Paul George Free Agency

After one up and down season with the Thunder, Paul George has a $20.7 million option to stay in Oklahoma City for 2018-19. With 8 years of service, George is eligible to sign a maximum extension of 4-years, $136.5 million with the Thunder or any other team. This contract would start at $30.3 million next year and put PG13 into the top-10 highest paid players in the NBA. It seems likely that other teams, such as his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, will offer the max, leaving the Thunder to decide just how far they want to go with this “OK3” experiment.

George had an effective season amidst all the inconsistency in Oklahoma City, accounting for 8.9 Win Shares and a .148 WSP48, while recording 2,891 minutes (9th most in NBA). His Win Share was 20th best in the League–the 20th salary spot is occupied by Anthony Davis at $25.5 million next season. Davis had the 4th most Win Shares at 13.7 and top-10 WSP48 of .241. Al Horford currently sits 10th in the NBA with a $28.9 million salary, and his numbers (7.8WS, .165WSP48) compare favorably for George.

For the Thunder executives, a better comparable would be George’s teammate, Steven Adams (OK4?). In his 5th season, the Kiwi recorded 9.7 Win Shares and .187 WSP48. Both of these marks are ahead of George, and even if both players are improving, Adams is 3 years younger. If George is willing to accept less than the max to stay with the Thunder, it might make sense to align him with the remaining years on Adams’s contract, and adding a fourth year to make it 4-years and about $106.7 million, starting off at $24.2 million next season. Of course, it may prove difficult for George to pass up a max offer somewhere else and this will put the Thunder front office in a tight spot to keep a very important piece for this team at a reasonable deal to enable them to add bench pieces. George is valued at slightly under the max, but will most likely receiving more than one max offer this summer if he decides to opt out.

NBA Records at the Break

Best of the Best

1. Rockets 44-13

2. Warriors 44-14

Golden State lost a tough game in Portland to allow Houston to claim the top spot going into the All-Star break, setting up a tight race down the stretch at the top. Opening night could come back to haunt the Warriors if this comes down to a Game 7–the Rockets beat the Warriors by one in Oakland and will own the tie-break after spliting two other games in Houston.

Top of the East

3. Raptors 41-16

4. Celtics 40-19

5. Cavaliers 34-22

LeBron James just confirmed his status as the best player in the world after winning All-Star Game MVP. The King’s team are still favorites to make the Finals from the East, even as the third seed, and will be rejuvenated by their deadline deals and the break. Toronto and Boston are not just battling for home-court but mostly to postpone a series with Cleveland and an easier path through the playoffs.

Home Cooking

6. Spurs 35-24

7. Timberwolves 36-25

The upstart T’Wolves have mixed young talent with veteran stability to challenge San Antonio for third position in the West. The Spurs have struggled to find consistency without Kawhi Leonard, going 10-12 in 2018 and 1-5 heading into the break.

Eastern Contenders

8. Wizards 33-24

9. Pacers 33-25

10. Bucks 32-25

John Wall is out for Washington as they try to hold off Indiana and Milwaukee for home-court in the first round. Meanwhile, the Bucks lost at home to the Nuggets in the last game before All-Star weekend, dropping them from four to six in the East, which would set them up with Cleveland in Round 1. This has yet to be settled with five games remaining between the three teams; Milwaukee host the Wizards before playing Indiana twice over the next fortnight, and the Pacers go to Washington twice after having lost to the Wizards at home.

NorthWest Parity

11. Thunder 33-26

12. Trail Blazers 32-26

13. Nuggets 32-26

It’s likely there will be four playoffs teams from this division and the Jazz are not completely out of the picture yet, currently on an eleven game winning streak. The Wolves seem to have separated from the pack, but every team here is capable of going on a long run and doing damage in the playoffs.

Upset Alert

14. 76ers 30-25

Philadelphia are a dangerous seventh seed and can push Toronto or Boston in a series, where the extra rest will play to their advantage. The 76ers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and 3-8 without him–more specifically, Philly split two games apiece against the Celtics and Raptors with Embiid, and 0-3 against those two opponents without him.

