Sam Presti Isn’t Done Yet

Thunder twitter and Westbrook stans couldn’t be further apart at this point, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching from afar as long time allies turn on each other. Sam Presti might not be able to win GM of the Year since all these trades are occurring in the offseason, but he is setting the Thunder up to make a score of moves come the season’s start date. The amount of players he’s been able to get off of while acquiring assets and keeping the future of the team bright is something only done once before with this magnitude, and said team (the Los Angeles Clippers) was someone Presti traded with to make all of this happen.

I said in my reaction piece that Presti was able to flip two broken All-Stars on bloated contracts for 11 first round picks, and I stick by that statement. Sure, it is just 7 true first rounders and 4 pick swaps, but this is monumental for the Thunder going forward. Kawhi and PG might both leave the Clippers in two years, and the Rockets may soon realize that the aging, athletic, slashing point guard isn’t a better option (long term) the aging point guard they had that made less for a shorter time. Having the best pick (between those teams) for those 4 years may have them in a better situation, especially when coupled with the other 7 picks.

The more you analyze the trades, the more in awe you should be of Sam Presti. He was able to flip two players on long contracts without giving up other assets, acquires multiple picks and a nice young asset, get an expiring contract back, and get an All-Star. Tying in as well that the players he traded had multiple surgeries on multiple places in their body only helps build Presti’s credibility as one of the best GM’s in the league, and he still has more moves to make…

There are only four large contracts remaining on OKC’s books that are over $10 million, making them the desired ones to move. Two belong to players that will expire at the end of this year. SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million) and SF/PF Danillo Gallinari (1 yr/$22.6 million), if the Thunder wished to trade those players immediately, easily could have a a pick attached to them and be on a new team by tomorrow. The Thunder could target some young players they want to put around Shai, and even use those guys to acquire them. However, if the Thunder just bid their time and wait, many teams (like, say, any player on the Knicks, Hornets, or Suns) would be willing to attach picks to their own bad contracts, and their own players to the Thunder to clean their books heading into next season. On the flip side, the Thunder could easily just keep the players themselves. Wiping off $32.6 million from your caps is absolutely amazing, and the Thunder have more than just those two expiring contracts on their books. The Thunder have five expiring contracts totaling (roughly) $40 million, which is the perfect amount to target an enormous salary dump player for another enormous asset return.

The other two contracts are more pressing, going out for more than two years each. C Steven Adams will be tough to move, seeing as he is making about $25 million a year for the next two years. Only being known as a defensive, rebounding, iron-man center is slightly bad when you factor in the money he is making. While many teams want that in a center across the league, most will not pay a garbage player and second-round pick for Adams. Bad money for long years is tough to get off of, and Presti may see that he has to unload some of his warchest to move Adams. I personally wouldn’t want to, seeing as he is an amazing teammate and locker room presence. It’d really be helpful to have a stabilizing presence around during this rebuild process, and it’d be better than giving up assets to get off of that. You’re in rebuild mode; you need good guys in the locker room to help “reach these kids”.

Now, the biggest and hardest challenge ahead of Sam Presti is flipping Chris Paul. Apparently, there is no market for a solo Paul trade, which only makes sense. Paul is making roughly $40 million a year for the next three years, making a whooping $44.2 million in the last year of his contract (contract is back-loaded). The veteran point guard just turned 34, meaning he will be 37 when this deal is over.

…yikes right?

Thankfully for Presti, Chris Paul is still viewed as a fringe All-Star to many teams, particularly in those lacking quality, starting point guards. Many teams, like the Suns and Hornets, have decided to overpay decent options to come to their teams, hoping that they workout. Some, like the Heat and Timberwolves, have positioned themselves in order to pursue a guard via trade. While both will be viewing D’Angelo Russell and Bradley Beal with heart eye emojis in the coming weeks, Chris Paul will be the backup option should one strike out as the other succeeds. I mean, let’s look at the facts around those two aforementioned stars:
(1) The Warriors will be super selective with who they send D-Lo to, so they will 100% want an amazing haul back
(2) The Wizards still do not have a GM, so the direction of their franchise is completely unclear.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have painted themselves as a perfect money dump, and having already gotten incredible assets via other trades. While I can count of Presti to try and get as much as possible, the situation the Thunder are in means that they will not be trying to extract everything from either team. Sure, there is no market for CP3 right now, but you think the Thunder won’t do everything in their power in order to get CP’s value as high as possible before the trade deadline? Sure, the Thunder will be focusing on the development of the young guard duo of Shai and Ferguson, but they want to rebuild, not contend. With that in mind, let’s see what Sam might do tradewise with his three most likely trade partners…

MIAMI HEAT

Pat Riley must be the most called person for Sam Presti this past month. First he was trying to send Russ there, now he is trying to send CP3 to South Beach. You may be asking, “Buck, if Pat didn’t want an old point guard with injury issues once before, what makes you think he will take this one?”

