Tag:Chris Paul
Posted on: December 8, 2011 6:26 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 9:04 pm
 

Lakers to deal Gasol, Odom for Chris Paul?

Posted by Ben Golliverbryant-paul

The New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets are reportedly closing in on a blockbuster trade that would send All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the City of Angels.

Yahoo Sports reports the details.
Hornets working to finalize details on 3-team deal to send Chris Paul to Lakers, Pau Gasol to Rockets and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola to New Orleans, sources say. It is likely that the Hornets will receive draft picks as part of a package for Paul, but source says: "Those are still being determined."

Besides Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom and Goran Dragic, Hornets will also receive a draft pick from Houston, source says. 
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that Paul-to-the-Lakers is "done" and that the three teams remain in "engaged in serious talks."

The Houston Chronicle reports that the 3-way deal is a "done deal all around" and will be brought to completion once free agency officially opens on Friday.

Later Thursday, Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com both reported that the trade may not be completed on Friday, with one report indicating that unnamed NBA owners are asking NBA commissioner David Stern not to approve the deal. The NBA took over ownership of the Hornets last year and the league has yet to sell the franchise, meaning it possesses veto authority on all personnel moves. 

Various versions of this deal have floated out the for roughly a week now. Let's take a look at this proposed deal based on what we know.

As noted on Monday, going big-for-small for Los Angeles would allow the Lakers to drastically upgrade their biggest position of need. The Derek Fisher and Steve Blake combination simply wasn't going to deliver a title. Paul, arguably the league's best all-around point guard, would step into the void immediately making Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant's life easier and seamlessly fitting into an inside-out game with Bynum. The biggest concern is trotting out an ultra-expensive backcourt that features two players with recent knee issues, but those concerns are alleviated to a degree by the fact that Paul and Bryant missed a combined two games last season.

This would be a dream scenario for Paul. He would get a major market, an elite teammate in Kobe Bryant, a psuedo-elite teammate in Andrew Bynum and a bunch of other tested pieces that are ready to compete for a title immediately. He now has a stable, loaded ownership group that will do everything in its power to ensure he competes for a title every season for the balance of his career. The Lakers, of course, could try to cash in Bynum in a separate deal, and Los Angeles has been linked to Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard in rumors recently.

Bryant, like Paul, is a major winner if this deal goes down as reported. Paul will help extend his career, facilitate his climb up the all-time scoring charts and help take on some of the on-court leadership that Bryant has mostly shouldered by himself. Paul also takes him a major step closer to a sixth title, a ring that would match Michael Jordan's career total.

The Hornets come out of this in pretty solid shape. Compared to the packages that Denver and Utah received for Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams, respectively, the Hornets did well. They clear three proven players that complement each other fairly well in Scola, Martin and Odom and a serviceable fourth piece in Dragic. Odom is entering the final fully guaranteed year of his contract and therefore brings with him a nice of degree of flexibility. He can be re-signed or flipped in a trade, depending on what happens with free agents David West and Carl Landry.

The Rockets have been hoarding minor trade assets virtually forever and finally cash them in to land Gasol. He's a legit All-Star with multiple productive years left. But is he that significant of an upgrade over Scola that he's worth parting with three or more additional assets, especially at this stage of his career? Gasol is 31-years-old and can be a franchise centerpiece but he's not going to be the No. 1 option on a legit title contender. Neither is Scola, though, so perhaps moving out of Martin's 8-figure salary to build around Gasol is the new gameplan for the rebuilding Rockets.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 4:25 pm
 

Knicks in the lead for Tyson Chandler

By Matt Moore  and Ben Gollivertyson-chandler

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports a stunner. Berger reports that the New York Knicks have emerged as the leader for Tyson Chandler, ahead of the Warriors, who reportedly offered Chandler a four-year, $60 million deal Thursday. Berger reports that the Golden State offer isn't as "robust" as the report from California indicated.

In order to make room for Chandler, Berger says the Knicks would use the amnesty clause on Chauncey Billups, or trade him, then move Ronny Turiaff. 

