After a 4 month whirlwind of off-season activity, things have finely quieted down in Thunder Nation. There really is no need to go over the brilliant summer Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti put together, but I’m bored and it’s too fun to not take a quick peek at the timeline and make a few observations:
Thunder Off-season Moves
April 25th - Thunder season ends with a 105-99 loss to the Houston Rockets.
May 1st - Presti gives his annual end-of-season interview and talks about improving internally and looking for “opportunistic” external opportunities to advance the team’s new direction.
June 22nd - The Thunder select Terrance Ferguson with the 21st pick in the 2017 NBA Rookie Draft. Ferguson, a 6’7” shooting guard, was one of the hottest prospects in the country coming out of High School, but after opting to play overseas and struggling there are question marks about how effective he will be in the NBA.
June 30th - Opportunity knocked and Presti pounced when he traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George, a 4 time All-Star and regarded as one of the best two-way players in the game. Besides his perennial All-Star status, George’s other awards include being named to the NBA’s first or second All-Defensive team 3 times and being named the leagues most improved player in 2013.
Combining the leagues reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook, with George catapults the Thunder from mediocrity to possible contender with a single stroke of the pen.
July 4th - Drawn by the possibilities created by the George trade and looking for a new start, the Thunder sign unrestricted free agent, Patrick Patterson, to a 3-year $16.4M contract. Many pundits felt Patterson, who spent the previous 3 1⁄2 seasons in Toronto, signed for less than his true market value. According to Patterson, the desire to win and the chance to play for Billy Donovan, an opportunity he passed on coming out of High School, proved the tipping points.
Many have named the Patterson signing as the Thunder’s top free agent grab since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
July 7th - Many Thunder fans felt the Thunder needed to make a move on draft day to shore up the team’s back-up PG spot. Semaj Christon, after overcoming a few challengers to win the job, gave the Thunder a gutsy effort in 2016/17. However, the drastic double-digit drop in production when Russell Westbrook sat left no doubt in anyone’s mind the dire need for improvement in the second team’s floor management.
Presti, not wanting to start from scratch with an unproven rookie, waited for and signed 12 year veteran, Raymond Felton, to a one year $2.3M deal to shore up his second unit. Felton, the former North Carolina Tarheel picked 5th by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2005, brings a wealth of knowledge after playing for 7 different organizations under the tutelage of long-time NBA coaches like Larry Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Rick Carlisle, and Doc Rivers , a lifetime double-digit scoring average, and 6 playoff seasons experience to second unit in desperate need of direction.
July 22nd - Presti signs Dakari Johnson, the Thunder’s 47th pick in the 2015 draft, to a two-year $2.1M league minimum contract. Johnson spent the previous 2 seasons with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, and was the youngest D-League All-Star and youngest player by a full year to earn All D-League first team honors.
A strong summer league performance following a season in which Johnson averaged 18.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 2.3 APG were enough to convince Presti to give the former Kentucky prospect a shot with the big club. At 7’ and 255 lbs, Johnson represents a dying breed of big men that lack the ability to create space, but he is a much more willing defender than Enes Kanter and possesses better post moves than Steven Adams. If the Thunder are able to move long rumored trade bait Kanter, and even if they don’t, Johnson provides depth at a bargain basement cost.
August 3rd - The Thunder sign Daniel Hamilton to the new two-way contract established in the latest CBA. The contract will allow Hamilton to spend up to 45 days with Oklahoma City and the rest of the season developing with the Blue. Hamilton will make $75,000 playing for the Blue and a pro-rated portion of the rookie minimum $815,615 for each day he spends with the Thunder.
The Thunder list Hamilton as a 6’7”, guard-forward. His height has also been set as short as 6’5” and as tall as 6’8”, but one thing is certain, Hamilton shot improved when he made the jump from UConn to the G-League:
So did his assist totals, steals, and overall points. The word that best describes Hamilton is versatile and this former Huskie prospect comes with an intriguing factoid. During his sophomore season at UConn he was only one of only two D-1 players to accumulate more than 450 points, 300 rebounds, and 150 assists in 2016. The other was the number one pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Ben Simmons.
