Tramel: OKC Thunder had to make another move in this wild NBA week
Day 2 of the NBA’s wildest off-season week ever was void of the blockbuster trades we saw Monday. But that’s OK. In a week like this -- trade moratorium lifted, the draft, free-agency launches -- a tiny respite is welcome, and it’s not like it’s void of news.
Here’s what I gleaned from Tuesday in the NBA.
Counting Danny Green, whose trade from the Lakers is not yet official, the Thunder has 11 players fully under contract. Plus Hamidou Diallo and Deonte Burton have team options, and Mike Muscala has a player option.
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- Article: Report: OKC Thunder trades Jalen Lecque to Indiana Pacers for T.J. Leaf
- Article: Report: OKC Thunder signs guard Frank Jackson
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So that’s 14. And that’s not even counting Nerlens Noel, who is a free agent. OKC’s other free agents -- Danilo Gallinari, Andre Roberson, Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey -- aren’t likely to be back. But Noel might be a keeper.
Now the Thunder has two first-round draft picks, which come with guaranteed contracts, unless OKC pulls a Josh Heustis and persuades the pick to play in the G League without an NBA contract, with a promise of a future rookie-scale deal. Heustis and the Thunder both lived up to their ends of that deal. That doesn’t seem a likely scenario.
That all means that the Thunder is not finished with roster-manipulation. Fifteen is the maximum number of players under contract, not counting two-league contracts like Luguentz Dort had last year.
The Thunder could just cut Burton, and apparently did that later Tuesday. The Thunder also could have a draft deal ready to go, dependent upon who’s still available. And Sam Presti might be waiting to see what develops in the draft.
The NBA announced its schedule format for a 72-game season. Not the schedule, mind you, the schedule format. The first half schedule will be released around December 1, with the second half schedule released during the latter part of the first half schedule.
That’s decent planning during a pandemic. That allows the NBA to reschedule games that might have been lost to the pandemic.
A few thoughts on the schedule:
* The 72-game schedule will include symmetry unknown to the 82-game schedule. Each team will play every team in its own conference three times and every team in the other conference twice. That makes for a balanced schedule.
The NBA even is keeping the home/road breakdown aligned within divisions. All five teams from within a division will play all five teams from one other intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining intraconference division twice on the road.
With so many calls to reduce the schedule, could a 72-game format be a compromise? I like balanced schedules.
Some have questioned why the NBA is playing the usual 30 non-conference games, suggesting that more regionalized scheduling could help stave off coronavirus concerns.
That could have some validity. But that’s more of an Eastern Conference issue. Seven of the Western Conference cities are in the Central Time Zone and can get to many Eastern Conference cities more quickly than getting to many Western Conference cities. The Thunder is in the Northwest Division with Portland and Salt Lake City. OKC is closer to every East city than it is to Portland. Including Toronto. Oklahoma City is 659 miles CLOSER to Toronto than to Portland.
* The NBA again will stage a play-in tournament. The seventh seed in each conference will host the eighth seed in a play-in game, and the winner will be the seventh seed. The ninth seed will host the 10th seed, and the winner then plays at the loser of the seven-eight game, to determine the eighth seed.
Unlike in the Orlando bubble, there are no requirements on how close the ninth and 10th seeds must be to qualify.
This play-in gimmick is as silly as the Orlando bubble and hopefully will go away after the pandemic. I suppose some believe it could be a panacea for tanking, encouraging teams to continue to go all-out. Seems a lot more likely that teams would tank the play-in tournament.
* The All-Star break is scheduled for March 5-10 and will be considered the end of the first half. I guess that means there will be an All-Star Game. Haven’t we suffered enough?
* The regular season concludes May 16, with the play-in tournament May 18-21. The playoffs are scheduled to run from May 22-July 22. I like that schedule. I hope the NBA keeps it.
A season that stretches from December through July is better than a season that stretches from late October through mid-June.
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The crazy events in Houston -- James Harden apparently wants out, and Russell Westbrook likely doesn’t want to stay without the Beard -- don’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.
The latest is a possible trade with Washington, for point guard John Wall. The Rockets are said to want a bunch of extras in the deal, since Westbrook is a better player and much more durable than Wall, who in the last 43 calendar months has played in 92 NBA games.
But a Westbrook-Wall trade would be fascinating. Sixteen months ago, NBA experts considered three contracts to be untradeable: Chris Paul’s, Westbrook’s and Wall’s.
Then the Thunder traded Westbrook for Paul. Now the Rockets might be trading Westbrook for Wall.
Westbrook is 32 and over the next three seasons will be paid $41.3 million, $44.2 million and $47 million. Wall is 30 and over the next three seasons and will be paid $40.8 million, $43.8 million and $46.9 million.
Westbrook in Washington would reunite him with coach Scotty Brooks. They did great things together (along with Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, James Harden) with the Thunder back when the world was young.
The Wizards are a floundering franchise, but unless they trade Bradley Beal, a Beal-Westbrook pairing would at least make some hay in the Eastern Conference. For Westbrook’s sake, I hope it happens.