In the wake of Berger's report, ESPN.com reports that there is a "98 percent" chance Chandler winds up with the Knicks and that the Warriors will turn their attention to Los Angeles Lakers restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan. Yahoo Sports reports the Knicks are close to a 4-year deal with Chandler worth $58 million.

How this move would affect the Knicks' pursuit of Chris Paul is not known at this time. It would give the Knicks their best interior defender and a game-changer at the rim. The Knicks would be in a dire position for point guard to run D'Antoni's offense. Along with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks would feature an even better frontcourt, one of the best in the league. With the Knicks' biggest issue being defense, Chandler would revamp their team. 

Should the Knicks not wind up with Paul (if, say, he goes to the Lakers as a Houston-New Orleans-Los Angeles deal is being volleyed), they'd still have an excellent core. Stoudemire's primary weaknesses are at-rim defense and rebounding, and yet he's been forced to play center for the past six seasons of his career. Chandler provides everything the Knicks need to quell questions about their defense and toughness. The point guard duties would then fall to Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert, a rookie who has captured the hearts and minds of Knicks fans like... every player the Knicks have drafted for forty years.

Stoudemire is nearly untradeable should the Knicks still be pursuing Paul, as the insurability of his knees following surgery six years ago leaves questions about his long-term health. Ironically, Stoudemire would benefit most from the addition of Paul and Chandler, with Chandler covering his deficiencies down low and Paul working with Stoudemire in the pick and roll which made him an MVP candidate in Phoenix next to Nash. But the Knicks would almost certainly not trade Carmelo Anthony due to both his name brand value and the work that was put in to acquire him initially.

The Knicks' plan isn't clear at this point, it may never be clear. But even with limited cap space, they remain a major player in this short NBA "offseason," even before signings can happen.

The question is now whether this is the end game for the Knicks, or whether it is a secondary move in pursuit of Paul, should they manage to land Chandler.

Posted on: December 7, 2011 9:32 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 4:04 pm
 

Chris Paul trade rumor round-up



By Matt Moore

So there's kind of a lot going on right now in terms of Chris Paul. It's extremely likely that he'll still be a Hornet when camp starts Friday, and very likely that he'll still be one when the season starts on December 25th. But there has been such a deafening cacophony of intelligence (or absence thereof, depending on your view of the media) regarding who is in the Hunt for Paul, that we need to keep an eye on things.

Update 4 p.m. EST
Ken Berger confirms an ESPN report that the Warriors talk has cooled Wednesday afternoon because the Warriors will not include Stephen Curry in the deal. Which is odd since Curry is a point guard in this league and why would you need CP3 and Curry? Curry can play the 2, he's got the range to be sure, but it would be such an odd fit to have two primary ball-handlers. Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times/Inside Bay Area.com reports that the Warriors are willing to take on Paul without an extension (or assurances thereof, if the Hornets will take Monta Ellis instead of Curry. Ellis is a fine player but he has $22 million left over the next two seasons and another $11 million in an Early Termination Option year for 2013-2014. Kind of a trick for the Hornets to take on that salary. 

9:00 a.m.:

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday night that the Clippers had made a substantial offer, including a sign-and-trade for restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan, but that Eric Gordon was not included. 

Since then, the Warriors have gotten into the act. Here's the latest on the CP3 Chase.

Sports Illustrated reports:
But while Yahoo! Sports reported that Paul indicated the Clippers and Warriors could increase their odds of landing him long-term if they signed free-agent center Tyson Chandler, a source with knowledge of the situation said Golden State had not received that message. The Clippers, meanwhile, have no interest in signing Chandler, Pauls former teammate in New Orleans, because of their plan to re-sign restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan.
via Warriors, Clippers, Celtics lead race for point guard Chris Paul - Sam Amick - SI.com.

So if the Clippers aren't giving Gordon, and they aren't giving DeAndre Jordan... what exactly are they giving? Because Al Farouq-Aminu is one of my personal favorite young forwards, but he and Eric Bledsoe along with the Minnesota pick aren't going to get it done. The whole reason the Clippers are in conversations is because they have more to offer New Orleans, not because they're some power franchise, even with Blake Griffin. There's simply no way the Hornets sacrifice Paul for that kind of package, no matter how good the 2012 draft class is. At that point, taking the Knicks' offer might be better for the cap savings. The Clippers are going to have to step up if they want to get the best pure point guard in the NBA. 

