Nick Collison

Portland Trail Blazers v Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s official: Thunder match offer sheet, keep Enes Kanter

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In the end, Oklahoma City didn’t have a choice.

If they didn’t match Portland’s four-year, $70 million offer sheet for Enes Kanter they would essentially be telling Kevin Durant “we aren’t willing to go into the luxury tax to get you closer to a title,” which would be a foolish with KD becoming a free agent next summer.

No team may have ever been in a more win-now place than OKC this year.

So the Thunder have matched the offer sheet and will keep Kanter, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti informed Portland of his decision to retain Kanter on Sunday night, league sources told Yahoo. Enes’ deal includes a player option on the fourth year and a 15 percent trade kicker bonus….

Oklahoma City feels immense pressure to show star Kevin Durant a strong commitment to winning in the final year of his contract, and Kanter is an important part of the Thunder’s nucleus. The possibility of losing a young player of Kanter’s talent for no assets was extremely remote for the Thunder. Presti had planned his payroll and roster for the possibility of a maximum offer sheet, sources said.

The team has since confirmed it.

“We traded for Enes last season with the intention of keeping him as a member of the Thunder for several years to come, and we are excited that he will continue with us,” said Thunder GM Sam Presti in a statement. “He adds valuable depth to our roster, diversity to our frontcourt and the dimension that he brings offensively will positively impact our team.”

Marc Stein of ESPN breaks down the numbers.

Even if Durant re-signs for the max, the Thunder will be under the tax line in 2016-17.

The Thunder need Kanter to bring them some offense in the paint and a five who can help space the floor and create driving lanes for Russell Westbrook and Durant (Oklahoma City’s offense was 3.5 points per 100 better when he was on the court for them last season). The Thunder have Serge Ibaka as their starting four with Nick Collison behind him. At the five there would be Kanter and Steven Adams in rotation — they can play for offense or defense — plus they have Mitch McGary behind them. That’s a quality rotation.

We need to note Kanter is a defensive liability — OKC’s defense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor than when he was sitting. And they still had a terrible defensive rating of 107.5 per 100 when Kanter and Ibaka were paired.

But this was the only move the Thunder could make.

Thunder GM Sam Presti says he plans to match max offer for Enes Kanter

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers
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Portland giving Enes Kanter a $70 million max offer sheet seemed a move done in part to make the Thunder pay. The Trail Blazers already have Meyers Leonard under contract, then they traded for Mason Plumlee and signed Ed Davis to a free agent deal. Do they need another center? One that doesn’t play much defense?

But the Thunder need scoring inside, and Kanter gives them that. He is a gifted offensive player. Plus, with Kevin Durant’s looming free agency you will not find a team in more of a win-now mode than OKC and they see Kanter as part of that now.

The Thunder have three days to match (until Sunday) and they likely will, GM Sam Presti told Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

The Thunder have Serge Ibaka as their starting four with Nick Collison behind him. At the five there would be Kanter and Steven Adams in rotation — they can play for offense or defense — plus they have Mitch McGary.

Kanter is a defensive liability — their defense was 6.5 points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the floor than when he was sitting. The Thunder offense was 3.5 points per 100 better when he was on the court. Overall, OKC was -0.7 points per 100 when Kanter was on the floor — and by the way they still had a terrible defensive rating of 107.5 per 100 when Kanter and Ibaka were paired.

But expect the Thunder to keep Kanter.

This is a market max deal — it’s overpaying under the current salary cap, but as the cap spikes by more than $40 million over the next two years due to the new television deals, that contract will not be so bad.

And in a worst case scenario where Durant (and likely Russell Westbrook behind him) leave OKC, under the new contract will not be as burdensome under the expanded salary cap, meaning it could be traded fairly easily.

Hawks’ Kyle Korver wins 2014-15 NBA Sportsmanship Award

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks
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Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks has won the 2014-15 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the league announced on Wednesday.

From the official release:

“Korver (Southeast) was one of six divisional winners, joining the Toronto Raptors’ Amir Johnson (Atlantic), the Chicago Bulls’ Pau Gasol (Central), the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Nick Collison (Northwest), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Jeremy Lin (Pacific) and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (Southwest). The NBA will make a $10,000 donation on behalf of Korver to his charity of choice, Helping Hand Rescue Mission.”

“Besides the donation to Helping Hand Rescue Mission on behalf of Korver, the NBA will make $5,000 donations to the other five divisional winners’ charities of choice: Blessings in a Backpack for Johnson; Gasol Foundation for Gasol; Special Care, Inc. for Collison; Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees for Lin; and Audubon Nature Institute for Davis.

“The annual award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship — ethical behavior, fair play and integrity — in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program. The trophy is named for former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, the award’s first recipient, in 1995-96.”

Unlike the rest of the awards, the players are the ones who vote on this one. Here’s how it shook out:

Player, Team                                1st        2nd       3rd        4th        5th        6th       Points

Kyle Korver, Atlanta                         87        70        66        31        42        21        2,351

Anthony Davis, New Orleans          56        76        60        55        53        17        2,171

Pau Gasol, Chicago                         66        54        58        54        39        46        2,051

Nick Collison, Oklahoma City         35        49        39        70        52        72        1,677

Amir Johnson, Toronto                    45        35        35        57        62        83        1,609

Jeremy Lin, Los Angeles Lakers     28        33        59        50        69        78        1,553

Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies received the award last season.

Kevin Durant supports Thunder firing Scott Brooks ‘100 percent’

Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant
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The Thunder firing Scott Brooks was about Kevin Durant.

Really, everything the Thunder do now is about about Durant.

The reigning MVP will become an unrestricted free agent in 2016, and the prospect of losing him has created desperation in Oklahoma City. That has shown in trading a first-round pick for Dion Waiters, signing Durant-favorite Nick Collison to a lucrative (for him) contract extension, exceeding the luxury tax to get Enes Kanter (especially after infamously refusing to do so for James Harden) and, now, firing Brooks.

Will it work?

Ultimately, it matters only how Durant feels in July 2016.

It doesn’t matter whether he likes Waiters and Collison, appreciates the Thunder’s spending or supports firing Brooks, as his Instagram post says he does:

Thank you Scotty!

A photo posted by Kevin Durant (@easymoneysniper) on

Durant doesn’t need to correctly determine the best course for the franchise. He has the power, and he can hold Oklahoma City accountable in 2016 for moves he supported at the time. That’s not fair, but that’s reality.

Now, the Thunder’s challenge is finding a coach Durant likes – not necessarily the moment he’s hired, but a year from now.

Thunder, trying to hold playoff spot, lose starter Andre Roberson 2-3 weeks

Atlanta Hawks v Oklahoma City Thunder
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The Thunder have lost Kevin Durant. They lost Serge Ibaka. They lost Nick Collison.

And they’re still likely to make the playoffs.

But, up 2.5 games on the Suns and threw games on the Pelicans, Oklahoma City is facing yet another injury-related challenge.

This time, starting shooting guard Andre Roberson is out.

Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

Kyle Singler will start when the Thunder host the Lakers tonight, and that’s not necessarily a setback for the starting lineup. Singler spaces the floor and handles the ball better than Roberson, though Roberson defends better. It’s a tradeoff in style more than ability.

But if Singler is no longer coming of the bench, Oklahoma City’s bench is weakened. Either Scott Brooks shortens the rotation or gives more chances to Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and/or Steve Novak.

Either way, the pressure remains on Russell Westbrook to carry a huge load. He’s done well so far, but if the Thunder keep losing rotation players, eventually they’ll ask more of their starting point guard than he can deliver.

The door is still open, even just a crack, for Phoenix and New Orleans.