In our first-ever Thunder mailbag, forward Jeff Green takes the focus of 40 percent of this week’s questions. That’ll happen when you’re shooting 37 percent in January.
But should Green be sent packing? Can the Thunder acquire a center? And what, if anything, can be done about the Thunder’s dreadful 3-point shooting?
We answer those questions and more in our new Monday Morning Mailbag.
If Jeff Green opts to test the free agent market, which available players do you think would be a great fit for OKC either as a starter or reserve for Ibaka? — Kyle.
Green will be a restricted free agent this summer. So he’s going to see what offers are out there. At this point, it’s all a matter of how much another team is willing to pay. If no team throws an absurd amount of cash at Green, he’s likely to return. But if a team comes in with a high-dollar offer, both Green and the Thunder have a decision to make. Green must decide whether to take the money and run or to take less money to continue to be a part of something that’s building from the ground up. And the Thunder must decide whether it can afford to keep Green around and risk his bloated contract potentially blowing up the books. It’ll be an intriguing situation. There are a lot of hypothetical/fantasy options out there. You don’t need me to feed that beast. But if Green bolts, the truth of the matter is the Thunder might have to just plug in Ibaka and move forward. Every quality big man carries a big contract. And with the Thunder having so many young players coming up for contract extensions (not to mention the potential for more restrictive rules in the next collective bargaining agreement possibly hindering teams), this franchise can’t risk bringing in a pricey big man if it comes at the expense of retaining the current core. Unless there is a super value somewhere, which rarely exists and often is in the form of a rugged, more one-dimensional player when he is out there, my gut says the Thunder marches on with Ibaka while getting Cole Aldrich ready for duty.
What does Thabo’s future with Thunder look like? I feel like if/when Harden cracks the starting lineup that Thabo playing against second units is pretty pointless. — Andrew.
I wouldn’t call it pointless. Every team will always have a need for defenders, no matter how his minutes come. Thabo’s got three years remaining on his contract, and I suspect he’ll be around for the duration of this deal — unless of course some opportunity comes along that is too good to pass up. But Thabo is still just 26, and the economics of his deal work incredibly well for the Thunder going forward. That’s important to remember as extensions for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook begin to make their way onto the books. If Harden ever takes over the starting spot from Thabo, the Thunder will still have tremendous flexibility when looking to match up with opponents if Thabo is coming off the bench. Look at how players like Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and James Posey impacted games on the defensive end in the playoffs over the past few seasons. Of course, what separates Thabo from that group and others is perimeter shooting. If Thabo ever gets that part of the game down, he’ll be a great asset to have coming off the bench for 15-20 minutes, especially in future postseasons.
Is it possible that Brooks refuses to change his lineup mid-season in order to appease his starters’ egos? After all, Green has been starting/starring way longer than Ibaka has even been playing basketball. Is Brooks afraid of the effect being benched would have on Green’s effectiveness (not that he’s all that effective to begin with lately…)? Or is he just willing to let Green play himself into a much smaller contract next year? — Peter.
I get the feeling Brooks genuinely believes Green is simply better than Ibaka. And while it’s currently hard to make that argument based on recent production and impact, I can’t say that I’m ready to disagree with that belief. Earlier this season Green had the benefit of clearly being the more consistent player between the two. And every coach at every level in every sport loves players they can depend on. But even that edge is rapidly disappearing for Green. For now, Brooks has the team’s winning record to fall back on as reason to not shuffle the starters. On paper, when a team is 13 games above .500 you think things must be going pretty well. But the team’s issues are clear for everyone to see, and it seems to be just a matter of time before they catch up to the Thunder. I’m not blaming that all on Green. Not by a long shot. Let’s say Brooks did insert Ibaka into the first five. It’s then highly likely that we’d be talking about another set of issues. Ibaka in the starting lineup is not the definitive answer. And Green, despite his poor production of late, is not the root of the team’s problems. To me, what Brooks is doing with players minutes is a great way of managing the game. Play the players who are playing well, and sit whomever is stinking it up.
What is the trade deadline date this year? Does Presti put Uncle Jeff on the trade block or make some other move for a legit center? — Nathan.