Well, a few reasons.

This season has shaped out to be the “Dawn of the Dynamic Duos”, with every team in contention to make the Finals being comprised of no “Big 3”. No matter how you view Hassan Whiteside now, he was still an All-NBA Defensive Team player. Without another star with him in Miami, all the blame and fame will rest on Jimmy Butler’s shoulders. Yes, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are intriguing young assets to have next to Jimmy. However, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Meyers Leonard, and Justice Winslow are not the most inspiring group of players to surround those three with. Only one out of the five (Kelly Olynyk) is decent from three, while three of them (James Johnson, Meyers Leonard, and Justice Winslow) cannot shoot effectively, and the final one (Dion Waiters) is an inefficient ball hog. So answer me this: if the Heat were able to make the playoffs, could that eight compete/beat any team in contention for the East playoffs?

With a Kawhi leaving the East, the mantle of “Beast of the East” now needs to pass to a different team. While the Bucks are certainly the frontrunners, the Pacers, Nets, and Celtics all improved in the offseason. Hell, the Raptors aren’t dead just yet; the Magic and Pistons even slightly improved their roster. That is seven out of the eight slots taken, leaving only a few teams in contention to take it. I mean, will the Bulls be able to figure out their young roster and a hardass, defensive-focused coach? Or will the Knicks 7 power forwards help them make the playoffs? Maybe it’ll be the Hornets, led by their new, young, overpaid, franchise point guard.

Get the point I’m making?

The Heat have a great opportunity to make the playoffs in the East, and there are no real people in their way. A CP3-Butler duo would be infinitely better than a Ross-Vucevic Magic or Griffin-Drummond Pistons, and the team would be in perfect position to pivot and acquire other quality players via trade with minimal assets sent out. A few seconds could easily acquire one of the Knicks 7 power forwards, and the Mavs are looking to move on from Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

However, role players don’t win championships, and Pat Riley knows this. Hence why Sam Presti can capitalize on any of this, and could easily move CP3 to the Heat. There are a few iterations of the trade, and I will try and list the pros and cons of each…

TRADE #1 (Easiest To Do)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32million); two lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million)

This trade is one that I like for both teams, especially the Heat. They can keep a majority of their assets, get off of Johnson and Dragic’s contracts, get Chris Paul, and only have to give up a couple of picks in the process. They get Butler’s friend on the team, and have a better starter at point guard than Dragic.

TRADE #2 (Best Option)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32 million); SF/PG Justice Winslow (4 yr/$52 million); two lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million)

This one hurts the Heat a tad more than they may like, but it is worth it. Dragic and Johnson need to go, but flipping Justice Winslow for Roberson? Sounds like a deal really. Roberson is supposed to play next year, and he will wipe off the books after the season is over. He is a cheaper defensive wing that can’t shoot, and you aren’t dedicated to him for the next four years. You still only give up two picks since Winslow is a young asset. Money all matches, so the trade works. Also gives the Heat a roster spot (and less money on their books) to pursue the buyout market or someone else via trade.

TRADE #3 (Most Complicated and Most Unlikely)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32 million); SF/PG Justice Winslow (4 yr/$52 million); SG Dion Waiters (2 yr/$25 million); 4 lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SF/PF Danilo Gallinari (1 yr/$22.6 million)

