Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

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30 teams in 30 days: Westbrook-George duo puts Thunder back into West mix

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Oklahoma City Thunder .

“Real g’s move in silence like lasagna.”
 
It was a catchy one-liner from hip hop artist Lil’ Wayne a couple years ago.
 
And in so many ways it describes how Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti seemingly came out of nowhere to orchestrate one of the more stealth trades last season in landing Paul George in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
 
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal season, winning the MVP while averaging a triple-double of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
 
Still, as good as Westbrook was, he was going to need help if the Thunder were to be anything more than first-round fodder for teams with more depth and overall talent.
 
In comes George, whose trade demand led many to believe he would wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers, or possibly with the Celtics, who were among the favorites to land the two-way standout who has been named to four All-Star teams (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) and three All-NBA defensive teams (first team in 2014, second team in 2013 and 2016).
 
He’ll be a free agent next summer, with most anticipating he’ll play for the Lakers. A successful run in Oklahoma City could lead to a change of heart for George, as well as Westbrook, who has a player option after this season which would allow him to hit the free agent market as well.
 
Westbrook and George give Oklahoma City a dynamic tandem for sure.

Still, their place among the top teams in the West is cemented in part by the pieces surrounding their 1-2 punch of Westbrook and George.
 
Steven Adams is a bruising, physical 7-footer who gives Oklahoma City a strong presence around the basket defensively and an active body to attack the glass.
 
Last season, he averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and should be able to be even more impactful with Sabonis out of the picture and the addition of Patrick Patterson, who is a stretch big capable of providing more opportunities for Adams at the rim.
 
The Thunder’s potent scoring punch gets headlines but Oklahoma City has a very underrated defense that returns most of its key players from a year ago when they ranked among the best teams defensively.
 
Oklahoma City was ranked among the top 10 in several key defensive categories such as a defensive rating (105.1, 10th in the NBA), defensive rebound percentage (.790, 3rd) and blocked shots (5.0, 10th).
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Paul George (Indiana); Patrick Patterson (Toronto); Raymond Felton (Los Angeles Clippers).
 
Key losses: Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Domantas Sabonis (Indiana);
 
Rookies of note: Terrance Ferguson.
 
Expectations:
54-28 (first in the Midwest Division, third in the West)

Bleacher Report puts Jayson Tatum on 'overhyped' list

Bleacher Report puts Jayson Tatum on 'overhyped' list

Bleacher Report ran a piece Tuesday listing the NBA's five "most overhyped players" entering the coming season. Jayson Tatum leads the list. Hold me back. 

These pieces are obviously subjective as hell, as they rely on "people probably think X," which may or may not be the reality of the situation. In the case of Tatum, writer Grant Hughes acknowledges that he feels Tatum is a franchise player, but that he could be a victim of the team for which he plays. 

Writes Hughes

Kyrie Irving has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover. Throw Gordon Hayward into the mix, and there will be even fewer touches for the 20-year-old wing. And that's to say nothing of Jaylen Brown, who's a superior defender at the moment and averaged 18 points per game in the playoffs on more efficient shooting than Tatum managed. He's due for an increased role as well.

C's fans can first breathe at the fact that Hughes most certainly is not calling Tatum overrated. Then, if they're rational, they can wonder whether Hughes has a point. 

Tatum's five best scoring games of the regular season came with Kyrie out of the lineup, one of which was prior to Irving being shut down for the season. He obviously went on to average over four and a half points more in the postseason without Irving (18.5) than he did in the regular season (13.9). 

No, Tatum is not going to be the Celtics' top scorer this season. He also won't be a rookie again. Dude looked like he tacked on like 80 pounds of muscle like a month after the season ended. He's been in gyms destroying everyone from Joel Embiid to a hilarious assortment of camp-going children. He's out here mentoring Kobe

Even if Brad Stevens wants to get creative and have Tatum come off the bench (that doesn't need to happen; he can start the five best players), Tatum is a lethal enough offensive player to put up 20 a night. 

But back to the idea of him being overhyped. I don't think anyone's putting the kid in the MVP conversation. They probably just saw the third overall pick have a really good rookie year and figure that he'll continue to blossom into a star, if he isn't one already. 

The other players listed in the piece were DeMarcus Cousins, Zach LaVine, Josh Jackson and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard falls into the rule of thumb that if you're one of the five best players in the league, as Kawhi is, it's really easy for people to overhype you. That's not Leonard's fault. 

But the other guys? Who the heck is hyping -- let alone overhyping -- Zach LaVine? The only time Zach LaVine made headlines this summer was when he was given an offersheet by the Kings that most felt was too much and the Bulls matched it. Everyone thinks he's a stinky defensive player who's coming off an ACL injury. Unless there's some expectation that he's going to start averaging six or seven more points a night than he ever has, he isn't being overhyped. He's just overpaid. 

The Cousins pick could very well be fair. As Hughes writes, Boogie is a "luxury, not a game-changer for the Warriors." It's very possible that his impact on the Warriors won't be as significant as the league fears. Maybe he takes longer than expected to come back. Maybe when he does come back, he proves to be a divisive player with that group. Then again, maybe he gives them 25 and 12 a night and the Warriors go undefeated in the postseason. 

Selling Jackson as overhyped is tough. He's a second-year player who finished his rookie year on fire, including a 36-point performance against the Warriors. He sure as hell won't average 22.6 points like he did over his last 10 games as a rookie, but does anyone think he will? Nobody thinks he's a great shooter, but it's reasonable to expect something approaching the 18.7 he averaged post All-Star break, plus his usual strong defending.

Anyway, this Hughes fellow should have put Ben Simmons on the list. Guy never shoots threes. 

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Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Knicks, Nets reportedly in mix for Kyrie-Butler combo in '19

Remember those rumors of Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler teaming up in free agency next year? Well, that buzz is back and Boston isn't the rumored destination.

Two league sources told Business Insider that the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets could be well-positioned to land the two players, with one source saying the chatter is "substantial."

"It wouldn't surprise me if either New York team or potentially both New York teams hit it big next summer," one source said.

That echoes a Chicago Sun-Times report from July which said the Celtics and Timberwolves stars had been talking about how they could team up. Each player can opt out after this season and Irving has made it known he'll be heading to free agency. The Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around for a while. 

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