Cavs Odds: Derrick Rose may Sign with Cleveland

derrick-rose-cavsThe Cleveland Cavaliers need more talent to contend with the Golden State Warriors. And point guard Derrick Rose needs somewhere to play as the offseason winds down. This makes both sides a good fit for each other.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Rose and Cleveland are “in serious talks” to agree on a 1-year contract.

Rose is one the top unrestricted free agents this summer. And if he signs a deal with Cleveland, he’d play backup point guard behind All-Star Kyrie Irving.

The Cavs have already signed Jose Calderon, who averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 assists for the LA Lakers and Atlanta Hawks last season. Calderon is presumed to be Cleveland’s backup, however, he’d play third-string if Rose signs.

But will Rose sign? If so, how does he change the Cavs 2018 championship odds?

We’ll answer these questions below and also discuss how Rose fits into this team.

How can Rose Help the Cavaliers?

rose-knicks-free-agent-2017Derrick Rose is a three-time All-Star who won the league MVP award in 2010. But multiple knee injuries have hampered Rose since the 2011 MVP campaign, when he averaged 25.0 points and 7.7 assists.

Nevertheless, he’s still a productive player who averaged 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, and shot 47.1% for the New York Knicks last season.

Number aside, it’s hard to figure out how Rose fits into Cleveland’s plans. Starter LeBron James often plays with the bench unit and handles the ball. The backup point guard has usually been a good shooter who’s comfortable coming off screens.

Rose, on the other hand, is one of the league’s worst point guards at outside shooting. He hit just 21.7% of his three-point attempts last season and is a career 29.8% shooter from beyond the arc.

Obviously the Cavs’ past bench formula won’t work with Rose. But what he can do is run the offense by himself when James and Irving sit.

derrick-rose-clevelandOne of Cleveland’s biggest problems has been supplying offense whenever either Irving or James rest. And Rose could take care of this problem.

If he can score 18 points and get to the rim for the dysfunctional Knicks, he should have no trouble doing well against reserve point guards.

As for the way Cleveland normally likes to use their bench, Calderon could still have a role.

Again, he wouldn’t play many minutes with both Rose and Irving on the team. But he could be the off-the-ball point guard Cleveland needs when LeBron runs the bench offense. Calderon is a career 40.9% three-point shooter, which would help.

What does Rose have Left?

Derrick Rose may be 28 years old, but he’s an old 28.

After being selected No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2008, he played extremely well from then until his MVP season in 2011. The Bulls were also great, finishing first in the Eastern Conference standings in 2011 and 2012.

derrick-rose-2017-knicks-resignBut Rose tore his ACL for the first time in the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Since then, he’s had other knee injuries that have robbed him of his signature explosiveness.

Rose did prove he has something left with the Knicks, though, playing 64 games and recording his best scoring average since 2012.

It was his most effective offensive season of the past five years. He also shot his highest field goal percentage since then too.

And Cleveland isn’t asking Rose to be their superstar. They just need somebody to help the offense when James, Irving, and/or Kevin Love are sitting.

Rose’s Impact on Cavs 2017/18 Odds

derrick-rose-carmeloCurrently, we have Cleveland’s odds of winning the 2018 NBA championship at +350. For comparison, we had them in the +200s throughout much of last offseason after they won the 2016 title.

But the Cavs looked outclassed by the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. And it’s clear that they need help because the Warriors (-220 odds) are bringing back their entire core.

Rose doesn’t suddenly swing the odds in Cleveland’s favor. But what he does do is give them a better chance. Assuming Rose signs, the Cavs’ true odds swing to the low +300s or high +200s.

Will Rose Take a Low Contract?

One big roadblock is that Cleveland doesn’t have any cap space. The highest contract they can offer Rose is the remaining $2.5 million of their taxpayer mid-level exception.

He made $21.5 million playing for the Knicks last year. Perhaps he’ll take far less money for the opportunity to compete for a championship.

According to ESPN, they’re only offering him a $2.1 million veteran minimum. As reported by Chris Haynes, Rose “just wants to play ball” and will be looking closely at the Cavs’ and other team’s culture.