Next up is the Warriors, and there's confusion about whether one of their guards is included as well. 

SI.com in the same link as above says that the Warriors' offer for Paul include point guard Stephen Curry, young big man Ekpe Udoh, and rookie Klay Thompson. But, much like a high-school drama, ESPN says... 
Sources said that the Hornets have actually been trying to convince the Warriors to part with Curry since before last season's trade deadline in February. But the Warriors could only stomach the inclusion of Curry if they knew Paul would extend his contract as part of the trade or at least commit to invoking his option for the 2012-13 season. According to sources, Golden State has received no such promises.
via Free Agent Reports - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN.

The issue here is that teams seem to not be aware that under the new CBA, the only way for Paul to get the most money and years he can is to opt-out and then re-sign. That's the only way for him to get the fifth year. It's going to require a leap of faith no matter what. If he goes to your team, and you win, then he re-signs. If you don't, then you need to go in a different direction anyway. But it's worth the shot. You're not going to get Paul with an extension. Not after the deal your owners pushed for. 

Meanwhile the Rockets keep desperately trying to worm their way into the conversation. They have the best talent. But it won't happen. From Yahoo:  
The Rockets would offer some combination of Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Patrick Paterson and draft picks. 
via Clips, Warriors, Celtics in Paul trade talks - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

Dallas is also mentioned, which is interesting. Jason Terry and Jason Kidd would be $18 million expiring in 2013, and they could offer Roddy Beaubois or Dominique Jones.

No one wants to make the premium offer or Paul. This is the problem when this stuff gets leaked. The Hornets can't get a deal fast enough before teams exert leverage using the fact that Paul won't re-sign in New Orleans. It's an impossible position for them.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 3:50 pm
 

Magic targeting Deron Williams or Chris Paul?

Posted by Ben Golliverdwight-howard

Hours after Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide stepped down after admitting he drunk dialed All-Star center Dwight Howard, reports have surfaced in Orlando that the Magic are exploring their trade options in hopes of acquiring a second All-Star to placate Howard.

BHSN reports that Magic have lofty goals.
Source in Magic front office confirms the Magic are attempting to acquire Deron Williams from the New Jersey Nets to help Dwight Howard. Magic front office source confirms Chris Paul and Monta Ellis are on team's radar. Howard confidante told me Paul and Ellis were on Dwight's wish list. Magic will try to acquire another superstar to help him out. 
Vander Weide said similar things to the station before the door hit him on the way out.
He told BHSN he believes the Magic might be able to cater to Howard's needs and acquire another NBA superstar. "It is certainly possible, teams like our assets," said Vander Weide in regard to a question about the potential to acquire either Chris Paul of the Hornets or Monta Ellis of the Warriors.
As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday, Howard has not formally told the Magic whether he would re-sign with the team or elect to pursue his options by requesting a trade or entering free agency after this season.

What to make of these rumors? Well, first, they are a desperate attempt by the Magic organization to shift the discussion from the unprofessional conduct of one of their chief decision-makers during a critical time in the franchise's history. The sooner everyone starts talking about rumors -- any rumors -- the more quickly everyone forgets that the guy employed to keep the only player worth more than a damn happy was too busy drinking wine and "paddling" to remember the basics of the boss/employee relationship. The bigger the name in the rumor, the better right now. Anything to restore some element of hope following a lockout and prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Once the dust settles, the Magic will find themselves where they've always been: in a ridiculous cap situation with mediocre talent and a small market that doesn't appear to be enough to satisfy Howard's demands. Recently, Magic GM Otis Smith admitted that he is open to entertaining trade offers for Howard. That's smart. Put that all together and we should expect the Howard outbound rumors to replace these All-Stars inbound rumors in no time. Given how weak the Magic look right now, we should also expect the volume and velocity of Howard outbound rumors to increase dramatically over the next few weeks.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 5:51 pm
 

Lakers talking Gasol or Bynum for Chris Paul?

