Thunder Rumors

And-Ones: Bazley, Superstars, Austin, Nike Academy

Thunder rookie Darius Bazley is ready for the challenges he’ll face in the NBA after taking a unique path to the league, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes.

Bazley, 19, was selected with the No. 23 pick in June’s draft by Utah and traded to Oklahoma City that night. Before getting drafted, he opted to skip college and pursue a potential path to the NBA by way of the G League, later skipping this route and focusing on improving his business knowledge and skills.

He would sign an endorsement deal with New Balance, which included a one-year internship with the company.

“You get some people here and there they’ll just ask you about it, ‘Yo, like how was it not going to college?'” Bazley said, as relayed by Friedell. “I know when I was going through the whole pre-draft process traveling from team to team before we’d go out and work out, [the other players would] all be talking about college. And someone would pop up and say, ‘Well, how was it, just sitting out?'”

Bazley immersed himself in the business side of New Balance, Friedell wrote, working diligently with the company when he wasn’t practicing at the facility to prepare for an eventual move to the draft.

“The main thing I really took away from that is just learning how to be professional,” he said. “That was my first job ever so having to go into work and being in an office space with a lot of middle-aged people — you got to learn to be professional. You got to learn to communicate with different people.”

For Bazley, a two-way forward with great potential on a Thunder team that currently lacks wing depth, his sights are now set on bringing values learned over the past year to his first NBA season this fall.

“His ability to handle the ball at his size is really, really unique, and defensively he’s got great range for a young player at that size, as well,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said. “It’s going to be a process with him. We’ll have to be patient. We understand that. But at that range of the draft, to be able to get a player that has those ballhandling skills at 6-foot-9 is pretty unique.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world tonight:

  • Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated explores the seven NBA stars with the most to prove during the 2019/20 season. Nadkarni’s list includes both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the top three, with both players eager to prove they can win in Los Angeles.
  • Former Baylor center Isaiah Austin has signed in Lebanon with Beirut Club, the team announced on social media. Austin, who was projected as a first-round pick in 2014, was forced to spend two years away from the game after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. The 25-year-old has since held separate stints in Serbia, China and Lebanon.
  • Jonathon Givony of lists his takeaways from the Nike Basketball Academy, which included nearly 60 future NBA prospects (24 from college, 32 from high school). NBA players such as DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker also joined in on drills and scrimmages throughout the process, according to Givony.

Thunder Sign Justin Patton

AUGUST 14: Patton’s contract with the Thunder is a three-year deal that features a team option on the final season, tweets Keith Smith of RealGM. The club had to use a portion of its mid-level exception to go up to three years.

Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights adds (via Twitter) that Patton’s first-year salary is partially guaranteed for $700K. The two non-guaranteed seasons each have July 7 salary guarantee trigger dates, per Siegel.

According to Smith (via Twitter), the Thunder were intrigued by Patton in the 2017 draft, but couldn’t get into position to select him. Oklahoma City is willing to make a modest investment in the big man now in the hopes that it pays off later.

AUGUST 13: Former first-round pick Justin Patton has found a new NBA team, as the Thunder announced today in a press release that they’ve signed the young center to a contract. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but RealGM’s transactions log classifies it as a multiyear contract.

Patton, the 16th overall pick in the 2017 draft, was sent to Minnesota along with Jimmy Butler in the blockbuster trade that saw Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn head to Chicago. However, the former Creighton big man was plagued by injuries during his first two NBA seasons, breaking bones in both feet.

Patton appeared in just one game for the Timberwolves before being packaged again with Butler in a trade to Philadelphia last fall. The 22-year-old saw action in three games for the Sixers before being waived in April to make room on the roster for Greg Monroe.

The retooling Thunder only have 13 players on guaranteed contracts, plus one player on a two-way deal. So if Patton shows in training camp and during the preseason that he’s healthy and flashes some of the promise that made him a first-round pick in 2017, it’s possible he’ll stick with Oklahoma City into the regular season. Of course, if his salary is fully or partially guaranteed, the odds of him making the 15-man roster would increase significantly.

