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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Thunder get even stronger with Alex Caruso as Celtics-like blueprint continues to return into focus

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Because the NBA world simply watched the Boston Celtics roll to one of the crucial dominant seasons in historical past and 16-3 playoff run that culminated in a championship, a selected basketball blueprint got here into focus. Boston featured 5 guys who can do the whole lot: Shoot, cross, create, function on or off the ball, and defend a number of positions, with elite top-end and general depth. 

It isn’t precisely a revelatory idea. Versatility has been the best way of the NBA for some time. Nonetheless, nearly each workforce has a gap someplace. Somebody who cannot shoot. Somebody who cannot defend. At the least a sliver of a weak spot for opponents to assault. 

However lookup and down the Oklahoma Metropolis roster, and inform me, the place do you see the opening? By buying and selling for Alex Caruso on Thursday, the Thunder, just like the Celtics with Jrue Vacation and Derrick White, now have two of the nastiest on-ball defenders within the league (Caruso alongside Lu Dort). Ball strain is again, child. The Celtics simply squeezed the life out of Dallas. Caruso and Dort are going to wreak the identical on-ball havoc. 

Add to {that a} heart in Chet Holmgren, who checks nearly all the identical containers as Kristaps Porzingis as an elite, floor-stretching rim protector. There’s Jaylen Williams within the Jaylen Brown position (Brown defended Luka Doncic in addition to attainable, and Williams led the best way in holding Kyrie Irving to fifteen PPG within the convention semifinal), with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander because the Jayson Tatum famous person who attracts the double groups, and out of the blue the mirror begins to mirror a reasonably comparable basketball picture. 

Everybody can shoot (Caruso was 40% from 3 on nearly 5 makes an attempt per sport final season, and Dort was practically equivalent to that). Everybody can defend. Everybody can put the ball on the ground. Williams is an elite isolation scorer subsequent to SGA, and but, OKC would not over-rely on particular person creation. The ball strikes. So do the gamers. Did you simply watch Vacation feast as a cutter within the Finals? The Thunder can minimize you to dying. 

For many groups, copying the Boston roster is a pipe dream. The Celtics are an all-time unit with homegrown stars who then lucked into Vacation as a part of the Damian Lillard fallout. It could be like making an attempt to repeat what the Warriors did by drafting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Inexperienced

Travis Schlenk really tried to do this with the Hawks after he left Golden State, drafting Trae Younger as his Curry earlier than including DeAndre Hunter and Kevin Huerter as he aimed to place 5 guys on the ground who might all shoot, cross and dribble. 

It was a good suggestion. However Younger is a defensive gap, and Hunter and Huerter, whereas they match the mildew on paper, simply did not change into adequate. OKC’s guys are adequate. SGA goes to be an upper-crust MVP candidate for the subsequent half decade. Williams will likely be an All-Star quickly. Similar for Holmgren. All these guys have been drafted by the Thunder. That is largely an internally developed contender, simply because the Celtics grew to become the second they referred to as the names of Tatum and Brown. 

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The similarities proceed: Marcus Good was a very good participant for the Celtics, however his biggest contribution to the 2024 title ended up being his commerce worth, because it was Good who facilitated the commerce for Porzingis. Josh Giddey, one other drafted and developed OKC participant, grew to become adequate for the Thunder to flip him into Caruso. 

And so they’re possible not achieved. How Sam Presti did not have to surrender a draft decide along with Giddey to get Caruso is a thriller; OKC nonetheless has 13 future first-round picks, together with No. 12 general this 12 months, and over $31 million in cap area to make use of this summer season. 

They nonetheless want rebounding (Dallas racked up 73 offensive rebounds over six video games of their second-round collection), and although their 3-point taking pictures numbers regarded nice all season, most of those guys — Dort, Caruso, and possibly even to a point Holmgren — really feel a bit oversold as precise shooters who’re going to carry up over a number of playoff collection. 

Klay Thompson is sitting there. Paul George is possible. If they might rip Isaiah Hartenstein from the Knicks they might have a powerful case as the favourite within the West. Level being, there’s a chance for the Thunder to go for it proper now, and it might not be stunning to see Presti hit the gasoline on this 1-2 12 months window earlier than Williams and Holmgren obtain potential max extensions. 

The Caruso commerce looks like the beginning of much more because the Thunder proceed to construct themselves within the mildew of the workforce we simply watched win a championship. 

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