Posted by Ben Golliverkobe-cp3

As NBA teams race to spend their Mid-Level Exceptions on the likes of Kwame Brown, Jeff Foster and Samuel Dalembert in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers lay back in the cut, holding two of the league's premier big men -- Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum -- on their roster. Both players have questions about their long-term fit in L.A. and both ended their 2010-2011 seasons in disappointing fashion. Add up the ever-present demand for quality big men and the Lakers' surplus of potentially ill-fitting low-post parts and it's a recipe for trade rumors galore.

Indeed, Yahoo Sports reports that New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, who is eligible to sign an extension this season but reportedly desires a new team and/or bigger stage, has been the subject of recent conversation between the Lakers and the Hornets involving Gasol or Bynum. 
The Lakers and Hornets talked several days ago, league sources told Yahoo! Sports, but it was one of those circuitous conversations that left the sides unclear what it would take to get a deal done, and the talk ended with no formal offers. The Lakers and Hornets expect to speak again this week, sources said. The prospect of Pau Gasol as the primary player going to the Hornets won’t be acceptable, sources said. The Lakers will ultimately be willing to let New Orleans pick its player in the deal – Bynum or Gasol – but New Orleans is determined to get quality, and quantity, in a deal.

Bynum has privately been heard to say this offseason that he wants his own team, and the chances of him getting that – in New Orleans or Orlando – have never been higher. Years ago, Kobe Bryant wanted Bynum moved for Jason Kidd, but Bryant’s been insistent all summer that he still believes in this core, isn’t interested in wholesale change.
The Hornets face the prospect of rebuilding their entire roster from zero should Paul eventually communicate that he wants out and if former All-Star forward David West signs elsewhere in free agency. If you're the Hornets and you're aiming for a slash-and-burn rebuild, you want to shed center Emeka Okafor's 8-figure contract that potentially runs through 2013-2014 in any Paul trade, and the Lakers have a handy piece in facilitating that thanks to forward Lamar Odom, whose contract is only fully guaranteed through this year.

Emerging from the Chris Paul fracas with Gasol locked in through 2013-2014 or Bynum through 2012-2013, a chance to re-sign Odom, loads of cap space to build a roster and whatever other tertiary trade pieces L.A. can scrounge up (money, future draft picks, etc.) wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for New Orleans. Not by a long shot. The preference is probably for Gasol, despite the fact that he's 31, but either player gives you a platform to build around. Other potential suitors -- particularly the New York Knicks -- can't make an offer that's even in the vicinity. As for Gasol not being enough as the centerpiece? Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams both moved last year without anyone nearly as good as Gasol being part of the return package. Once that leverage kicks in, demands crumble.

Meanwhile, for Los Angeles, it would mean better roster balance, more room for the remaining big man to breathe and a dynamic playmaking point guard to extend the career of All-Star guard Kobe Bryant. It would amount to a gigantic upgrade at the position of greatest need while taking a step back at the position of greatest depth. If included, Okafor would be one of the best reserve big men off the bench or could be flipped in another deal. For roster chemistry reasons, the Lakers probably want to ditch Bynum instead of Gasol, although contractually he is a better value as long as his knee issues don't recur. Parting with either one is a no-brainer if it Nets Paul in return.

The Lakers are built and paid to win now, and Paul brings that promise to any team he plays on, especially one that's already as loaded as the Lakers are. If there's a risk, it's that both Paul and Bryant have issues with their knees, but pairing two of the game's top-8 players, not to mention elite competitors and most marketable faces, would make this a risk well worth taking.

The Hornets should slow play this so as to maximize the total package for Paul. But the main pieces are there: a centerpiece player in return, financial relief and the odds and ends that go into dealing with a team as loaded as the Lakers (picks, millions in cash, etc.). It's difficult to imagine that another team can make as compelling of an offer without totally demolishing their team's core or identity. Swing a trade like this, and the Lakers as potential contenders don't skip a beat, at least for the next two or three seasons.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 7:03 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Chauncey BIllups: Please don't trade me, Knicks

Posted by Ben Golliverchauncey-billups-nyk

Veteran NBA point guards are supposed to be floor generals, not pawns. No wonder New York Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups is upset at all the recent trade rumors involving his team.