August 23rd - Overall, Presti’s summer moves rate a big “BU-YAH!” or at the very least a hearty, “HELL YEH!” with the only move in question being the Ferguson pick.
On draft night, Robert Mitchell, my LIVE broadcast guest was really pushing for a PG while WTLC Managing Editor, Josh Broom, had convinced me that SMU product Semi Ojeleye was our guy. All of us were surprised, and somewhat disappointed, when the Thunder opted for Ferguson, but since draft night my research on the Tulsa born SG have alleviated, if not all, at least some of my initial concerns.
Born on May 17th, 1998, Ferguson just turned 19 and though it is true his overseas numbers were not great....
there could be a plausible explanation.
On July 1, 2016, Ferguson signed with the Adelaide 36ers for the 2016–17 NBL season. On October 7, 2016, he made his debut for the 36ers in their season opener against the Illawarra Hawks. In 17½ minutes off the bench, he scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting in a 122–88 loss. On October 14, 2016, he scored 13 points in a 98–87 loss to Melbourne United. On October 24, 2016, he was handed a two-game suspension for striking following the 36ers' Round 3 game against the Cairns Taipans on October 21. The incident occurred during the first quarter and involved Taipans' player Mark Worthington. By accepting the charge via an early guilty plea, only a one-game suspension was imposed. On January 19, 2017, he tied his season high with 13 points in a 101–68 win over the Brisbane Bullets. The 36ers finished the regular season in first place with a 17–11 record, but were knocked out in the semi-finals by the fourth-seeded Illawarra Hawks, losing the best-of-three series 2–1. Ferguson appeared in 30 of the team's 31 games in 2016–17, averaging 4.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. Following the conclusion of the season, Ferguson returned to the US to begin preparations for the 2017 NBA draft.
Ferguson’s age. Of the players picked before Ferguson in the latest draft, only the Knick’s Frank Ntilikina is younger. When Terrance tipped off with the Australian pros on October 3rd at the tender age of 18 years 5 months. Lonzo Ball was just days away from his 19th birthday. Seven months may not sound like much, but at that age it is. It is precisely why a top-tier U19 tourney is so much tougher than a top-tier U18. Maybe Ojeleye’s 12/5/94 birthdate explains not only his sculpted physique but why he dominated at mid-level SMU as well.
Other than a few summer workouts with Russell Westbrook and a few of his new teammates the biggest Thunder story of late was the recent announcement of the release of Westbrook’s new book, Russell Westbrook: Style Divers, on September 5th.
Definitely an exciting day for Russ, but RK and fashion just don’t mix so I’m left with counting the days to other upcoming events:
August 25th - RK’s birthday!!
After 50 years of my traditional yellow cake with chocolate icing choice, I have opted to go with Blackberry cobbler this year. Goodbye old friend, I’ll miss you but you have become a fire hazard.
August 31st - Last day teams may waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2017/18 salaries.
Could Singler-bot’s days be numbered?
(Rather than just looking forward to the rather blasé and best known Labor Day on September 4th, let’s get creative and look for days with more unique celebrations to help us pass the time.)
September 1st - National Cherry Pop-Over Day
Why celebrate it? Why not? (get it? Thunder themed post, Russell Westbrook’s motto..... nevermind)
September 2nd - International Bacon Day
September 5th - Be Late For Something Day
The alternative was Cheese Pizza Day but I’ll still be burning off the bacon and pop-over calories on the 5th.
September 8th - Pardon Day
A day devoted to making Mothers proud. A day when we say “pardon me” when we bump into someone and not the usual “WALK MUCH” response we hear today.
September 10th - Grandparent’s Day
C’mon?!? Who doesn’t love their Nana and Papa?
September 11th - Make Your Bed Day
REALLY?!? Get up and make your bed.... it’s only once a year, and for those of you that faithfully make your bed each day, treat yourself and call it, “Don’t Make Your Bed Day”, think of it as good OCD therapy.