This one is solely something I thought of while finishing this up, and I liked it a lot. People forget that after Gordon Hayward turned down the Jazz to go to the Celtics, the Heat (having struck out on Gordon themselves) began pursuing Gallinari hard before he turned them down to join the Clippers. There is still mutual interest between the two, seeing as the young forward could easily slide in and give a much needed offensive boost to a Heat offense that may stagnate at times, since much of what the team will do will run through two guards over the age of 30. High price to pay though, but I could see it happen due to the fact that Dion Waiters and James Johnson will require a pick each to move off of.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Besides having a few criminal contracts on their books, the Timberwolves are in a dicey situation. Why? Well, they are stuck between a timeframe of trying to appease KAT by creating a contender OR creating a young core to build around. They messed up in the draft (again), and are now severely lacking a point guard. Jeff Teague is not capable of running a playoff offense, and Towns NEEDS someone else to help him on offense besides Robert Covington. The Twolves struck out on D-Lo, refusing to trade for him like the Pacers did for Malcolm Brogdon. They smartly didn’t pursue the Westbrook contract, but Chris Paul is different. The contract is a year less, CP3 passes more, and he is a significant upgrade defensively than Jeff Teague. The Wiggins, Dieng, and Teague contracts need to get moved for the team to have a better chance to compete. Having an All-Star (even an aging one) that can help coach your players is great, and CP is an upgrade over Teague. Let’s see what a trade could look like…

TRADE #1 (Easiest)
Thunder Receive:
SG/SF Andrew Wiggins (4 yr/$117 million); C Gorgui Dieng (2 yr/$31.4 million); 2 lottery protected first round picks; 1 unprotected first round picks
Timberwolves Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); PF Patrick Patterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

I really think that the Thunder would have a tough time turning down this offer if the Twolves, Heat, and third team (further down) all made their easiest offers. Wiggins is a bust, and everyone BUT the Timberwolves owner (Glen Taylor) knows it. Hell, Kevin Garnett called him out on national TV for “not knowing shit” about basketball. This offer is solely there for a dump of Wiggins/Dieng, and the picks reflect that. The signing of Naz Reid means that the Twolves are already looking to move on from the veteran center from UofL, just like the drafting of Culver meant that the team was looking for a wing to start taking minutes away from Wiggins. Patterson gets you a stretch 4 to put next to Towns, and CP3 is a significant upgrade over Teague in the short term.

TRADE #2 (Best)
Thunder Receive:
SG/SF Andrew Wiggins (4 yr/$117 million); C Gorgui Dieng (2 yr/$31.4 million); PG Jeff Teague (1 yr/$19 million); 2 lottery protected first round picks; 3 unprotected first round picks
Timberwolves Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million); PF Patrick Patterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

This one has a lot of moving parts, but I really like this trade. The Thunder get off all of their bad players (money and actual play wise), get $16 million wiped off their books next year, and get a star to run the point. Sure, there might be some leeway in who is better between Roberson and Wiggins, but Roberson can at least play defense and make layups. That sounds like a perfect bench defender to lock down LeBron, PG13, or Kawhi when Robert Covington needs a breather. Roberson is also young, so he fits the rebuild timeline that the Timberwolves are on. Sure, CP3 going down could hurt since you don’t have that many guards, but it’s worth getting off Wiggins and Dieng to do so.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

TRADE
Thunder Receive: PG Patty Mills (2 yr/$25 million); SG Demar DeRozan (2 yr/$60 million); two lottery protected first round picks
Spurs Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); PF Patrick Paterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

I came up with the Spurs kind of by accident. I remembered that CP3 had some interest in playing for Pop back when he hit the market (aka when he went to the Rockets). I also remembered that Pop loves having smart point guards to help mold young ones. With how the Spurs seem to be making moves to be in title contention, it would be intriguing to see them try and make some moves in order to maximize their roster. Currently, the Spurs have 7 guards on their roster in Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Demar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker. Four out of the seven are under the age of 25, and making $10 million collectively. The other three are 30 or older, and roughly making $46 million. Marco Belinelli comes off the books next year, but DeRozan and Mills are on the hook for another two apiece. With the length, age, and money factored into the short contention timeframe due to Pop’s age, a dynamic duo of Aldridge and DeRozan will not go far. DeRozan is the worst player efficiency wise. He is worse than Westbrook. The Spurs looked better against the Nuggets last playoffs when he was on the bench, and that was with Mills (one of the other bad efficiency players for the Spurs) being on the bench with him. If the Spurs could flip their two horrible efficiency guys for CP3 and a forward who comes off the books next year, their lineups almost get fixed overnight. There is no more logjam at the guard positions, where the Spurs sometimes had DeRozan and Belinelli playing small forward. I know I might be the weird one for saying this, but flipping Mills and DeRozan for CP3 might be the best move for the Spurs, and that’s why I think I am rooting for this trade to happen the most.

…of course, this all requires teams to actually want to acquire Chris Paul and his contract. It is looking kind of bleak right now, but we will see what happens come trade deadline time.

