The NBA dog days of August are now upon all NBA fans, and most all the prominent news and off season moves have been reported and discussed—more than likely entirely too much. After one of the most incredible summers in recent memory, NBA fans are all exhausted, fingers cramped and non-functional from refreshing Twitter, distanced from our spouses and significant others due to our NBA social media obsession, beaten down, confused and lost, hopeful or devastated, and most of all ready for the season to start. Especially Thunder fans. The NBA off season news and coverage is slowly coming to a halt and all we can do now is wait for training camp. So what do you do in the heat of August when the NBA landscape is quiet and the off season train is sitting at the station?
Let's jump in...
After three consecutive finals appearances and a championship in 2016, Kyrie Irving is asking to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Allegedly, this request from Kyrie originates from on the court play, and he has grown exhausted of being labeled the co-star and is looking for his own city to lead and call home. In his mind, his talents and ability are far too superior to be labeled as anyone’s little brother or sidekick. Brian Windhorst stated in an article on ESPN,
“James, as a once-in-a-lifetime talent, controlled the ball more than any other forward perhaps in league history. Which means the ball was out of Irving's hands more than he preferred. That said, Irving led the Cavs in shots in the 2016-17 season, averaging 1.5 more per game than James, and Irving averaged a career-high 25.9 points. It was the first time in James' career he didn't lead his team in shots per game.”
What makes this situation so intriguing is that it appears that LeBron has been giving up market shares to Kyrie over the years, and last year allowed him to be the offense over the course of the season. There are also rumblings that his trade request originates from discontent with LeBron’s relationship with the organization and off the court issues instead of exclusively style of play or shot selection. Either way, as a Thunder fan, the reasoning for Kyrie’s discontent with Cleveland is not my problem, but I think Sam Presti could see this as an opportunity to step in and finagle Kevin Love to Oklahoma City— even as unlikely as that sounds. Allegedly, Kyrie provided the Cavaliers with a list of teams he would like to play for, and I have drafted a proposal to deliver him to one of those proposed teams—the New York Knicks.
Currently all is quiet on the Kyrie Irving front in Cleveland, but as we all know well—Sam Presti moves silently and could be lurking.
**Disclaimer: If you are a die-hard, bleed blue and orange type, OKC fan, I’d like to make sure that you are not operating a vehicle or a piece of heavy machinery when you read the ensuing paragraphs. Please find your safe place, grab a glass of water, and take a seat before continuing, because the following trade scenario involves two cherished Thunder centers known as the Stache Bros.
Alright, take a deep breath and continue…
Here is the trade:
New York Knicks receive: Kyrie Irving. Enes Kanter. OKC’s 2018 2nd Round Pick. (via Chicago)
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Steven Adams. Carmelo Anthony. Courtney Lee.
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kevin Love. Tristan Thompson.
**Disclaimer #2: Although most would argue that OKC is not giving up enough to get Kevin Love, after the Oladipo trade, number 1 and 2, and the Cam Payne trade I’m not counting out Sam’s ability to make anything happen in an NBA transaction. In my mind, based on previous history, this trade is entirely in play if Carmelo agrees to waive his no trade clause for Cleveland.
After we deal with our grief and clean up all the tears we shed for the loss of the Stache Bros, let’s take a look at what the Thunder would look like if Presti was interested in swinging for the fences one more time this summer. The starting lineup would consist of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. Coming off the bench, Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, Doug McDermott, Jerami Grant, Dakari Johnson and Patrick Patterson.
From the Thunder’s perspective, the main concern could circulate around the idea of replacing Steven Adams with Tristan Thompson; although, I would argue that Cleveland would be the team to hold up this trade. If for some bizarre reason, Cleveland and New York would agree to these terms, I think the Thunder could continue to take the next step in ensuring OKC is a title contender with the addition of Kevin Love.
Battle of the Centers
Almost exclusively, fans and media members would argue that anchoring the defense, which is hard to quantify on paper, is Adam’s largest asset to the OKC Thunder. We argue that stats on the box score do not tell the holistic story on the impact of Steven Adams—which is true. But, for the sake of comparison, let’s look at the statistical side of Adams vs. Thompson last season.
My first observation after reviewing some surface statistics was how similar the two players compare from the minutes played, rebounds (taking into account that Adams deferred to Russell for at least 1.5 rebounds per game), assists, blocks, personal fouls per game, and defensive box plus/minus. Both players feast in the paint and do not typically stray too far from the rim. Last season, Steven converted .655% of his shots within three feet of the basket and Thompson converted .677%.
Although they both do most of their damage around the rim, Steven actually operates significantly more slightly outside that area than Thompson. For Steven, .388% of his attempts came 3-10ft from the basket; whereas, only .263% of Thompson’s were attempted outside of 3 feet. Steven scored more points per game, but also took almost 3 more shot attempts.
One of the interesting callouts from the advance metrics was the differential between the two players in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, Total Box Plus/Minus, and Value Over Replacement Player. Tristan Thompson had a significant advantage in all three areas—mostly in box plus/minus.
We all have an enduring relationship to our Kiwi, who Presti drafted back in 2013, and we have seen grow from a clean-cut kid to a bearded-mammoth-cave-man that motivated Zach Randolph to punch him just because, but if Cleveland and New York are slightly interested Sam Presti needs to do everything in his power to make this trade scenario happen.
Shifting the Money to the Power Forward position
In 2017, having $40.2M dollars tied up in centers that do not shoot threes, within a league with a $99M dollar salary cap floor, is not the best recipe for success. This trade allows the Thunder to move on from those contracts and invest Steven’s money in Kevin Love—a power forward that can stretch the floor and shoot from beyond the arc. After the trade, OKC would only have Thompson’s 16.4M plus whatever small amount Dakari Johnson just inked to wear Thunder blue on the books for the center position; as opposed to, the 40.2M they previously had invested.
I think Keven Love’s impact is obvious, and takes this team to a new tier in the arms race. Replacing Domantas Sabonis at the four with Kevin Love at the same position is night and day different. I could write 3,000 words describing how amazing the fit between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Kevin Love is on the basketball court, but for now I will just leave it at this:
He’s a four-time all-star, champion, averaged 11.1 rebounds per game last season, and 45% of his shot attempts came from behind the arc at a 37% conversion rate, and 41% from the corners. He’s a game changing player to pair with our rim abusing point guard, and has history with Westbrook—most famously battling with Russell over the temperature of their dorm room at UCLA. Love immediately provides an upgrade in positional talent, but also gives Westbrook one more reason to stay in OKC.
Also, an interesting side note, OKC’s all-star big 3 of Westbrook, George, and Love would all be from LA County, California.
If you were Sam Presti, would you swing for the fences, or chose to keep your $25M dollar defensive anchor?
Should Presti move the Stache Bros in order to gain Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson?
This poll is closed
This is a terrible idea.
Mitchell, you’ve just been added to Arya Stark’s hit list.