Cleveland did have a good team culture, one that includes three straight NBA Finals trips. But a dark cloud hangs over the Cavs with all the reports on James eyeing the LA Lakers in 2019.

Rose also Interested in LA Lakers and Chicago Bulls

Lakers Nation reports that Rose is intrigued with the prospect of signing with LA or Chicago. Of these two, he’s mostly interested in the Lakers:

“The Lakers and Cavs are the favorites to land Rose and each offers something completely different,” writes Lakers Nation’s Corey Hansford. “The Cavaliers would give Rose the opportunity to win a championship as they’ve made the NBA Finals three straight seasons and will again be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference this year.”

The big draw to either LA or Chicago is that they can both offer Rose more money. Chicago offers the added benefit of being Rose’s former team and hometown.

However, the drawback is that both teams are in rebuilding situations. And Rose would lose far more games with either team than with the Cavs.

Given that Rose is expected to make a decision this weekend, we should know very soon what he decides.

LeBron James 2018 Superteam: Cousins, George, Wall in LA

lebron-james-demarcus-cousinsMost NBA offseason talk has revolved around a guy who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018. Nevertheless, LeBron James’ next move has become a big topic of discussion.

The media believes the LA Lakers are favored to land James. Much of this has to do with his Brentwood mansion, and the opportunities he’d reap while living in the world’s entertainment capital.

But there’s one big problem: the Lakers aren’t very good right now.

The young LA squad is coming off a 26-56 campaign, which doesn’t exactly fit in with LeBron’s goal of chasing Michael Jordan’s ghost (and rings).

This means that if LeBron bolts Cleveland for the West Coast, he’ll need some firepower to help win. Let’s cover rumors that this firepower could come in the form of Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall.

Three Players on the Move?

paul-george-lebron-jamesPaul George has been surrounded with talk of going to LA ever since he announced his intentions months ago. George’s desire to go back home forced Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard to make a desperation trade with Oklahoma City just to recoup something.

The Thunder gave up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to land George for one year. The hope is that Oklahoma City plays well enough to convince him to stay. But there’s no guarantee that he and Russell Westbrook’s games will mesh.

Then we have Cousins, who was traded from one bad situation (Sacramento Kings) to another (New Orleans Pelicans). The good news is that Cousins pairs with do-it-all forward Anthony Davis. The bad news is that New Orleans gutted their already limited core to bring Boogie in.

Finally, we have Wall, who’s an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Wall and the Washington Wizards could take another step forward after finishing 49-33 last season. But if they don’t improve this season or next, will Wall re-sign in his late 20s?

Bill Simmons Weighs in on LeBron’s Potential Superteam

john-wall-lebron-jamesThe famed Bill Simmons discussed all of this on his latest podcast, and he may be the first one to put the LeBron-George-Cousins-Wall quartet in LA.

“What if I told you that 12 months from now, LeBron James, Paul George, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins will all be on the Los Angeles Lakers together?” Simmons pondered. “Conspiracy Bill has some things that he doesn’t like about what’s going on. I think the LeBron James–L.A., he hasn’t come out and denied it.

“Everyone’s talking about it in the league, it became public last month. He knows they’re talking about it and hasn’t said anything. Hasn’t said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m so tired of hearing this. I want to finish my career in Cleveland.’”

Simmons continued connecting the dots by bringing up how Wall is represented by LeBron’s sports agency.

“So, John Wall, represented by Klutch, Rich Paul, LeBron’s buddy. LeBron, it’s pretty clear he either owns Klutch or funded it or has a stake in it,” said Simmons.

“You could have John Wall and LeBron. Paul George is going to the Lakers anyway. I mean, that’s not even a secret anymore. It’s just like, they might as well start selling his jersey. And I always thought John Wall and Boogie are a team.”

Likelihood of these Stars Ending Up in LA

lebron-james-lakersSimmons has been an expert on the NBA for years. So when he floats the idea that Cousins, George, LeBron, and Wall will team up in Los Angeles, it doesn’t sound so crazy.

