It was a busy Monday morning yesterday as we kicked off the first Thunder chat of the season. There were a ton of questions, most of which I couldn’t get to. But as promised, here are answers to the rest of your submissions.
Buried inside this behemoth is plenty of discussion about James Harden’s contract situation, Cole Aldrich’s abilities, Perry Jones III’s potential playing time and much, much more. So dig in.
And as always, if you’d like to join the discussion the Thunder chat generally is held Mondays at 11 a.m.
From Nix: In the event the Thunder wouldn’t be able to keep Harden. What would be preferred in return for him? Immediate impact (affordable) player or loads of picks? Next years draft is weak.
A: Some mix of quality but affordable role players and draft picks. I’ll throw out a bunch of names. None of them are sexy. You’ve been warned. Trevor Ariza. Trevor Booker. DeJuan Blair. Ronnie Brewer. MarShon Brooks. Chase Budinger. Alec Burks. Omri Casspi. Wilson Chandler. Jordan Crawford. Jimmer Fredette. Jared Dudley. Channing Frye. Drew Gooden. Gordon Hayward. Gerald Henderson. Damion James. Jonas Jerebko. Wesley Johnson. Jeremy Lamb. Luc Mbah a Moute. Marcus and Markieff Morris. Anthony Morrow. Chandler Parsons. Tayshaun Prince. Terrence Ross. That’s it. That’s the list. Some are better than others. And the Thunder obviously won’t pull the trigger on most of these names on their own merit. But I could see the powers that be going with whatever team can offer the best package (picks, cash, cap relief if possible) that includes a player(s) like some of the ones mentioned here.
From I want the beard: Are you optimistic about the Harden situation?
From CJ: Do you see Perry Jones getting any playing time this year? I think he could really help them out.
A: I could see PJIII getting spot minutes. But nothing more than five to eight minutes a game. I think it’s much more likely that he doesn’t play much this year.
From Guest: If Orton makes the team, does his contract allow him to go back and forth to Tulsa?
A: It’s not a matter of Orton’s contract. The new CBA allows for players with two or more years of service to be assigned to the D-League with the consent of the player and the players association. It’s going to be interesting to see what the Thunder does with Orton from that standpoint.
From Kevin: I am always interested in the actual players personalities. That being said, what players generally tend to hang out with each other the most? Also, I get the feeling that Maynor is the jokester. True or false?
A: Harden and Maynor are extremely close. Daequan Cook is real cool with those two as well. Durant will hang out with everyone. He’s just laid back like that. Ibaka and Sefolosha have a bond (both speak French), but Sefolosha is married with children so I don’t think they hang out much. I wouldn’t call Maynor the biggest jokester. He has his moments and likes to have a good time. But he’s one of the more mellow guys in the group. Westbrook is by far the most animated. Aldrich is the silliest. And every now and then Serge will get in on it, become fired up and start speaking so fast no one really understands him.
From podirk: Lakers bench lets a 35-0 run go by…Lakers are toast… o wait…it’s preseason.
A: Stupid perspective.
From mj: From what you seen so far how much has westbrook & kd improved??
A: They’re just as good at free throws as they were last year.
From Guest: Do stats guys like Pruiti and Hollinger realize that basketball is played by humans on a court not numbers on a spreadsheet
A: I’ve never met Sebastian. But I’ve grown to respect John Hollinger as one of the best basketball writers in the country. I totally get where you’re coming from because back when the Hornets were in town Hollinger wrote a piece saying Chris Paul had a better rookie season than Magic. Of course, it was a numbers-based argument. It made me roll my eyes and have a pretty negative impression of Hollinger. But overtime, I gained a ton of respect for him. Working alongside him in the playoffs two years back cemented my new impression of him. That guy is legit. Hard worker. Deep thinker. Good writer. Student of the game.
From Guest: Why all the hate on Fisher? Fish helped the Thunder tremendously in the playoffs and hit some huge shots. I don’t understand the hate.
A: I don’t think anyone is hating on Fisher. But there’s no question Brooks played him way too much last season. Brooks has a history of having too long a leash with certain players, going back to Jeff Green. Fish was the latest to benefit from it. It’s a fact, not hate.
From Will: Can you imagine trying to go in for a layup with Ibaka and Thabeet both in the paint? Could they use this tandem this season?
A: Yep. For about 52 seconds and then they might both have three fouls. : )
From Guest: What are the chances if Reggie plays well this year that he could be the replacement for Harden next year? That way you can keep Maynor and play both together in the second unit?