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Reid Travis Did Not Do Himself Any Favors in Summer League

Reid Travis was one of three 1st year Kentucky players in the NBA Summer League this season. Joining a long list of former Cats looking to make an NBA roster. After a decent grad-transfer season at Kentucky, Travis went undrafted. He was later picked as a free agent by the Atlanta Hawks and placed on their Summer League team.

Unlike his fellow Cats in the same draft class, he is not making major headlines like Tyler Herro and not drawing ridiculous amounts of praise like Keldon Johnson. His performance was simply mediocre, unimpressive and did not set himself apart in any way.

In Travis’ 5 games with the Hawks, he only posted 4.2 PPG and 4.0 RPG. Those are not the kind of numbers that will get you on a roster. That being said, he still has the opportunity to be picked up for the Hawks G-League squad, College Park Skyhawks, where he could have the possibility of signing a two-way deal. Don’t hold your breath though. It doesn’t look like Travis will be stepping on an NBA floor this regular season.

Travis was a very solid college player. He dominated the Pac 12 for four years before coming to Kentucky where he continued to be a stand out big man. Averaging 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds in his career made him a consistent finalist for conference and national awards. Sadly, the PAC-12 isn’t the best place to get ready for the NBA.

By the time Travis got to Kentucky, it was already too late. Calipari’s process involves taking elite players from high school, spending a season or two developing them, showcasing their potential and then turning them over to the NBA. How was Calipari supposed to develop a player that was almost done developing? How is he supposed to showcase the potential of a 23 year old when the NBA normally selects players who are 20 and younger?

Reid Travis can still make a career out of basketball. One year of basketball being the only thing in his life, without the pressure of a master’s program I might add, will do wonders for him. It will give him the chance to tie up any loose ends in his game and grow into a dynamic role player. Give him time and expect to see him again next year in the Summer League as a completely changed player.

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Caron Butler’s Unoriginal Hair and Analysis of Tyler Herro

NBA TV analyst Caron Butler and his brand new hair seems to have stumbled on some old takes (Read this, his new hair is absurd). The oldest, in particular, is about Miami Heat newcomer, Tyler Herro. He says that Herro, after a very impressive Summer League, reminds him of two former Heat players.

Butler said, “He’s got a little bit of everything in him; I see a little bit of Jason Williams, I see a little bit of Rex Chapman, I see a little bit from an athletic standpoint, being explosive… Just being aggressive. His mentality, he’s extremely comfortable out there on that platform, on that stage knowing that everybody’s watching. And he’s having fun.”

Really, Caron? Rex Chapman and Jason Williams? Did you come up with that comparison all by yourself there, bud? I am all for the former Cats getting high praise in the NBA, but that take by Caron Butler is somehow more unoriginal than his hair.

Image result for caron butler new hair

Every white basketball player to come through Kentucky since the 90’s has been compared to Rex Chapman. John Hood even got the same comparison. Caron Butler is about 30 years late on this take. I believe the first headline written after Tyler Herro changed his commitment from Wisconsin to Kentucky was “The Next Rex Chapman Is Coming to Lexington.”

To be completely fair, Herro does play a lot like Chapman, more so than others that have been given the same praise, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of effort was put into that take. To me, Herro plays a lot like Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, or maybe even a young Paul Pierce. How hard would it have been for Butler to put a little bit of thought into that? Also, the Jason Williams comparison doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yes, Herro made some sweet passes in the Summer League, but it’s a stretch to say the least. Herro’s game and White Chocolate’s don’t exactly match up.

Even though Chapman and Williams are relatively lazy names to throw out, that is still very good company to be grouped with. Herro is going to be a star in this league and it is only a matter of time before players are being compared to him and not the other way around.

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NBA Analysts Are Raining Praise on Tyler Herro

The Miami Heat and Pat Riley knew they were getting an elite shooter when they drafted Tyler Herro with the 13th overall pick. To their pleasant surprise, Herro has proved in Summer League that he is much more than just a shooter. His ability to score from anywhere, pass and handle the ball is drawing praise from all over the NBA.

In his 6 games in the Summer League, Herro put up big numbers. Averaging 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals, he is looking like a future star for Miami. The Heat’s Summer League Coach Eric Glass told the Miami Herald that Herro “can give us whatever we need… If we need a guy that can handle, get us into offense, if we need him to be pick-and-roll, if we need him to come off catch-and-shoots, he’s shown he can do it all, and we feel comfortable in any of those spots.”