This is definitely something that would benefit James in his quest to win more championships. After all, he’ll be 33 next summer and will eventually start declining in play. And with the Golden State Warriors constructed to win for the next few seasons, Cleveland’s currently roster doesn’t look capable of winning any more titles.

Of course, there are huge roadblocks in this scenario too. First off, the Lakers just drafted Lonzo Ball No. 2 overall. And the idea is that he’ll be their point guard of the future.

This isn’t to say that they wouldn’t also take Wall too. But will LA really pay Wall’s asking price since they already having a talented point guard?

There’s also Brandon Ingram to think about. Drafted second overall last season, the 19-year-old is considered a key part of the rebuild. But his development could be hindered by an overloaded superteam.

For fun, let’s just say that LA does get this team together. How will they pay Boogie, George, James, and Wall? Will they be able to afford a bench, or even a fifth starter, in this scenario?

In reality, nobody truly knows what LeBron or any of the other future free agents will do in 2018 and beyond. We think there’s a decent chance he does go to LA and draws other big-name players.

As Simmons pointed out, George is likely to be one of these players. But the jury is out on whether Cousins and Wall will be there too.

Lakers Odds 2018

As it now stands, the Lakers don’t have LeBron or any other stars we’ve discussed. What they do have is another young team that probably won’t offer any serious contention for a playoff spot.

This being said, it’s little surprise that we have the Lakers odds of winning the championship at +10,000.

The Lakers figure to improve with a healthy Ingram, the addition of Ball, and the free-agent signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Nevertheless, this unit is too young to contend in the muddled West. But that could quickly change next summer if LA gets one or more superstars.

Clippers Odds: What does Danilo Gallinari do for LA in 2018?

The L.A. Clippers traded away their franchise point guard Chris Paul. But they won’t be left empty-handed after acquiring former Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari in a three-team deal.

The Clippers gave 37-year-old guard Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and their 2018 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks. Gallinari and the Nuggets’ 2019 draft pick go to LA via Denver.

In addition to moving the 6’10” forward to their team, the Clippers have signed him to a three-year, $65-million deal. The sign-and-trade is crucial because Gallinari’s original contract wouldn’t fit under the salary cap.

danilo-gallinari-clippersThe Hawks were needed so that LA could dump Crawford’s salary there; Atlanta later bought out Crawford because both sides wanted to part right away. Atlanta also sent All-Star forward Paul Millsap to the Nuggets because the Hawks are undergoing a full rebuild.

As for the Clippers, we have their odds of winning the 2018 NBA Championship at +7500. This is a far cry from the days when Chris Paul-led teams often came in with lofty championship expectations.

Will Gallinari have a bigger impact than our odds suggest? Let’s discuss this by covering the Italian pro’s impact on LA along with how he’ll fit in.

Clippers could Have the NBA’s Top Front Line

When the Clippers had Paul, Crawford, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick, the one thing they were always missing was a really good small forward. It’s a shame that Crawford, Paul, and Redick (76ers) had to go before LA finally got this in Gallinari.

The 8-year veteran had one of his best NBA seasons last year, averaging 18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.1 APG. He also shot a respectable 38.9% from beyond the three-point line.

gallinari-blake-griffinGallinari is the perfect compliment to Griffin and Jordan, neither of who shoots three-pointers. Jordan is just a finish-at-the-rim guy, while Griffin has a nice mid-range and post-up game.

But Gallinari brings a different dimension to this front line, one that includes driving and deep-shooting abilities.

The biggest issue for him will be staying healthy. He hasn’t played more than 71 games in the last six seasons. Last year he appeared in 63 games, which is his average.

Assuming Gallinari suits up enough for LA, they project to have one of the NBA’s top front lines – if not THE best. The only front line that compares across all three spots is Cleveland’s, which features C Tristan Thompson, PF Kevin Love, and SF LeBron James.

Can Gallinari Log Heavy Minutes at Small Forward?

As just mentioned, the Clippers could have the league’s top front line. But the drawback is that they won’t have the versatility to play Gallinari at both forward spots, which he’s used to doing.

