May 16, 2013, 2:36 PM EST
It’s this simple: If Russell Westbrook were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder would be on their way to the NBA Finals.
Instead, there was disappintment as they fell in the second round to a very good Memphis Grizzlies team 4-1. This was not some blowout, Memphis was just +18 for the entire series. No game was decided by more than six points.
You don’t think a healthy Russell Westbrook changes that outcome?
Which is why, while there are things the Thunder need to deal with this summer on the roster, the only thing that really matters is getting healthy. Specifically, getting Russell Westbrook healthy and close to his old self.
Do that and the Thunder are title contenders again. This team won 60 games in the regular season and had the best margin of victory in the league. Healthy they are just fine.
There was a lot of “see, the Thunder could have used James Harden” talk during the playoffs. That talk needs to stop. For one, the Harden ship has sailed, move on. Second, they didn’t need him — they needed Westbrook. You saw it against Memphis — the Grizzlies could load up and make life difficult for Kevin Durant, take away his comfort zone, and the Thunder didn’t have a good second scoring option. Westbrook solves that problem in a big way. Whatever you think of the Harden trade it’s this simple: Without Westbrook the Thunder were not winning a title, regardless of the other moves.
So get healthy this summer, RW.
But there are a couple things the Thunder need to address this off-season.
First is Kevin Martin, who is an unrestricted free agent. He was a good fit with OKC, averaging 14 points a game and shooting better than 42 percent from three. He’s not Harden in terms playmaking but he spaces the floor as a scorer and provides value for them.
The question is how much are you willing to pay for that value. Martin made $12.4 million last season and a pay cut is coming, but how much? And how much are the Thunder willing to pay — they have $67 million on the books already for next season (because Serge Ibaka‘s extension kicks in), which has them flirting with the luxury tax line (likely to be $72 million next season). How much is Martin worth? Around $8-9 million for a few years?
One way to clear up some cap space would be to amnesty Kendrick Perkins, who is set to make just shy of $9 million next season. The fans in OKC want this, and the deal helps them on paper, but remember that when you amnesty a player you still have to pay him, he just comes off the official books. If your the Knicks or Lakers, that’s a sunk cost you can ignore, but for the Thunder that is still nearly $19 million over a couple years they have to pay whether Perkins plays in OKC or not. Whatever they do the Thunder need to get another solid big man defender this summer — Perkins was a liability at both ends in the playoffs, especially against the Grizzlies. He had a negative PER of -0.7 for the postseason, which is head-scratchingly bad. The Thunder need to consider a change next to Ibaka up front.
The Thunder could use some depth, everyone could use more shooters and athletes and defenders. But the pieces are pretty much there with the Thunder. They have good role players — Reggie Jackson is a solid backup point guard, Thabo Sefolosha can defend on the wing, Nick Collison gives you solid minutes off the bench as a center. There are good players who can develop such as Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb.
This is a well-constructed roster. When healthy. That’s all they really need.
Dec 19, 2013, 2:23 AM EST
Our quick look around a busy night in the NBA, or what you missed while trying to buy some beer and pay for it with a live alligator… Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat. The last time Wade scored 30 points in a game it was Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Wade had to step up…
Dec 19, 2013, 12:40 AM EST
Kemba Walker just owned the Toronto Raptors. This was his game — 29 points on 18 shots, he could get into the paint or went 5-of-7 from three. Plus, he sank the game winner. The Bobcats had 1 second to get a shot off, the score tied 102-102 at the end of overtime. Walker comes…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:31 PM EST
The Knicks are prone to late-game lapses of judgment this season, and that trend continued on the road near the end of the first overtime session in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Leading by two points with under 20 seconds remaining after a miss by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler tapped out the offensive rebound, and it landed…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:35 PM EST
In the second battle of the season between the two clear leaders of the Eastern Conference, the defending champs showed that they have more than enough talent to come away with a win if given even the smallest of windows to do so. The Pacers got out to a lead of as many as 15…
Dec 18, 2013, 9:52 PM EST
It’s been a running theme over the past few seasons in Miami, where the Heat veterans — namely LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — haven’t been at all shy about dressing down Mario Chalmers on the court following an in-game mistake. Two straight championships later, things apparently haven’t changed all that much. In the third…
Dec 18, 2013, 9:05 PM EST
Chase Budinger was expected to start and be a key part of the Minnesota attack — he can shoot the three and is very athletic so he can finish in transition. He’s a great fit with their Kevin Love/Ricky Rubio attack. However, for the second straight year Budinger has been sidelined by a knee injury…
Dec 18, 2013, 8:01 PM EST