The trading deadline is Feb. 24. I highly doubt we see Green traded mid-season, though. The Thunder wants to keep him. The team, at all levels, loves what he brings to the table. Only way I see Green getting traded is in a sign-and-trade over the summer. And that scenario is a last resort the Thunder could turn to only in an attempt to get something in return if it is about to lose Green outright to a higher bidder. But I don’t see that happening. I also don’t see any plausible scenarios in which the Thunder can acquire a “legit” center. Everyone says this team needs a big man but nobody ever talks about how actually getting one is much easier said than done. There are about 15 “legit” centers in this league. And I’m probably being a bit generous. GMs don’t dangle those guys as trade bait. Besides, let’s not be so quick to write off Aldrich. He might turn into the exact low-post defender the Thunder needs.
Is there anything in the league rules or organization rules that would disallow the players to “hire” the coaches (as in, pay out of their own pocket) to coach/practice during a lockout? — Daniel.
Yes. NBA rules prohibit teams from having contact with players during a lockout. So Byron Mullens, for example, wouldn’t be allowed to “hire” Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant over the summer to conduct individual workouts. The rules are such that a team’s medical staff couldn’t even attend to a player if he were to get injured in a pickup game.
You’re Sam Presti. Would you trade Green, Mullens and a first round pick for Marc Gasol? Would you try and get Ron Adams back during the offseason? — Bobby.
In a heartbeat. But I’m not sure Chris Wallace over in Memphis would agree. Gasol has his warts like every other player. But he would be so much of an upgrade in the middle that you’d have to do that deal. Unfortunately, Gasol is probably staying in Memphis for a long time. As for Ron Adams, he went back to Chicago mostly for personal reasons. His was away from his family while he was on the bench in OKC. If I’m not mistaken, his daughter was either a senior in high school last year or is currently this year. Either way, those are tough years to have to miss out on. That ship has sailed.
I don’t have to be a GM to know we NEED 3 point shooting to become a better team. What will the Thunder do in trades/offseason to get one or two better 3 point shooters? — Andrew.
I don’t have a crystal ball, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I had one. But I do know that any shooter that the Thunder might bring in will immediately face an uphill climb for playing time. With Thabo and Harden on the wings, there just isn’t much burn left for a 3-point specialist. Why do you think Mo Pete and Daequan Cook are riding the pine?
How about some basketball 101? We thought we’d know by now but can’t figure out: When is an assist counted? What are the parameters? Does a shot missed when a player is fouled count against them on their stats? What positions are what numbers, i.e. point guard is 1? — Julia.
When do you think an assist should be counted? Your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. Assists are perhaps the most subjective of all rulings in the game. An assist is defined as a pass that leads directly to a score for a teammate. But different scorers in different arenas frequently have wide-ranging criteria for what constitutes an assist. Most commonly, an assist is awarded when a player scores of a pass and used no more than one dribble. Some scorers allow two dribbles. Missed shots don’t count against players if they’re fouled when shooting. The field-goal attempt is, however, registered if the shot goes in. And the numbering on positions is an easy one. Just go down the line starting with the point guard as 1. Shooting guards are 2s. Small forwards are 3s. Power forwards are 4s. And centers are 5s.
In football, the team that loses the toss picks which end they will defend in the first half. How is it chosen in the NBA? — Ryan.
The visiting team always has the choice of baskets for the first half. The basket the visitors select when they first enter the court becomes the basket they will shoot on for the first half. Most teams typically shoot at the opposite end in the first half and play defense on the same end as their bench in the second half.
What are the odds of Latavious Williams and Tibor Pleiss having an impact on the Thunder in the next few years? Could Williams see time at the 4? Could Pleiss see time at the 5? — Bryan.
I haven’t seen either of them live. But I hear they’re both developing nicely. It wouldn’t be wise to expect either to set the league on fire. But based on some of the reports I’m hearing about their progression, it’s probably safe to assume they could be serviceable role players someday. Pleiss is definitely a center. Williams, though, seems to have the size and skill set to be able to swing back and forth between the 3 and the 4. Both are prospects I’m really eager to see.
It’s been fun. Thanks to everyone who asked questions. Join the discussion next time if you’d like. Talk to you next week.