September 12th - Chocolate Milk Shake Day
Personally, I’m renaming it Vanilla Milk Shake Day, so feel free to rename it to your shake of choice day. Either way, give your diet a break and live a little, the kid inside each of us will appreciate it.
September 15th - Make a Hat Day
September 16th - Collect Rocks Day
Okay, probably not the highlight of the month....
September 17th - Wife Appreciation Day
Whew!! Man I needed that....
The moron that thought appreciating your wife for just one day a year will cut it is either a bachelor, divorced, or in a witness protection program somewhere.
September 18th - NATIONAL CHEESEBURGER DAY!!!!
FINALLY, a day I can literally sink my teeth into. On the 18th, just forward RK’s mail here:
You’ll find me in one of the back booths devouring the most sinful grilled onion cheeseburger on the planet with fresh cut french fries on the side. Washing it all down with an icy cold Coca-Cola! or two.
No, it’s not fancy, just delicious, and yes, jalapenos are a must....and lettuce, tomatoes, mustard, and Tabasco brand pepper sauce.
September 19th - International Talk Like a Pirate Day
Avast all ye lubbers, show a leg, hoist the Jolly Roger and exercise the ghost of Calico Jack, or dance the hempeg jig and spend eternity gazing the depth of Davy Jone’s locker.... ARRRrggh
September 22nd - Elephant Appreciation Day
Who among us isn’t fascinated by these gentle giants? Take one a treat. Believe it or not, they like pumpkins.
September 23rd - Oktoberfest begins in Germany
We may not know exactly what day training camp begins, but if you celebrate this day to the fullest you really won’t care.
September (specific dates TBA) - Training camps open.
Would it be too much of a stretch to say this training camp is the most anticipated camp since the Thunder’s first practices at Southern Nazarene university in 2008? It has the same feel of anticipation and a new beginning to it. The answer to the question, ‘Where will this team be one year from now?’ personnel wise will begin to manifest itself from day one of training camp. Here’s a blast from the past:
October 3rd - Pre-season opener, Houston Rockets at 7pm in Tulsa.
I know it is just pre-season, but this would not have been my choice to open with. Both teams made bold moves to close the gap with Golden State and will be looking to flex their new muscles against a recent playoff rival. Fear of injury is always a concern in pre-season match-ups and the first meeting of these teams was best reserved for a national audience in the regular season when more than just bragging rights are on the line.
October 6th - vs New Orleans at 7pm in OKC.
Feels like a trip down memory lane. First the Thunder face Chris Paul, then they go up against the team he played for that migrated to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina. Fans that experienced those two seasons still have a soft spot for this New Orleans team even though neither the name or players are the same. Those two seasons proved that OKC was a viable big league city option and paved the way for the Thunder.
October 8th - vs Melbourne United at 2pm in OKC.
A game designed to spread the NBA's popularity Down-Under but with a twist. Melbourne United is a member of Australia’s NBL, the same league Terrance Ferguson competed in last season. WTLC’s Mark Bruty has informed me that Melbourne United should pose a better representation of the level of play Ferguson was up against than the 3 sides (Australian term for teams) the Oklahoma Sooners laid waste to last month. Most of the NBL’s best players were either competing in the FIBA Asia Cup or the NBA’s Summer League when the Sooners made their run in July, but MU will be preparing for their upcoming season just like the Thunder and should have their best players ready to go.
October 10th - vs Denver at 8pm in Denver.
A sneak peek at the Nuggets. Expectations are running high in the Mile-High city after the Nuggets added Paul Milsap to their line-up this summer. Additionally, improvement by second-year guard, Jamal Murray, and Summer League performance of former Iowa State rookie, Monte Morris, have Denver fans going to bed each night with visions of playoff games dancing in their heads.
OCTOBER 19th - SEASON OPENER!! New York Knicks at 7pm in OKC.
What more is there to say but... “Let the games BEGIN!”