The New York Times interviewed Billups on Friday and he made it clear that a trade involving him would be quite upsetting. What triggered this? The "Chris Paul wants to go to New York" rumors, of course. 
“It wouldn’t make me happy,” Billups said Friday in a phone interview from his Denver home. “Because for me, at this juncture in my career, I just want to win.”

“I want to win another championship,” he said. “I think we got some good pieces in New York. I felt like we were making that move to be possibly one of those top teams. I don’t want to play for no team that’s rebuilding.”
Billups' sentiment here is well-founded. When it comes to superstar moves, nobody really wants to be a toss-in or part of the outgoing package. Aside from professional pride, there's the issue of uprooting your family, learning a new system, adapting to a new coach and fitting in with new teammates. The NBA is a business so all of that is usually taken for granted, but that doesn't make the process any more pleasant.

If the Knicks did trade Billups, he would join his third team since just before the 2011 NBA trade deadline, when the Denver Nuggets off-loaded his 8-figure contract in a blockbuster deal that saw All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony land with the Knicks. Billups' 2011-2012 expiring contract is worth $14.2 million, meaning it's a virtual guarantee that he will be a part of any trade for a name player that the Knicks execute this season. 

Acquiring Billups, 35, would provide instant financial relief for a team looking to rebuild, but that alone won't be nearly enough to swing another blockbuster. The Knicks will need to find a way to turn their current players into draft picks -- since they've already traded a number of their own picks in previous deals -- or sign free agents that could be repackaged in a larger trade if they want to land a name talent.

The other option, of course, would be to wait until next summer to chase a third leg for their All-Star tripod, as they figure to have loads of cap space once Billups' contract expires. Surely that would be Billups' preferred strategy because it would allow him one last run in the Big Apple and a chance to make amends for going down with injury during the 2011 playoffs, a loss that helped the Boston Celtics sweep New York out in four games.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 10:04 pm
 

Dwyane Wade's new Jordan Brand 'flight' ad video

Posted by Ben Golliver



With the 2011-2012 NBA season finally back on "play", Nike and Jordan Brand can put away the "Basketball Never Stops" and "Love The Game" ad campaigns and get back to selling their athletes. 

Miami Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade is one of Jordans' three signature athletes -- New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and New Orleans Hornets (for now) guard Chris Paul are the others -- and the sneaker brand unveiled its latest commercial for him earlier this week.

Jordan's theme this year is "Flight", whether that's flying by someone off the dribble, flying through someone on the way to the basket or flying over someone to finish at the rim. Wade's commercial is a straightforward and unspectacular take on the "flight" theme. The spot opens with Wade's defender stepping in to intercept a pass on the perimeter and looking to take it to the house for a dunk on the other end. Wade's instincts kick in and he prepares to leap through the air as the basketball court transforms visually into what looks like a massive skateboarding halfpipe. Wade uses some Matrix-like moves to scale a lift-off platform before the scene returns to the court, where he has now timed his leap perfectly to execute a chasedown block. The crowd reacts, Wade smiles at the baseline cameras and the tagline "This is flight" flashes across the scene. End scene.

Compared to Jordan's lockout efforts, this new ad is far less profound or evocative. Rather than making you rethink what you thought you knew about professional athletes and their dedication to the sport, this is all visceral: "Holy cow, he's way up there, doing extraordinarily athletic things." This isn't necessarily a bad approach. Many fans -- and consumers -- might feel strongly that the time for overthinking is over now that the NBA season is finally back.

RELATED: Dwyane Wade pledges his loyalty to Michael Jordan during the NBA lockout
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Should Oklahoma City trade Russell Westbrook?

We all heard it. Read it. Saw it. Someone even said it. Russell Westbrook needs to chill out.

