James Harden left before last season starter, yet the Thunder improved — they scored 2.6 points more per 100 possessions and allowed 0.8 less per 100. They were a 60-win team, a better team than the year before, their playoffs just cut short by Russell Westbrook’s injury.
This year Kevin Martin is gone and the Thunder are going to need Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson to step into bigger roles and thrive — and that just may happen. First off, Kevin Durant and Westbrook are just 25, their games are still improving each year. Also, the Thunder have built a Spurs-like system where guys just can step in and do the job, whether it be Serge Ibaka or now Lamb.
Thunder GM Sam Presti said at the team’s press conference he thinks the team will improve this year, as reported by the Oklahoman.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to build on the success and strengths of last season,” Presti said, “and we think we have an opportunity to do that….
“I think Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have, really, almost pushed the standards higher for some of the younger players that will follow them in our program in the future,” Presti said. “They’ve been incredibly diligent. The time they’ve put in and the quality of the work has been exceptional.”
The Thunder will be one of the NBA’s best teams in the regular season (I think they will have the best record in the West). The fact is in the grind of the regular season you just can’t prepare and make changes to deal with OKC’s athleticism (it’s the same reason Miami just overwhelms teams in the regular season). That is mostly about Durant and Westbrook being healthy.
The playoffs, when teams have time to prepare and can take away your first couple options in your offense, that is when I wonder how the Thunder will do. Last season when Westbrook went down the Thunder were lost when the primary options on their basic sets were taken away. I’m not sure they have all the weapons they need for the playoffs.
But this is still a contender and a team that could improve off last season, and make their GM look even smarter.
Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.
When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.
The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.
Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”
There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.
What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.
Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.
Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.
The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.
Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.
The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.
Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.
Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.
A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.
Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).
Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.
There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.
Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.
There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.
Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.
We’re not in Houston anymore.
James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.
“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”
Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.
Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.
Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.
A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.