Griffin and Jordan only know power forward and center, respectively. This could pose a problem when Gallinari has to guard faster forwards because he’s on the backside of his career and not getting any quicker.

Doc Rivers will have some work to do with juggling lineups that include the Jordan-Gallinari-Griffin trio. In order to put Gallinari in power-forward situations, one option includes bringing Wesley Johnson or Sam Dekker off the bench to play small forward when Griffin needs a breather.

Clippers Lose Everything at Guard Spots, but Gain Something Back

Moving away from Gallinari for a moment, LA will certainly miss their top three guards in Redick, Paul, and Crawford. But it’s not like they came out of the Paul trade without anything.

patrick-beverley-spurs-game-6Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams – both coming over from Houston – are currently slated to start at point guard and shooting guard, respectively.

Beverly is one of the league’s best defensive guards, and he can also score (9.5 PPG) and shoot (38% three-point). Williams is a volume scorer (17.5 PPG) who’s one of the league’s best at drawing fouls (5.4 free throws per game).

Neither of these players will replace Paul, Crawford, or Redick. But they’re good enough to fill in while the front court (potentially) works their magic.

Outlook on 2017-18 LA Clippers

Gallinari has played for some bad Nuggets teams over the years. So nobody is more excited about joining a winning team than him.

Few are expecting the 2017-18 version of the Clippers to be better than the team last year, which finished fourth in the West with a 51-31 mark. But most expect this squad to be in line for a playoff spot.

On paper, this is our top 4 in the West right now:

  1. Golden State
  2. San Antonio
  3. Houston
  4. Oklahoma City

After this, we think the Western Conference is wide open. And LA could very well compete with the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 5 seed.

But for now, the mission will simply be getting Gallinari, Griffin, and Jordan to gel in the front court. Once this happens, the dominoes will fall for the Clippers.

Celtics Sign Gordon Hayward – Impact on 2018 Odds

gordon-hayward-isaiah-thomasThe Boston Celtics set their sights on Gordon Hayward ever since the 2017 offseason began. And their efforts proved fruitful as they landed the former Utah Jazz forward.

Hayward gives this club another star besides point guard Isaiah Thomas. And the 6’8″ forward better positions this team to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Playoffs.

But just how good are Boston’s chances of making the NBA Finals with Hayward? Find out as we cover what he’ll do for the Celtics 2018 odds.

Hayward is the Perfect Fit

Paul George, another Boston offseason target, also could’ve made the Celtics much better. But there are questions of how another ball-dominant player would’ve fit in with Thomas.

hayward-boston-oddsBoston doesn’t need to worry about answering these questions now because Hayward will make a seamless transition to this team.

The 6-year veteran can be a playmaker, spot-up shooter, driver, decoy…basically, whatever Boston needs. Just as important as his offensive versatility is Hayward’s defensive prowess. He can guard multiple positions, defend the pick and roll, and has length (7-foot wingspan).

Hayward is somebody who’s improved every year in the league. Last season, he averaged a career-high 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and shot 39.8% from the 3-point line. With good shooting, great defense, and playmaking ability, Hayward is the total package for Boston.

The Celtics are Even Deeper

Thanks to their trade robbery of the Brooklyn Nets a few years ago, the Celtics just keep getting better and better.

jaylen-brown-celticsLast summer, they added forward Jaylen Brown with the third-overall pick. And Brown showed flashes of a great player as his playing time increased during the season.

This year, the Celtics picked up Duke small forward Jayson Tatum. Yet another versatile forward, Tatum has the potential to be the best offensive player in the draft.

Now, add these players to a lineup that already includes Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Hayward, and Marcus Smart. This possibly makes for the league’s best defensive team, and one of the deepest too.

Hayward is a Proven Winner

The Celtics know how to win since they finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 53-29 record. And now, they add another winner to their roster.

Hayward was the center of Utah’s rebuild, as the team showed the following improvement over the past four seasons: 25 wins, 38 wins, 40 wins, 51 wins.