Pau Gasol was off to a slow start this season, and after he and coach Mike D’Antoni traded jabs through the media about both his role and his performance, the Lakers had reportedly started to weigh their options by making Gasol available in trade long before the Feb. 20 deadline had begun to approach. Even…
Dec 18, 2013, 6:47 PM EST
The Lakers are playing without any healthy point guards at the moment, which is making things difficult on the team overall, but especially on Kobe Bryant. Bryant leads the league in turnovers with 5.7 per contest, and while he’s only played six games, it’s substantially more than Stephen Curry‘s 4.2 per game for the season.…
Dec 18, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
The basketball gods can be cruel. The Washington Wizards were celebrating a dramatic win over the New York Knicks the other night — we focused on the Knicks’ failings but credit to the Wizards for making the right plans and knocking down the big shots. For a team with playoff dreams it was a win…
Dec 18, 2013, 5:11 PM EST
Damian Lillard nailed a three pointer from roughly Shaker Heights to give the Trail Blazers a dramatic 119-116 win over Kyrie Irving‘s Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. That prompted Kay Adams to start off this edition of PBT Extra with the question Lillard or Irving? We also talk about the rise of LaMarcus Aldridge to…
Dec 18, 2013, 4:19 PM EST
We told you Jordan Hamilton would be sitting out for this when it went down. Denver’s Hamilton has been suspended one game by the league for throwing this punch, striking the Thunder’s Steven Adams, the league announced Wednesday. Hamilton will sit Friday when the Nuggets play the Suns. The incident took place at the start…
Dec 18, 2013, 4:07 PM EST
Houston’s Omer Asik is going to get traded Thursday. Not Wednesday —deals are still being hammered out. Not Friday — anyone acquired this day or later can’t be traded again at the February trade deadline in a combined deal with other teammates. It will happen Thursday. It looks more and more like the Celtics will…
Dec 18, 2013, 3:01 PM EST
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Southern Comfort’s “whatever’s comfortable” ad series included one with a skinny rocker white guy doing some karate moves in a the kind of hair salon your grandmother goes to. It was oddly compelling. Chris Webber decided to spoof this, for whatever reason. My guess…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:21 PM EST
Greivis Vasquez ranks No. 18 in points per play he finishes as the pick-and-roll ball handler, and Amir Johnson ranks No. 31 as the pick-and-roll screener, according to MySynergySports. That should make the newly formed Raptors duo pretty formidable, and everyone involved sounds excited about the possibilities. Via Eric Koreen of the National Post: “When…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:45 PM EST
The New York Knicks are a team that can’t win consistently without Tyson Chandler in the lineup. You can blame that on whomever you wish — coach Mike Woodson, management, James Dolan, Justin Bieiber, there is plenty of blame to go around — but it remains a fact they need him on defense to protect…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:10 PM EST
Make no mistake, the Miami Heat know exactly who is standing between them and a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals — the wall that is 7’2” Roy Hibbert and his Indiana Pacers. The Heat also know no game in December is going to determine the outcome of what is a seemingly inevitable Eastern…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
The Bulls shoot 55 percent in the restricted area (29th in the NBA) and 32 percent on 3-pointers (28th in the NBA). That’s a bad combination, and it goes a long way toward explaining why Chicago scores just 95.7 points per 100 possessions, the league’s third-worst mark. But if there’s a bright side for the…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
Should the Knicks have called timeout before Carmelo Anthony’s final shot attempt against the Wizards on Monday? That question has dominated discussion since the game ended, but perhaps a different question would deal with a more significant issue? Should Melo have been the Knick shooting? First of all, better him than anyone else in a…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
How about these numbers: 21.1 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting (17.8 shots a game), 9.1 rebounds a night and with a PER of 20.4 as the undisputed leader of his team. That’s your newly minted early MVP candidate LaMarcus’ Aldridge’s numbers… from last season. This season he is scoring 23.6 points per game…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
Technically, the Raptors got Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes for Rudy Gay. But Toronto also got a new spirit. Without the shoot-first, do-little-else Gay, the Raptors have gone 3-1. They’re just clicking a little better. They might be playing with a little more passion, too. Terrence Ross certainly is. Landry Fields…
- Wednesday night NBA grades: Vintage Dwyane Wade sighting 0
- Heat come from 15 down to even season series with Pacers 21
- Report: At the moment, Lakers no longer considering trading Pau gasol 11
- PBT Extra: Damian Lillard or Kyrie Irving? Plus coaching hot seat talk. 6
- Report: Celtics may be frontrunners for Asik; would move Bass, Lee, pick 6
- NFL legend Jim Brown takes shot at Kobe Bryant, Kobe fires back (105)
- Report: Heat have interest in Celtics’ Jordan Crawford (50)
- Pau Gasol expresses frustration with D’Antoni offense. Lakers have to think trade. (49)
- Deserving or not Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade among All-Star starters in early voting returns (48)
- Mike D’Antoni to Pau Gasol: “There’s no reason to not play hard” (48)