Glass went on to say, “from the day he came in, he proved that he could be a really good passer, so I put him in those roles. The thing that surprised me, I guess, is his feel. It looks like he’s a second- or third-year guy out here. That’s the thing that probably jumps out more than even the touch.”

Glass also loves Herro’s competitiveness and confidence. But not just Heat personnel seems pleased with their draft pick. NBA analysts have been showering the Kentucky guard in compliments since he began his Summer league play.

NBA TV’s Brendan Haywood commented, ““He can do more than shoot… There are other layers to his game. He looks like he will be a steal.” In respect to his game, Haywood also said that Herro “gets right to his point, understands what he has to do without using a lot of the shot clock.” Even delivering the scorching take, “He’s going to be a very impressive rookie in the league. He’s going to have a chance to be first-team All Rookie.”

Former GM of the Atlanta Hawks, Wes Wilcox, said “He’s one of my favorite players in the draft… I would have had him in the top 10. He plays with confidence.” 

Even NBA living legend Vince Carter shared his opinion on Herro’s versatility at the guard position saying, “He has the ability to facilitate, so he will play both.”

Obviously, if Tyler Herro was not on teams radars before, he is now. The Heat and Pat Riley have made it clear that he will be with them for the forseeable future. Even fending off a trade with the Thunder for Russell Westbrook before he was dealt to the Rockets. Having exceeded every expectation for the Heat in Summer League, the chances of being first-team All Rookie and playing multiple crucial roles for a playoff contending squad are favorable.

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Jarred Vanderbilt Showing Serious Potential in Summer League

Due to a nagging ankle injury, we have had to wait longer than expected to see how Jarred Vanderbilt would pan out in the NBA. And if his performance in this year’s Summer League is an indication of anything, well, Vanderbilt is going to be a freaking hoss.

We all know Jarred Vanderbilt as the tireless rebounder and with relentless tenacity. He has lived up to every bit of that expectation in the last couple of games. Posting 12 points and 12 boards per game has squashed every last doubt I had about him. On Wednesday alone, Vanderbilt dropped 20 points and 17 rebounds in one of the best performances in the summer so far.

In fact, the 12 rebounds per game makes him the best rebounder in the Summer League. Vando joins former Wildcat Jamal Murray on a forward heavy Nuggets team. He will have to compete with Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr, Mason Plumlee Torrey Craig and Jeremi Grant for playing time, but anyone who can board like him will definitely begin to earn his minutes and hopefully a larger contract. After all, board man gets paid.

I know it’s just Summer League and we should not get too excited just yet, but if this is any sign of things to come, then all of Big Blue Nation should be very excited. For more updates on the BBNBA and sports content follow us on Twitter @soft7sports and on Facebook.

BREAKING: Russell Westbrook Traded to Houston

For Chris Paul, two first round picks, and an additional two first round pick swaps, Russell Westbrook will be playing in Texas next year wearing that Rocket red. This brings Sam Presti’s acquired picks via trade up to 12 following the PG, Grant, and (now) Russ trades. If you’re keeping track, Sam Presti has now traded two All-Stars on bloated contracts (with two good shoulders and one good leg between them) for 11 first round picks, an expiring contract, an All-Star, and an amazing young asset that has the potential to be an All-Star.

Wish I had a media vote to give Sam Presti for GM of the year.

Aaron Harrison Underwhelms in Summer League with Celtics

Aaron Harrison is the classic college basketball case of “what the hell happened?” After an incredible 2 year career at Kentucky, he has had a serious fall from grace. In his freshman year, Harrison’s last second heroics was the sole reason Kentucky made it to the NCAA finals. The next season, he was on the 38-1 Final Four team where he started over Devin Booker. Probably the best team ever that did not win a championship. Obviously, the kid can ball. But every since he left Lexington, he hasn’t been able to get a solid footing in the NBA.

Harrison currently plays for Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Ligi, but is using this summer to take another stab at the NBA with the Celtics Summer League squad. Sadly, it looks like he may be heading back to Turkey for at least another year. In the Celtics’ three Summer League games, he is averaging 5.3 points and 1.7 rebounds. Not exactly the kind of production Danny Ainge wants to see in a possible signee. For a SG/SF to really impress in Boston, he is going to need a lot more than the occasion three pointer in 14 minutes of play. Here are his full stats from his three games:

vs. Denver

vs. Cleveland

vs. Philadelphia

It looks like it is going to be another fruitless summer for Aaron Harrison. Sad to see especially from such an amazing college player who gave us some of the best moments in Kentucky March Madness history.

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