about his game right now to warrant a team taking a big chance on him. Team workouts may help him, and there might be a few teams who would take a late-first round shot on him, but I hope it’s a team with their own D-League organization so he can get court minutes to improve.”

Sometimes kids, the right thing to do is stay in school.

Blake Griffin nails impression of Austin Rivers (VIDEO)

Los Angeles Clippers v New York Knicks
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@blakegriffin32 w/AR iso impersonation #GetTheF&$kOutTheWay

A video posted by matt_barnes9 (@matt_barnes9) on

Blake Griffin does impressions now.

And his one of Austin Rivers is both hysterical and pretty accurate. The pounding of the ball out top, waiving off guys who want to help so he can get an isolation, the herky-jerky motion, and the ill-advised shot.

While Rivers put up 21 points in extended minutes of a blowout against the Knicks, don’t confuse that with him fitting in with the Clips as a backup one behind Chris Paul. He plays 15-18 minutes a night, but in the five games before the bye against the Knicks he was 6-of-24 shooting, plus he had four assists and four turnovers.

Still, that’s pretty cold blooded of Griffin to do that right in front of Rivers.

Kevin Durant to have third foot surgery; is done for season, playoffs

Kevin Durant
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Jones fractures are tricky things. The fifth metatarsal bone in your foot (the long bone connecting to your little toe) doesn’t get a lot of blood flow, so healing can be slow and there are often setbacks.

Kevin Durant just had another one.

Durant will have his third surgery on his foot this season and now is officially out for both the regular season and playoffs, the team announced Friday. Last week things seemed to take a step back; Thunder GM Sam Presti picks it up from there in a statement released on Friday.

“As we communicated last week, Kevin was going to use this time to engage in consultation and evaluation regarding the persistent soreness in his right foot at this stage of his rehabilitation…. Several conference calls and discussions amongst the specialist team concluded that, while the majority of the soreness in Kevin’s foot was related to the continued inflammation of the cuboid bone and would subside with rest, the evaluation process also determined that the Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal, which had shown significant healing previously, was now demonstrating signs of regression.

“With the focus of this process being aimed entirely on Kevin’s long term healthy and stability, it was the consensus of the specialists team… that to address the setback of the fracture site, a bone graft procedure would be the most proactive and recommended approach.”

Durant played in just 27 games for the Thunder the season after winning the MVP award. The only MVPs to play in fewer after winning the award were Michael Jordan (retired) and Bill Walton (more injuries than we have space to list).

Durant’s surgery will take place in New York early next week and has a 4-6 month recovery time. The screw put in Durant’s foot works in most cases (about 9 out of 10), but when it fails the graft is a more sure thing to promote healing. However, it comes with a long recovery time so is rarely the first options for teams or players.

Taking the long-term approach that is best for the player is what the Thunder did with Westbrook and his meniscus tear in 2013. That seems to have worked out for him. timeline should have him back in time for next season — the final year of his contract with the Thunder. His free agency and whether he could leave OKC for New York or Washington (or the 27 other teams that will come cal

Durant’s timeline should have him back in time for next season — the final year of his contract with the Thunder. His free agency and whether he could leave OKC for New York or Washington (or the 27 other teams that will come calling) in the summer of 2016 will be a hot topic around the NBA this summer. One Durant will look to dodge as much as possible.

The Thunder will make the playoffs this season behind the MVP-level play of Russell Westbrook. However, with no Durant and Serge Ibaka questionable (likely just returning from knee surgery) they are not a serious threat in a stacked West.

OKC must focus on trying to be loaded and ready for next season — if the Thunder win a title then it will be much more difficult for Durant to walk away.