It’s possible that the Jazz would’ve experienced another increase in 2018. But Hayward saw a better opportunity by joining the East’s top regular-season team. Now, he has a clearer path to the Finals that doesn’t include the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs.

Danny Ainge Avoids Losing in the 2017 Offseason

On a side note, Boston GM Danny Ainge avoids the scrutiny that he’s been facing over not landing a major free agent this summer. After all, Ainge is sitting on a pile of draft picks over the next few years, and people want to see him turn these picks into proven players.

celtics-aingeThe Celtics could’ve gotten Jimmy Butler for the third-overall selection. They also failed to trade for George, although he’s expressed his desire to sign with the LA Lakers next summer.

If Ainge had also failed to sign Hayward, it would’ve really put a damper on this offseason. But now, Boston has a prized free agent and looks to be a much stronger team moving forward.

Hayward Gives Boston a Height Upgrade

Hayward’s height will certainly help this undersized team. The four Boston players who log the most minutes include PG Thomas (5’9″), SG Bradley (6’2″), SF Crowder (6’6″), and C Al Horford (6’9″).

Even in the small-ball era, this is small. But when you throw Hayward in Crowder’s spot – or alongside him – he gives Boston more height and length. Assuming Brown plays heavier minutes, this will give Boston yet one more sizable wing.

What will Boston do with Jae Crowder?

jae-crowder-celticsCrowder is an invaluable part of the Celtics’ core. But Hayward plays the same position as Crowder and is an upgrade.

This leaves Boston with the following three options moving forward:

  • Put Crowder at power forward, which puts him at a disadvantage against bigger lineups.
  • Bring him off the bench.
  • Trade him.

The latter scenario is the most viable. The 5-year veteran is highly coveted for his defense and three-point shooting (39.8%). Plus, Boston has Brown and Tatum on the roster, who’ll both need time to develop.

The Celtics would do best to trade Crowder while he still has maximum value. After all, his numbers will dwindle when he’s coming off the bench.

Does Hayward Give Boston a Chance to Beat Cleveland?

Currently, we have the Celtics at +1000 odds of winning the 2018 NBA championship. This is tied for third best with the San Antonio Spurs, and behind both the Cleveland Cavaliers (+350) and Warriors (-220).

gordon-hayward-jazzThe Cavs are the important one here because they dismantled Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. However, adding Hayward gives them a legitimate chance to beat Cleveland.

But barring any major Cleveland injuries, we still don’t see Boston getting by them. The biggest problem is that Hayward plays the same position as one of Boston’s top-4 players. And while Hayward is an upgrade over Crowder, he doesn’t significantly improve their team from last year.

But with rumors about LeBron James bolting Cleveland after this season, Boston is poised to rule the East. They also look like a team that’ll contend for the title very soon too.

Timberwolves Odds: Jeff Teague Added, Rubio Traded

The Minnesota Timberwolves are making big moves this summer in hopes of being a playoff contender.

Just one week after trading for Jimmy Butler, GM/coach Tom Thibodeau has traded point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz. And today, he signed free-agent PG Jeff Teague (3 yrs/$57m).

How do these moves help the T-Wolves chances of making the 2018 postseason?

Let’s discuss this matter below by covering what Minnesota gains in Teague and loses in Rubio. We’ll also discuss how the Timberwolves 2018 odds will be affected.

Teague Upgrades Minnesota’s Outside Shooting

Minnesota wasn’t a terrible three-point shooting team, hitting 34.9% and ranking 20th in the league. But then again, they weren’t good enough to keep defenses from guarding the paint and cutting off driving lines.

jeff-teague-timberwolvesKeeping driving lanes open is imperative now with slashers like Andrew Wiggins and Butler. Furthermore, Thibodeau wants to keep defenders from double-teaming franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns.

Rubio was never going to be the point guard to do this. He’s a career 31.5% three-point shooter, and this dipped to 30.6% last season.

This is where Teague becomes valuable. Although not Steph Curry, Teague hit a respectable 35.7% from beyond the arc last season. This is at least good enough to keep defenses honest.