A: Replacement? Jackson? For Harden? That’s asking a lot at this point. A whole lot. It’s a thought. But I can’t see that working out so well unless Jackson becomes an Avery Bradley type, meaning he ultimately will morph into an explosive player capable of providing terrific defense, scoring off slashing and perimeter shooting and additional ball-handling when needed. If Jackson shows he can do all those things, and do them consistently, then you’ve got a plan.
From Caddo: Have you seen any improvement from Aldrich? Every game I have seen him in he seems like a stiff. It would sure be nice if Thabeet or Orton can step up because I don’t see Aldrich as much help. Your opinion?
A: I’m reserving judgment until the games begin. I think Aldrich deserves it. Better yet, I know he deserves it. I’ve written about how little Aldrich has played, and I think everyone needs to keep that in mind when evaluating him. Put another way, give the guy a chance. Having said that, I’ve found very few people who believe in the young man. He’s got a lot to prove and can begin to change the perception of his abilities this season.
From Guest: What kind of offer does Pelinka have from the Thunder for Harden? 4 years $50?
A: The short answer is I don’t know. But I assume that’s the minimum on the table. That’s what the Thunder gave Serge Ibaka, so I’d also assume that the Thunder might have added slightly more on top of that, say $1.25 million more per year to bump it up to $53 million. That would seem like a reasonable offer given what everyone knows Harden will receive from another team next summer.
From Guest: What is your prediction on Harden? Sign and trade in summer for a role player or a first round pick or two?
A: If no deal is done by Oct. 31, I see Harden being traded at the deadline for a role player or two and future picks.
From Tom: You really think the Thunder might trade Harden? I think they are more likely to make a run with him and let him go after the season. Or is that against the “Thunder Way” to make a run for one year at the expense of the future?
A: Yes, I think the Thunder really would trade Harden, and the when and why is much more complex than simply deciding whether to make a one-time run now. Basically, it boils down to the fact that it’s become much more complicated to complete sign-and-trades. For starters, with shorter contract lengths in the new CBA, neither the player nor the new team has any incentive to agree to a sign-and-trade. In other words, Harden will make the same by signing outright that he could make in a sign-and-trade, while the new team wouldn’t get him for an additional season like in years past. Secondly, starting next summer, the receiving team in a sign-and-trade can’t be $4 million over the tax level after the trade. That stipulation alone eliminates about two-thirds of the league as potential trading partners for the Thunder. Third, because the Thunder would be over the cap and Harden would net a raise greater than 20%, any sign-and-trade the Thunder sought automatically would subject Harden’s salary to what was known under the old CBA as “Base Year Compensation.” Essentially, it’s a parameter that would kick in and lower Harden’s salary for trading purposes. For example, instead of the Thunder being able to trade $14.5 million of Harden’s new contract, the team would be allowed to trade only $7.25 million. That restriction could greatly limit the Thunder’s options in a deal. (Or given the franchise’s current financial state, it may help depending on how you look at it and depending on what the Thunder seeks in return). But add it all up and it certainly complicates matters. So rather than be forced to deal with what could be one gigantic headache next summer, the Thunder might prefer to wipe its hands of the situation entirely at the deadline if nothing is finalized by Oct. 31. Given this team’s history when it comes to contract matters (see Jeff Green), my money is on the Thunder saying sayonara to its reigning Sixth Man of the Year sooner rather than later.
From Tom: Does Ibaka’s demeanor seem different now that he has the contract extension?
A: I haven’t spent much time around him to know. Seems to be the same person to me. But that’s outside looking in.
From Lynn: Does Perry Jones have three point range ? If so, why would he not push Cook who hit 34% from three last season?
A: I think he’ll push Cook regardless because of his versatility. But to answer your question, no, Jones isn’t a guy you want taking a ton of 3s. He can hit them. But it’s far from his biggest strength.
From Michael: Think we’ll see any zone in the preseason games?
A: Doesn’t sound like it, but you never know.
From Lynn: If Fox Sports SW is airing the Houston preseason game, then why would it not air here?
A: Is that a fact? I was told that neither team’s broadcast crew was doing it. I might have gotten inaccurate information. The Thunder annually only broadcasts one preseason game, maybe two at most. So this isn’t anything all that new.
From podirk: Have you seen any improvement of Ibakas hands?
A: All I can tell you is KD has stripped him a few times during one-on-one drills. Other than that, all I know from what we’ve seen thus far is Serge hasn’t fumbled it at the free throw line.
