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Thunder Thursday OT: Darnell Mayberry, Anthony Slater talk Durant in 2016, starting spots and the 'cheap' label

by Darnell Mayberry and Anthony Slater and Erik Horne Published: August 2, 2014
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Where will Kevin Durant end up in 2016? Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Where will Kevin Durant end up in 2016? Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

We had some leftover questions from our Thunder Thursday hangout, so Thunder writers Darnell Mayberry and Anthony Slater went at the extras roundtable-style. Here are their responses:

From John Wall : Any chance that my boy is coming to play with me in 2016?

Mayberry: There’s a chance. But I wouldn’t bet on it. The Wizards won’t put Durant in a better position to win than the Thunder at that point, with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka entering their primes. Durant is friends with John Wall, and Bradley Beal will soon be one of the best shooting guards in the league. But they still won’t be a better tandem to pair with than what Durant has in OKC.

Slater: Yeah, KD even said as much recently in Vegas. He was open about the appeal of free agency. From the sounds of it, Washington will likely be among a few teams who may get a chance to formulate a pitch for him two offseasons from now. But that’s still 700 days away. You and the Wiz kids have a lot of work to do in the mean time. Winning and organizational structure will be at the top of Durant’s wish list.

From OKC T: Is it possible that by the end of the year (Steven) Adams is the starting center and (Mitch) McGary and (Nick) Collison are the 2nd team bigs? Adams is already our best center IMO and McGary may already be our 2nd best offensive big.

Mayberry: I don’t see any scenario in which Kendrick Perkins is still on the team but completely out of the rotation. As long as he’s on the roster, he’ll have a place in the lineup, in my opinion. And I still don’t think Adams is a better defensive player than Perkins. Adams is better offensively, however.

Slater: Forget end of the season. Adams could (and should, in my opinion) be the starting center on opening night. He’s the future at that position for OKC. Might as well speed up the development as rapidly as possible. But I agree with Darnell. Unless all of the league’s best post scorers drop dead, Perk will have a role. He’s there to slow those guys down. If McGary breaks the rotation (which is possible), he’ll likely take Collison’s minutes, not play alongside him.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) gets up to block a shot by San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) in the second quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) gets up to block a shot by San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) in the second quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

From Guest: Serge Ibaka recently said he is not 100 percent. Are you guys worried that he is still competing with the potential his injury could worsen?

Mayberry: I’m not worried, mostly because the team is not worried. The injury wasn’t as serious as it was initially believed to be, and after a few months of recovery it should be even better. He might not be 100 percent, but he’s got to be better than he was when he returned for the conference finals. I don’t think it will be an issue.

Slater: No. As shown in ESPN’s recent Body Issue, Ibaka takes care of his health and puts about as much time into his body as anyone on the planet. And he is ultra-serious about his profession. He’ll be ready for the season.

From Tom: Do OKC players, and KD in particular, buy into the “OKC is cheap” thought?

Mayberry: I’ve never asked them. Maybe I should. Maybe I will. So I don’t know what they think, or at least what they would say publicly (although the next time a player says something negative will be the first time). But I’ve got to believe they see the organization making sound decisions. I’ve got to believe they understand, on some level, that not everyone can make $10 million. But what probably holds the most weight is the team’s success. The Thunder has been to the conference finals three out of four years. OKC has done it despite never dipping into the tax. The final step, of course, is getting over the hump and winning a title. But nothing guarantees championships, definitely not spending.

Slater: Remember last offseason, when Durant tired of people asking him of the Harden trade on Twitter and shot back a comment about the unrealistic nature of keeping that team together because of salary cap restrictions? So he seems to understand the business side of things. And even if he thinks his franchise is ‘cheap’, he hasn’t and likely won’t ever say as much to the media.

From Terrance: How big of a leap do you believe Reggie Jackson will make this season?

Mayberry: He’s (again) my pick to win the Sixth Man Award. I think he’s that talented, and I think he’ll have that good of a year. Going into his fourth season, he should now be extremely comfortable with his role and confident in his abilities. He improved his decision-making and 3-point shooting last season and even showed some fourth-quarter takeover ability in the postseason. I’ve always been high on Jackson. I think this season could be a special year for him. My only concern is whether his contract extension, if it doesn’t get done by Oct. 31, will weigh heavily on him and play tricks on his mind. I don’t think it will. But you just never know.

Slater: The biggest leap of his career may have come last season – from relatively unknown commodity to legit Sixth Man candidate. This season, he’ll need to do more, particularly on the defensive end. And I assume that growth will come. But we know what he’s capable of doing. He’s shown us. Now it’s about consistency, not necessarily a talent and production leap.

Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

From DJ Kike: Who is starting at the 2 guard spot in place of Thabo (Sefolosha)? Is it (Andre) Roberson and Reggie still coming off the bench?

Mayberry: By the looks of it, it’ll be Roberson. I’ve written about why the Thunder is comfortable with the idea (defense, rebounding, allowing Reggie to remain a bench threat). The only other feasible option seems to be Jeremy Lamb. But they don’t view him as a starter at this stage.

Slater: Who I think should: Jeremy Lamb, because of his offensive upside and long-term potential. OKC will win around 60 games with whoever they throw out at the 2-guard. So I think the extra development time for Lamb (and Adams at center) would be most beneficial. But because of his defensive capabilities, I think Andre Roberson will get the nod. Scott Brooks has always preferred a stopper out there at tip-off to shadow the team’s best perimeter scorer. All that being said, though, Reggie Jackson is still likely to get the season’s most important minutes at the shooting guard. He’s proven he can play alongside Russell Westbrook and I’d expect both out there consistently down the stretch of games.

From John Corral: Which players from the 66ers are you expecting to improve more from last season that could be moved to the Thunder roster this season?

Mayberry: John, if you can name three 66ers on last year’s roster beyond Grant Jerrett and Andre Roberson you’re deserve a prize. I can’t.

Slater: Grant Jerrett has already made the move and there’s no other roster spots to be had. So no one.

As always, you can check out our Thunder Thursday live show each week — Thursday at 2 p.m. on newsok.com/live.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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by Erik Horne
Online Sports Editor
Erik Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013, following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The Ardmoreite, Horne reported on everything from prep...
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