Damian Lillard effectively ended an era of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise as we knew it with his walk-off shot to eliminate them from the playoffs.
Lillard hit a deep 37-foot 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to break a 115-115 tie with the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. In response to all the beef between his Portland Trail Blazers and the Thunder, Lillard gave a wave to OKC after making the shot. As if the shot wasn’t impressive enough, it also gave him an even 50 points in the game. The shot and Game 5 effort were true testaments to his ability and standing in the league.
Lillard joined the Sports Business Radio Podcast for an interview published on Tuesday. They were talking about the evolution of “Dame Time” and brought up the shot that ended the Thunder.
“What can I say? That was for Seattle,” Lillard said of the shot, while laughing.
The elimination marked the third straight year the Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs. The team was capped out and couldn’t make many offseason moves, but that doesn’t mean the franchise didn’t change. Paul George requested a trade and was dealt to the Clippers. Russell Westbrook was later sent to Houston. Now a team that had 10 straight winning seasons is looking at their first rebuild since moving to Oklahoma City. SuperSonics fans meanwhile suffered through three bad seasons in a row to end the team’s time in Seattle, and Oklahoma City got to enjoy the benefits when they turned things around.
As Dame said, that was for Seattle.
Chris Paul’s contract will likely ensure that he starts the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Wednesday’s edition of The Jump that there is little momentum towards a trade right now, and Paul is likely to open the regular season with Oklahoma City.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski essentially said the same thing on Twitter, adding that both Paul and the Thunder believe a year together could prove beneficial.
Things have been trending this way for a while. As it stands, Paul’s remaining contract is not of interest to any teams, and the Thunder simply aren’t going to kick in a draft pick to get rid of him. It may not be anyone’s ideal scenario, but it’s simply the way things are going to be for a while.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has torn down the team’s roster about as effectively as you could hope for when entering a rebuilding phase, but that does not mean he is pleased with the way the offseason has gone.
Despite acquiring 15 future first-round picks by trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, Presti was apparently devastated he was essentially forced to blow the team up. One high-ranking Thunder executive tried to describe the disappointment to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
“Sam acted like his dog died after trading Paul George,” the exec said.
However, the exec said Presti is realistic enough to know his team had reached its potential with Westbrook, and the disappointing result in the playoffs the past two years proved that.
“Sam won’t admit it, but he’s too smart to not know this team reached its ceiling with Westbrook,” he added.
For what it’s worth, other executives across the NBA praised Presti for the haul he got in return for George and Westbrook. Some even said they have the brightest future in the NBA and are fortunate Kawhi Leonard wanted to play with George so badly.
“Kawhi’s recruiting gave OKC an out,” one Western Conference executive told O’Connor. “Trading George allowed them to trade Russ without backlash.”
Presti has watched Westbrook, George, Kevin Durant and James Harden come through Oklahoma City, so you can understand why he’s crushed that all of them left town without a championship. However, he handled things masterfully with the George trade and even used some scare tactics to get the Clippers to give up an unprecedented package of draft picks. If you have to start from scratch, that is exactly how you make the most of a bad situation.
While Chris Paul has been frequently linked with a move away from Oklahoma City, there are also indications that the Thunder would be comfortable keeping the newly-acquired guard.
According to Ken Berger of Bleacher Report, the Thunder would have no problem keeping Paul on board if they can’t find a trade partner and Paul is willing to stay. While his deal is bloated with three years and $124 million remaining, that is still a year less than Russell Westbrook had left.
Paul’s willingness to stay remains somewhat of a question. The 34-year-old has never even played in the NBA Finals, and is running out oftime to find that elusive championship. The reality is that Paul just doesn’t have a ton of potential takers thanks to his contract unless Oklahoma City is willing to sweeten the pot by adding assets, and he may have to settle for playing on a non-contending Thunder team for at least one season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to have no intention of keeping Chris Paul after they acquired him in the deal that sent Russell Westbrook to Houston, and they would like to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
Immediately after the Westbrook-Paul trade was completed on Thursday, reports indicated the Thunder actually tried to find a third team to take CP3 and still want to deal him. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Friday that the Miami Heat are the most obvious suitor in what will be a limited trade market for Paul, and the Thunder are anxious to complete a deal.
“The market for Chris Paul is going to be small, but Miami’s at the top of that list,” Woj said. “They’d like to try to get that deal done as soon as they can. I was told there are some other teams, too, that are going to be discussed, but their hope in getting this deal done with Chris Paul was that he doesn’t play a game in a Thunder uniform.”
