As Trade News Swirls, Thunder Clobbered In Cali
By Randy Renner
Maybe it was all the trade talk, maybe it was all that fog the Bay Area is famous for, maybe it was just one of those nights. whatever it was the Thunder seemed lost in a fog of their own Monday night in Oakland as they were clobbered by the Golden State Warriors 117-91.
The Thunder did their best to imitate the gang that couldn't should straight, hitting just 30.6 percent of their shots. Golden State meanwhile had no such problem making 15 of their 28 three-point attempts (53.6 percent).
Kevin Durant suffered through a terrible shooting night (3-for-16) and scored 14 points. Russell Westbrook scored 22 but it took him 21 shots to get there (5-for-21). He did most of his damage at the free throw line where he was 11-for-14.
Head coach Scott Brooks was most disappointed by the Thunder's apparent lack of interest on defense, which is becoming a bigger and bigger problem lately. Brooks didn't think all the trade talk and the rumors flying around before the game had any effect.
National reports said Thunder backup point guard and Sixth Man Reggie Jackson was being dealt to the New York Knicks, reports also indicated Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones were on the block too.
By the end of the evening all those guys were still on the roster but Lance Thomas, the training camp invitee, who won a roster spot at the start of the season, was not. Thomas was the one being shipped to the Knicks and on the way to the Thunder was a former #4 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dion Waiters.
The Thunder, Knicks and Cavs finalized the three-way deal during a late night conference call. J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert were being sent from New York to Cleveland, the Thunder are also sending a protected first round pick to the Cavs.
Waiters was a star at Syracuse but he's been a problem with the Cavs. He has a reputation of being a ball hog with an attitude. The Cavs hoped bringing in LeBron James would help Waiters but instead the opposite seems to have happened. Waiters has been seen during games demanding the ball from James and James ignoring him. Not a good look.
Just how Waiters will fit in with Westbrook and Durant is a mystery at the moment and to be honest so is why the Thunder are bringing in Waiters.
Here's what GM Sam Presti said about him in a news release late last night.
“Dion Waiters is a player that we’ve tracked and liked since his time at Syracuse, in the NBA, and with USA Basketball. Dion provides another proven scorer that positively impacts our roster and adds depth and flexibility,” said Presti. “We have a lot of respect for his toughness and competitiveness, and believe that he is a physical playmaker who will enhance the versatility of our team. We are excited to welcome Dion to Oklahoma City and the Thunder organization.”
Waiters' numbers have fallen off this season. He's averaging just 10.5 points a game, down from his career average of 14.3. He's hitting just 40.4 percent of his overall shots and an abysmal 25.6 percent of his threes. His career shooting percentages are 42.0 overall and 32.8 from deep.
Some national writers are saying Waiters could fill the role James Harden left behind when he was traded to Houston but it's difficult to see that happening unless Waiters truly is as good as he seems to think he is.
Harden, like Waiters, is a volume shooter nut Harden hits more of shots. He also lives at the free throw line, Waiters seldom even visits the stripe. In his career he averages just 3.1 free throws a game and this season he's getting to the line just 1.8 times a game. Harden is averaging a whopping 8.9 trips to the line this season and hitting 89.1 percent of those shots.
So tell me again how Waiters and Harden compare?
Waiters' contract runs through the end of next season. He's making just over $4 million this season and will make just over $5.1 million next season.
If and I mean IF, Waiters can get his act together with the Thunder he could take over Jackson's sixth man role next season because as most everyone believes Jackson won't be in OKC next season unless he comes off his desire to be the starting point guard.
This transaction was made possible by that Traded Player Exception the Thunder received when they worked out the sign and trade deal with Thabo Sefolosha that sent him to Atlanta. The $4.1 million that was worth covers Waiters salary so that the Thunder didn't have to trade away a player making a similar salary.
The bad news, at least for the ownership group, is that the deal pushes the Thunder into the luxury tax (by about $1.5 million) for the first time ever.
Also by bringing in Waiters the Thunder appear to be pushing Jeremy Lamb all the way out of the rotation and maybe out of town. He's been given numerous chances to seize a bigger role but he's been plagued by inconsistency both with his shot and his defense.
So the Thunder could very well be setting the table for another deal before next month's trade deadline.