From Kingdaddy: Are the thunder going to be a top five defense this year?
A: If they can rebound better there’s a chance of that.
From Lebron James: Im curious about the defense. Have you heard anything about Brooks incorporating a zone defense to stop me and my team like Dallas did the year before?
A: The last time it was really talked about was in June after you destroyed the man-to-man and double teams the Thunder kept throwing at you. So far, no new schemes have been put in.
From Lynn: If Harden re-signs, do you see Maynor being traded before the deadline?
A: No. The Thunder still could match any offer Maynor might receive next summer, so there’s really no reason to trade him before the deadline if Harden signs. Since Maynor’s price tag hasn’t really been determined, the Thunder might as well let it play out and see if you can win a title as currently constructed. It’s a bit of a risk considering the team might be passing up a future first-rounder for Maynor. But it’s a risk that would be well worth it if the Thunder has another shot at a title. Besides, if no team throws a truckload of money at Maynor the Thunder could luck into having him for at least another season on a cost-efficient deal or, at worst, qualifying offer.
From Larry: You said Durant is bigger??
From ou_sas: What’s the timetable on Thabo’s injury? And is Perk still slated to be back for the first regular season game?
A: No real word on Thabo other than he seems to be doing a little more every practice. As for Perk, that still sounds like the plan. Although when Brooks said the other day that Perk will be limited to non-contact drills through the end of the month it made me wonder if they’ll throw him out there on Nov. 1 without any full contact practices.
From mj: whats really the chance of harden coming back in your perspective?
A: Depends on Harden at this point. The Thunder can’t offer a max contract. So if that’s what Harden is waiting for then he’ll be playing elsewhere next season.
From bert: do you think the Thunder will be able to better defend Miami next year?
A: I’m not so sure. Ray Allen is another threat that the Thunder now has to find an answer for. And unless Durant can contend with LeBron in the post better, it looks like it could still be a struggle.
From Guest: Why are the preseason games not televised?
A: I could make some sort of wise comment about it being preseason. But that’s actually a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that.
From Nix: If Harden is gone, do you think he is traded preseason, before deadline, or sign/trade after the season is over?
A: At the deadline.
From WS: What do you think about KD playing more in 4 this year? Will that open a door to PJIII to play a lot more?
A: It certainly gives him an opportunity. But a lot of things could happen at that spot. Harden could play the 3 in that lineup, which he did a ton last year. Lazar Hayward could steal minutes there. Sefolosha could play there (which he did most often last year with KD at the 4) and Cook is in the mix as well. But Jones’ versatility is something Brooks already has labeled an asset, and if PJIII can prove that he’s able to learn quickly there’s no reason to think he can carve out some minutes. Again, though, I wouldn’t expect a ton of time for him.
From podirk: The all important question…regarding RWs conflict between Nike/Adidas? Who do YOU choose?
A: I choose Jordan, which is where it looks like Westbrook is headed. And why wouldn’t he? Most kids that grow up playing ball love Jordans. Why not take advantage and get all the free Js you can?
From Gyp Rosetti: I must admit I’m concerned about Aldrich as backup. Any word about what kind of camp he’s having so far??
A: Word is no one has stood out in a bad way. But all the talk goes out of the window come Wednesday. We’ll find out for real once the games begin.
From superFan: The Thunder didn’t win last year because they couldn’t defend Miami. Have you seen anything so far from Brooks to shore up that area? zone defense?
A: Not yet. But Brooks said he’ll start to put in more sets and schemes after a game or two. By the end of this week we should know more.
From Steve H: If Harden does get moved, what do you think of Afflalo and Beal as options?
A: Afflalo…Afflalo…? Beal…Beal? That’s me checking my list. Nope. I like Afflalo. He’s a nice player. He’s tough and would fit well with the Thunder. But I just think he’s a little too expensive. He’s much cheaper than what Harden would get. But if the Thunder is going to wipe its hands with Harden, I’d think they’d try to clean up the books as best they can while also trying to get the best deal. A cheaper version would be Wilson Chandler. Of course, then the Thunder would be dealing with Denver (a division rival and playoff team) instead of Orlando (a team out East that will stink for quite sometime). The Magic might not part with picks anytime soon, but if Orlando does maybe Afflalo’s contract just becomes the price of doing business. As for Beal, I think that ship has sailed. Oh wait a minute. That’s just me hoping the Wizards finally will hold on to a promising young player who has his head screwed on straight.