Paul has three years and $124 million remaining on his contract, and he is older than Westbrook and has been injured quite often over the past few seasons. It never made any sense for OKC to replace Westbrook with him, so they must have been confident they will find a new home for him when they made the trade with the Rockets. That new home will likely be in Miami alongside Jimmy Butler.
Paul could have one very interesting dilemma if he winds up with the Heat, but that’s not going to stand in the way of a deal.
The Oklahoma City Thunder reluctantly entered a rebuild when they acquiesced to Paul George’s trade request last week, but they have since done quite well for themselves.
The Thunder have amassed an absurd amount of draft picks in return for some of their traded players. They got five first-round picks from the Clippers in the George trade (three Clippers and two Miami Heat picks). They received two more first-round picks from the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. They also received a first-round pick from Denver in a trade of Jerami Grant.
Albert Nahmad listed all the future first-round picks the Thunder possess entering the 2020 NBA Draft, including protections and pick swaps.
The Thunder’s first-round pick for next year is protected 1-20 from the trade with Philly that brought them Jerami Grant. They likely won’t have to worry about losing that pick, which will convert to two future second-round selections. Their top-14 protected pick in 2022 comes from when they dumped Carmelo Anthony.
The Thunder have the right to choose to swap either theirs or Miami’s first-round pick with Houston in 2021. In 2025, they will have the right to swap theirs or the Clippers’ first-round pick with Houston.
This is a crap load of picks, but it might take a while for the assets to pay off. The highest picks they will probably get the next few years will be their own. Beyond that, they’ll have to hope for the Heat to be bad soon and the Clippers and Rockets to be worse years from now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to be headed toward a total rebuild after trading Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Russell Westbrook could be the next piece to go.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Thunder have been fielding trade calls for Westbrook and are working with the star point guard to help facilitate a potential deal.
Westbrook is owed a whopping $170 million over the next four seasons, and finding a team that wants to take on that kind of contract for a 30-year-old player may be challenging. It will be even more difficult this late in the offseason, but it is certainly possible if both sides are motivated to make it happen.
There have already been several teams mentioned that could be interested in adding Westbrook, but making the money work will be the big obstacle. If the Thunder are able to move him and add more draft picks to the haul they received in return for George, they will have an unprecedented amount of draft capital moving forward.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook are at a crossroads, and both sides may be ready to move on.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Westbrook’s agent, Thad Foucher, is discussing Westbrook’s next steps with Thunder GM Sam Presti. One of those steps could be exploring trade possibilities, with both sides recognizing that the time may have come after an 11-year partnership to explore external possibilities.
There is no indication that Westbrook has demanded a trade, but there appears to be a willingness on both sides to explore the possibility now that Paul George has been traded to the Los Angeles Clippers and the team’s window for playoff success looks to be closing.
It doesn’t appear that anything led to the breakup of the Thunder, but the reality of the situation is becoming clear. They have been paying heavily into the luxury tax for the right to lose in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row, are falling behind in the West, and have no real prospects to improve.
The biggest issue for Oklahoma City may be getting someone to take Westbrook’s four-year, $170 million deal.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to avoid the luxury tax by dangling their No. 1 draft pick.
According to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, the Thunder have made the likes of Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, and Dennis Schroeder available in a bid to shed salary, and will include the No. 21 pick to try to get a deal done.
The Thunder have been subject to massive luxury tax penalties in the past, and they will want to avoid that going forward. Russell Westbrook and Paul George are locked in as the faces of the franchise, but the pieces around them are all apparently fair game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their season end on a disappointing note last week when they lost four out of five games against the Portland Trail Blazers, but it appears head coach Billy Donovan does not have to worry about his job status heading into next year.
While speaking with the media on Monday, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he envisions Donovan being back with the team next season.
Donovan has a record of 199-129 in four seasons with the Thunder, but they have lost in the opening round of the playoffs the past three years. While a lot of that had to do with losing Kevin Durant in free agency, Paul George had an outstanding regular season this year and expectations were high with him and Russell Westbrook leading the way entering OKC’s series against Portland.
Of course, we all know how that worked out. The Thunder were embarrassed both with their play and by what Damian Lillard did to them to close out the series. While they weren’t expected to get past teams like the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, a lot of people picked them to pull the upset over Portland.
The Thunder picked up the fifth-year option on Donovan’s contract earlier in the season, and there had been talk that he could earn an extension with a strong showing in the postseason. He may have to enter next year as a lame duck, but it appears he will be keeping his job in the short-term.