The ceiling is also higher on Teague’s three-point shot. When playing with a better Atlanta lineup in 2015, he hit 40.0% from beyond the arc. He’s a good spot-up shooter – especially when playing with other offensive threats – which is exactly the situation Teague enters in Minnesota.

Another good thing about the 8-year veteran is that the Wolves don’t lose anything from a driving perspective. Much like Rubio, Teague is good at penetrating into the lane and creating shots for himself and teammates.

Teague is More Durable

jeff-teague-minnesota-timberwolvesAnother major plus to Teague is durability. In his eight seasons, he’s never played fewer than 66 games. And he’s played 79+ games in four of these years.

Contrast this to Rubio, who’s only played 75+ games three times in his 6-year career. Going further, he’s missed 25 or more games in 3 seasons.

While Rubio has stayed on the court the past two years, durability remains a concern after he appeared in just 22 games in 2015.

Wolves will Miss Rubio’s Playmaking

One area where Minnesota is hurting after trading Rubio to the Jazz is playmaking. This isn’t to say that Teague isn’t a playmaker, given that he averaged 7.8 assists last season.

ricky-rubio-timberwolvesBut Rubio is one of the best passers and distributors in the league. The Spaniard averaged 9.1 APG last year, and he’s averaged 8.5 assists for his career.

With a loaded offensive unit that includes Butler, Towns, and Wiggins – all of who averaged over 20 PPG last season – having an optimal passer distributing the ball would be great.

Why did Minnesota Give Up Rubio for a First-Round Pick?

Over the past few seasons, the T-Wolves have been a developing team. But this went out the window when they gave up Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh-overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) for Butler.

So why give send Rubio to Utah for a first-round pick (via Oklahoma City)? A pick that’s likely to be a late first-rounder after OKC signed Paul George?

ricky-rubio-jazzThe reason has to do with salary. Rubio is due $14.1 million this year and $14.8 million in 2018-19.

Given today’s inflated contacts, Rubio is well-priced here. But Minnesota couldn’t see giving up this much money to a guard who’ll come off the bench to spell Teague.

Furthermore, they needed to keep cap space clear. They added Butler’s $19.8-million-per-year deal to their books, and just signed Teague to a $19m-per-year contract.

This wouldn’t put them over with Rubio aboard. But again, it doesn’t make sense to pay a backup point guard $14.1m.

Another factor is that Utah’s offer may have been the most attractive. Here’s an ESPN report about the New York Knicks’ hesitation:

“The Knicks had interest in trading for Ricky Rubio but were not willing to part with a first-round pick to obtain the guard, per sources. Minnesota, according to reports, traded Rubio to Utah for a protected first-round pick. GM Steve Mills appears to be following Phil Jackson’s rule of valuing first-round picks, which seems wise for a team that appears to be in the midst of a rebuild.”

Timberwolves 2018 Odds after Teague Addition

butler-wiggins-townsAdding Jeff Teague and losing Ricky Rubio doesn’t make the Timberwolves massively better. But he is an upgrade from an all-around perspective.

This is especially the case when considering what Minnesota now has, and the immense importance of three-point shooting in today’s league.

Thibodeau is trying to build a contender right now, and he’s made the right moves. We certainly don’t see Minnesota winning it all in the 2017-18 season. But we do see them earning a playoff seed in the tough Western Conference.

Our guess is that they finish in the 6-8 range, challenge their first round opponent, get Towns & Wiggins more seasoning, then battle for a top-4 seed the following year.

Thunder Odds: What does Paul George Trade do for OKC?

paul-george-westbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off the free-agency shocker of the summer, trading for Paul George. The former Indiana Pacers star had been linked to Boston, Cleveland, and the LA Lakers in recent weeks.

OKC, however, wasn’t even in this conversation.

The most-exciting thing about this deal is that it pairs triple-double machine Russell Westbrook with one of the game’s best all-around forwards.

But does this make the Thunder a far-better team? Will it raise their championship odds?