Poll: Which Team Will Win Northwest In 2019/20?

On Friday, we explored whether the Clippers, Lakers, or Warriors look like the favorites to win the Pacific Division in 2019/20. However, the Pacific isn’t the only Western Conference division that figures to be hotly contested.

Over in the Northwest, four of five teams made the postseason in 2018/19, with Denver (54-28) edging out Portland (53-29), Utah (50-32), and Oklahoma City (49-33) for the division crown.

Heading into next season, the Thunder appear likely to take a step back. That’s not a certainty, since there’s still plenty of talent on the roster, but losing Paul George and Russell Westbrook will hurt. They’re a long shot to win the Northwest, and so are the Timberwolves, the only Northwest team to miss the playoffs last season. With Jimmy Butler long gone, the ’19/20 season should be a little more smooth and drama-free in Minnesota, but the team is still a ways off from legit contention.

That leaves three teams that look like strong contenders to win the division next season, led by the Nuggets. After finishing atop the Northwest this spring, the Nuggets retained all their key contributors and added a couple more intriguing pieces. Jerami Grant was acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City and projects to be a go-to frontcourt option. Denver is also optimistic that 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter will be healthy and ready to claim a spot in the rotation in his sophomore season.

Of course, in the Western Semifinals, the Nuggets fell to the Trail Blazers, who seem to be perennially underrated by oddsmakers. Portland’s over/under for the 2019/20 is just 46.5 wins, per betting site After topping their projected win total by about 10 games last season, the Blazers will look to outperform expectations again in 2019/20, led by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic won’t be ready to start the season, but Portland fortified its frontcourt by adding centers Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.

Meanwhile, the Jazz might have had the best offseason of any Northwest team, having acquired standout point guard Mike Conley to join Donovan Mitchell in their backcourt. With veteran role players like Ed Davis and Jeff Green joining the mix, and Mitchell expected to take another step forward, this may be the best Utah team of the last few years, and the club hasn’t won fewer than 48 games since 2015/16.

What do you think? Which team do you expect to sit atop the Northwest Division when the regular season ends? And will that team make a deep playoff run, perhaps even reaching the NBA Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Thunder Notes: Patterson, Luxury Tax, Bliss, Gibbs

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman opines that Patrick Patterson became expendable after the Thunder acquired Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers, signed veteran free agent Mike Muscala, and drafted Darius Bazley in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Gallinari is now the likely the starter at power forward, able to stretch the floor alongside big man Steven Adams. Meanwhile, Muscala has arguably been a more productive player the last two seasons and is three years younger. Finally, Bazley, still only 19 years old, will almost certainly merit playing time should the Thunder fall into rebuild mode.

Patterson, who was signed in the summer of 2017, was supposed to be the type of floor spacer the Thunder are now looking for from Gallinari, but he never lived up to his contract. The signing of Carmelo Anthony, which pushed Patterson to a reserve role, didn’t help, nor did undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in 2017.

That said, Patterson is just a season removed from shooting 38.6 percent from three-point range and 87 percent from the line, so it’s possible he could be a nice piece for the Clippers in the right role.

There’s more to report from Oklahoma City this afternoon:

  • According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Thunder will stretch Patterson’s cap hit over the next three seasons. With Patterson giving back $3.5MM of his $5,711,200 salary, the yearly cap hits equal $737,067 after taking set-off into account.
  • Marks adds (Twitter link) that while the Thunder are now approximately $698K below the luxury tax threshold, they only have 13 guaranteed contracts. As such, they’ll need to go back into the tax in order to sign another player to a standard contract.
  • Despite his infamous name, Thunder player development coach Dave Bliss, also a former Knicks’ assistant coach under former Thunder point guard Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek, is well on his way to a promising coaching career, writes Horne in a separate piece for The Oklahoman.
  • Former Gonzaga and Creighton guard Grant Gibbs has been named head coach of the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced on Friday. Per Executive Vice President and GM Sam Presti, “Grant is someone we identified early in his post-playing career as a potential fit within our organization… He has steadily impressed us with his versatility as a coach. We believe he will do an excellent job with the Blue and is ready to continue his growth within the organization.”