For the Thunder, pretty much all of the 2011 postseason was focused on Westbrook and what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Pass more, dribble less, shoot less, give it to Durant, know your role -- and on and on. Despite all of that outside noise, the Thunder became the youngest team in 20 years to go to the conference finals and that was with the 23-year-old Westbrook leading them.

For most Thunder fans, they were all saying, “What’s the big deal? That’s just Russell Westbrook.” But it didn’t matter. When people saw box scores showing 30 attempts by Westbrook’s name and the fact he took six more shots than Durant, there wasn’t a person in the world that could calm down the harrumphing going about.

A lot of it became about Durant needing a so-called "true" point guard to play with, someone that would get him the ball and then get out of the way. And while all this Chris Paul is hot and heavy right now, some have been rumoring him to Oklahoma City for Westbrook for some time. The common thinking is that alongside a pass-first guy like Paul, Durant would flourish and rule the league as the first 100-point-per-game scorer ever. (Or something like that.)

It was even taken so far that Durant and Westbrook were feuding, which isn't true at all. Did they and do they continue to get frustrated with each other? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean they want a divorce. Consider this quote from Durant this summer:

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

Let's assume though, you’re Sam Presti (designer glasses and perfectly gelled hair and all). You just signed Westbrook to an extension the second a new CBA is signed. Dell Demps calls you. Chris Paul for Westbrook, straight up.

What do you do?

First instinct says to do it, right? Chris Paul with Kevin Durant and a supporting cast of James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison sounds like an incredible roster. It sounds like it because it is.

But that's why you're not Sam Presti. He wouldn't do it. Because it's not what's best for his roster in the present, nor in the future. Westbrook's younger, hasn't had a major injury and probably hasn't actually found his ceiling yet. But it's not just about age, it's also about fit.

Consider this: Via NBA.com, the Thunder's offense actually improved more when Westbrook usage went up. Think about that. The more Westbrook inserted himself into the offense, the better OKC scored. And we're talking about a top five offense in both points per game and offensive efficiency.

Look at the numbers: Westbrook assisted Durant on more field goals made than any other player in the league (279, next closest is CP3 and David West with 212). The Thunder’s offense finished the season in the top five in both points per game and offensive efficiency, and was a top three unit the last couple weeks.

What made the Thunder turn the page offensively after Jeff Green was traded was three-fold: 1) Green and his horribly inefficient offensive ways were gone, 2) James Harden had a much bigger role and 3) Westbrook had a bit more leash.

The issue was never about Westbrook and Durant working together. It was about the structure and how things changed in a 7-game postseason series against a veteran team and good coach. Don’t you think Rick Carlisle had a gameplan prepared to stop the Thunder? And with seven games to figure it out, he was going to have something. The Mavs did their best to take away Durant and put all the pressure on Westbrook to make plays. Westbrook had to score. It was the only way the Thunder would crack 90.

What hurt Oklahoma City there was the fact that Westbrook often tried to do too much instead of taking a deep breath and that Durant had difficulty getting free of Shawn Marion for Westbrook to pass him the ball. In the series against the Mavs, OKC’s offensive rating dropped all the way to 78.2, which is horrible. But that was more about what the Mavericks did right, than the Thunder did wrong.

Dallas was prepared for that. Oklahoma City, all the way down to its coaching staff, was not. It’s something to learn from. And despite that, the Thunder were a couple blown fourth quarter leads away from having that series 3-2 in their favor and coming back to OKC. They weren't that far off, not by any stretch. 

Westbrook needs to improve in some areas. He knows it. Good thing he’s just, you know, 23 years old. At the rate he’s improved and transformed his game from year one to year three has been kind of incredible. He’s added a solid jumper, sees the floor much better, is under control more, passes the ball more authoritatively, actually understands offense and is capable of running one. Don’t forget: The Thunder won 55 games, the Northwest Division and was two fourth quarters away from playing for an NBA title. All with a team that features its top four players under the age of 25. The Thunder got to the Western Finals more because of Russell Westbrook, not in spite of him. People seem to forget that when they start playing with the Trade Machine.

The Thunder aren't just fine with Westbrook. They're actually better off with more of him.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com