Let’s find out by discussing what exactly George does for OKC, and if the Thunder will be hurt by giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Saboins.

George Replaces Durant as the Thunder’s Second Superstar

When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant last year, it obviously took away any chance they had at a championship.

Westbrook became the second-ever player to average a triple double and carried OKC to victory. The team finished with a respectable 47-35 record; but they were clearly overmatched in the first round of the playoffs, losing in 5 games to the Houston Rockets.

In comes George, who may not totally replace what Durant is capable of, but he’ll be close. He averaged 23.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.6 SPG last season. George also shot 46.1% from the field, including 39.3% from the three-point line.

The Brodie #OKC

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George’s 3-Point Shooting Helps Immensely

Last year, OKC was tied for the league’s worst three-point-shooting team. They and the Orlando Magic both shot a dismal 32.7% from beyond the arc.

The Thunder tried to remedy this by trading for Chicago’s Doug McDermott. The third-year player hit a respectable 36.2% from three after the trade, but this was well off his career mark of 39.4%.

George now does two things in this department for the Thunder:

1) He shoots very well from three-point territory at 39.3%.
2) His presence helps create more open looks for McDermott, which were in short supply.

Westbrook doesn’t Have to Shoulder a Heavy Burden

westbrook-vs-rocketsWestbrook had a season for the ages, averaging 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG, and 1.6 SPG. People criticize his shooting, but Westboork’s 42.5% mark (34.3% from three) was partly because of all the attention on him.

The good news is that he no longer has to carry this squad. PG will draw plenty of attention and, again, create more open looks for his teammates.

This Becomes a Stronger Defensive Team

We’re not saying that Oladipo wasn’t a good defender. But bringing George in allows OKC to slide Andre Robertson – a lock-down defender if ever there was one – to shooting guard.

These moves create the following starting 5:

  • Westbrook at PG
  • Robertson at SG
  • George at SF
  • Taj Gibson at PF
  • Steven Adams at C

This is a long, athletic, scrappy lineup that’ll make scoring highly difficult for the opposition. Sure, there’s no incredible rim protector here. But Gibson and Adams are both stout position defenders, while Westbrook, Robertson, and George are good at forcing turnovers and bad shots.

What Exactly does OKC Lose?

victor-oladipo-thunderOladipo is obviously the big loss for the Thunder because he averaged 15.9 PPG and 4.3 RPG last year. The 4-year veteran also shot a respectable 36.1% from three-point territory. Another good thing about Oladipo is that he’s a solid defender.

But the problem here is twofold:

1) He’s not a star like Paul George.
2) He’s making $21 million per year.

Combining these two factors, OKC almost wins by getting an above-average starter who’s making $21 million off their roster.

As for Domantas Sabonis, the 11th-overall pick in the 2016 Draft had an okay season, averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG. But the rookie struggled to find his stroke, hitting just 39.9% from the field and 32.1% from three-point range. Sabonis may develop into a good player, but it’ll take 2-3 seasons.

Thunder Pursuing Rudy Gay

rudy-gay-tradeOn a side note, ESPN reports that the Thunder are currently interested in signing free agent forward Rudy Gay.

The 11-year veteran would likely come off the bench, due to George playing the same position.

But he’d be a great offensive addition after averaging 18.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.8 APG for the Sacramento Kings last year. Gay shot 37.2% from the three-point line, which would also help OKC upgrade in this spot too.

Thunder Championship Odds for 2018

Oklahoma City opened the summer at 80:1 odds of winning the NBA title. Now, they shift to 40:1 odds at the major Vegas sportsbooks after signing George.

thunder-george-westbrookIf they can also pick up Gay through free agency, OKC would become a stronger playoff seed in the tough Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors are expected to be the first seed again, while the Houston Rockets (via Chris Paul trade) will fight with the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed. With Paul leaving the Clippers, and Gordon Hayward’s fate with the Utah Jazz up in the air, this leaves the fourth spot open for OKC to slide into.

Assuming the Thunder have a strong season, then it gives them a better chance of re-signing George and Westbrook – both of who will be free agents in 2018.