Clippers Notes: Rivers, Leonard, Patterson, Robinson

Doc Rivers will be in the spotlight with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both joining the Clippers, but his training for dealing with superstars dates back to his early days as a coach in Orlando, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers had just completed his first year as a head coach in the summer of 2000 when the Magic signed both Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, forming what was expected to be a super-team of that era.

“(Clippers president of basketball operations) Lawrence Frank did more research than any human being is possible to do,” Rivers said. “And I thought (former Magic general manager) John Gabriel did the same thing. That’s why we were successful in Orlando getting Tracy and Grant, and that’s why we’ve been successful today.”

In both cases, the free agent jackpot was preceded by a decision to trade a franchise player — Anfernee Hardaway in Orlando and Blake Griffin in L.A. Rivers insisted that both franchises remain competitive rather than tanking after the deals, believing that was the best way to lure free agents. George confirmed the value of that decision.

“You could just see their connection on the court,” he said of last year’s team. “Everybody pulling for one another, everybody elevated their games to be part of that camaraderie. That’s what made it such an attractive spot.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • In the same story, Rivers offers an inside look at the negotiations with Leonard, saying the focus never strayed from how the team could compete for a title. “All the other stuff that people think matters in the recruitment, I don’t think Kawhi wanted to talk about that, and so I didn’t,” Rivers said. “I talked about winning, and basketball. Kawhi is a serious man and I think you felt that with him. I think he felt the seriousness of me and how serious I am about winning and how serious he is about winning and he felt good about that match.”
  • In his buyout with the Thunder, Patrick Patterson gave back $3.5MM of the $5.7MM he was owed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. He will earn another $2.3MM with the Clippers this season.
  • Jerome Robinson didn’t see much playing time as a rookie, but he’s counting on a greater role in his second season, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Mathias Lessort, whose rights were acquired from the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler trade, will play for German Bundesliga champion FC Bayern Munich this season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. A 2017 draftee, Lessort spent last season in Spain.

Danilo Gallinari Undergoes Appendectomy

Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari had an emergency appendectomy on Saturday, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando.

Despite the operation, Gallinari still plans to participate in the World Cup and is expected to report to training camp for the Italian National Team sometime in mid-August.

Gallinari was involved in one of this summer’s most important transactions, being shipped from the Clippers to Oklahoma City along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a package of draft picks in the trade that brought Paul George to L.A. and convinced Kawhi Leonard to sign with the team.

Gallinari, who turns 31 later this week, will make $22.6MM this year in the final season of his contract and could be a popular name on the trade market if the Thunder fall out of playoff contention. He posted a 19.8/6.1/2.6 line in 68 games last season.

World Cup Updates: Shamet, Powell, Germany, Senegal

The series of withdrawals from Team USA’s World Cup training camp rosters continued on Friday, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Clippers guard Landry Shamet has opted against participating. Shamet had been penciled in as a member of USA Basketball’s Select Team.

He was appreciative of the opportunity and hopes to be part of USAB again in future,” agent George Langberg said of Shamet, who will focus on preparing for what he hopes will be a long Clippers season that ends with a deep playoff run.

Of course, Team USA isn’t the only club dealing with NBA players removing their names from consideration. After finding out earlier this week that R.J. Barrett wouldn’t participate in this year’s World Cup, Team Canada will now also be without Mavericks big man Dwight Powell, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). Having signed a contract extension with Dallas this offseason, Powell will use the time to focus on the upcoming season, says Stein.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup:

  • After the 2014 World Cup, FIBA altered the qualification process and schedule for the event going forward, and Team USA – with a roster full of NBA players – has been hit hard by those changes, as USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo tells Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. “Playing in back-to-back years, with full NBA seasons before and after, in a real hurdle to overcome,” Colangelo said. “FIBA is not concerned about us. They’re concerned about what’s best for basketball internationally. FIBA got exactly what they wanted. They’re getting a lot of games, a lot of attendance. There’s more interest in a lot of countries. Personally, I didn’t like the change. I knew it would have a negative effect on us.”
  • Team Germany formally announced a preliminary 16-man World Cup roster that features several NBA players, including Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber, Thunder guard Dennis Schroder, Celtics center Daniel Theis, and new Wizards Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga.
  • Team Senegal’s preliminary 24-man squad will have to be cut in half in advance of the 2019 World Cup, but it also includes some intriguing names. According to the official release, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng and Celtics rookie Tacko Fall are among the players representing Senegal.