LIFO (Last In First Out)

15. Pelicans 31-26

16. Clippers 30-26

17. Jazz 30-28

18. Heat 30-28

New Orleans and Los Angeles both made moves at the trade deadline to make a playoff run–the Clips have won five out of the last six, while the Pels have so far struggled to find their form with DeMarcus Cousins out. Utah are the hottest team in the NBA and of their 24 games remaining, fourteen are at home and only eleven against playoff teams. The prize for this is probably getting swept by the Rockets or Warriors in the first round. Miami went 18-8 starting December 9, only to finish 1-7 in the last eight games and lose all momentum going into the last 24 games. The Pistons are unlikely to challenge, allowing the Heat to hold on to the eighth spot.


19. Pistons 28-29

20. Hornets 24-33

Detroit are 1-4 since the trade deadline, and have struggled to 9-17 on the road. With fifteen games away from home remaining, it will be nearly impossible to make the playoffs at this point and no chance at a top draft pick. Charlotte are 9-18 on the road and have fourteen road games left on their schedule, leading to a slow and painful end to their season.

Big Market Crash

21. Lakers 23-34

22. Knicks 23-36

23. Bulls 20-37

The three biggest NBA markets are watching their teams unravel as the season comes to a close, and not likely a top-5 pick for any of these teams to show for missing the playoffs.

Chase for #1 Pick

24. Nets 19-40

25. Grizzlies 18-38

26. Kings 18-39

27. Magic 18-39

28. Mavericks 18-40

29. Suns 18-41

30. Hawks 18-41

Six teams with eighteen wins and the Nets right off the pace at 19-40, only one game away from the worst record–we have a deep race for NBA futility.

2018 NBA All-Star Game Scores

LeBron James 25.7

DeMar DeRozen 19.2

Kevin Durant 18.9

Kyle Lowry 18.7

Joel Embiid 18.5

Damien Lillard 17.3

Karl Anthony-Towns 15.7

Paul George 14.4

Kyrie Irving 12.6

Andre Drummond 12.1

Russell Westbrook 11.7

Klay Thompson 11.1

Giannis Antetokounmpo 10.1

Draymond Green 9.9

Victor Oladipo 9.1

Brasdley Beal 8.6

Anthony Davis 8.0

Al Horford 7.9

Kemba Walker 7.7

James Harden 7.1

Stephen Curry 3.9

Goran Dragic 2.0

LaMarcus Aldridge 0.0

Jimmy Butler DNP

NBA Preseason Game Recap: Oklahoma City Thunder v. Melbourne United

The Thunder escaped this game with a one-point win and are understandably still developing a comfort level and optimal spacing in their third preseason game with their summer acquisitions. Carmelo Anthony is looking for his rhythm on both ends of the court. Defensive rim protection is an issue when Melo and Jerami Grant are on the back line together, even though the movement offensively is appealing to watch. Josh Heustis continues to be active in limited minutes, showing he could be an option to play more center behind Steven Adams.

Russell Westbrook looks to be in his usual form, dictating pace and choosing his spots to attack or distribute offensively. I would expect nothing less from the MVP than what we witnessed last season, but the question remains of who can effectively fill in for Russ at the point guard position to keep his minutes at a reasonable level. Raymond Felton showed some of what the Thunder were hoping for today before going down with a sprained left wrist–that he can be a playmaker with or without Westbrook on the court with him. Semaj Christon and Daniel Hamilton have played short stretches there, and maybe Paul George can fill in for minutes in a lineup with Roberson, Anthony, Grant and Adams.

This summer’s 21st pick in the Draft, Terrence Ferguson, is showing great activity and defensive awareness at the shooting guard position. He will be a useful option for Billy Donovan if he can keep it up throughout the regular season, but be prepared for some growing pains with any rookie.

In the era of “small-ball,” the Thunder should Go Big this season with Grant playing power forward and Adams at center. This could free up Anthony to slide to small forward and Paul George to shooting guard. Teamed with Westbrook, this dimension of options on the wings creates size and speed advantages at multiple positions. The Thunder will have plenty to look at before going to Denver to face an upstart Nuggets team with a strong frontcourt of their own to deal with.