Derrick Jones’ 2019/20 Salary Becomes Guaranteed

Derrick Jones‘ $1,645,357 salary for the 2019/20 season has become fully guaranteed as a result of the Heat standing pat today. The small forward had an August 1 guarantee deadline on his deal, which meant that if he remained under contract through today’s waiver deadline (5:00pm ET) and didn’t agree to push that date back, he’d be assured of receiving his full salary for the coming season.

Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote earlier today that a source close to the situation stressed there were “no plans” to make any roster moves that would allow the Heat to avoid Jones’ guarantee.

Jones had a promising season for the Heat in 2018/19, averaging 7.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 60 games (19.2 MPG). On the opening night of free agency a month ago, it appeared that the 22-year-old might be Dallas-bound as part of the multi-team trade that would ultimately land Jimmy Butler in Miami. However, that deal fell through, with reports indicating that the Heat didn’t want to part with Jones. Now, it looks like a near-lock that he’ll be part of the team’s regular season roster in 2019/20.

August 1 also represented a guarantee deadline for a handful of other players around the NBA. It’s possible that one or more of these players agreed to push his deadline back at the request of his team, but nothing along those lines has been reported.

Unless we hear otherwise, we’re assuming the following players received full or partial guarantees by remaining under contract through today’s waiver deadline:

  • Dwayne Bacon (Hornets): $1,618,520 salary becomes fully guaranteed (Twitter link via ESPN’s Bobby Marks).
  • Deonte Burton (Thunder): $1,416,852 salary becomes fully guaranteed (Twitter link via Marks)
  • Kendrick Nunn (Heat): $50,000 partial guarantee increases to $150,000 (link via Winderman). Nunn is no longer eligible to sign a two-way contract with Miami. His full salary is $1,416,852.

Patrick Patterson Bought Out By Thunder, Plans To Sign With Clippers

The Thunder and Patrick Patterson have agreed to a buyout and the big man intends to sign with the Clippers once he clears waivers, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter links). Oklahoma City today on its website that Patterson has been released.

Los Angeles is limited to offering the veteran’s mininum, which is roughly $2.3MM for a player with Patterson’s level of experience (nine seasons), as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Patterson had one year and approximately $5.7MM left on his deal. It’s unclear how much he will give up to free himself from Oklahoma City, but it seems safe to assume that it’ll be about the same amount as he’ll earn in L.A.

If the Clippers’ new-look roster has a weakness after an eventful offseason, it would be in the frontcourt. The team re-signed JaMychal Green this offseason to play the four, but options behind him are limited. Patterson could have a place in the rotation from day one or he could simply be an addition for depth. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Maurice Harkless all have the ability to play the power forward spot, with Harkless the most likely candidate to see significant time at the position.

The Kentucky product struggled to make a real impact with OKC after signing a three-year deal with the franchise during the 2017 offseason. He finished his Thunder stint playing in 145 out of a possible 164 regular season games while averaging slightly under 15 minutes per contest. He also appeared in six playoff contests for the club.

Once Patterson clears waivers on Saturday and officially signed with the Clippers, the team will have 14 players on guaranteed contracts for the 2019/20 season.

Presti Hopeful Team Can Hold Its Own

  • The Thunder have lost superstars before but the trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets has left a void, as Brett Dawson of The Athletic details. The bond between Westbrook and the city was stronger than any other star player.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti remains hopeful the team can be fairly competitive next season despite trading away Westbrook and Paul George, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. “It’s going to be a different iteration of Thunder team than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Presti said. “The way we were able to pivot has given us the opportunity to have a much brighter future going forward and still have a team coming back this season that we feel good about.”