Preview: Kevin Yeung Talks Clippers-Thunder


It’s finally here.

After a lengthy off-season in which ownership was transferred, new faces were added — and some left — the Los Angeles Clippers regular season is FINALLLLLLLLLLY here, and what better way to kick things off with a Q&A preview leading up to the season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For some background, Kevin Yeung is an excellent writer who splits time writing for SB Nation’s Welcome to Loud City, an Oklahoma City Thunder blog and Grizzly Bear Blues, a Memphis Grizzlies blog, as well as Vantage Sports.

I’ve had the privilege of working and writing with Yeung, so I felt he was the perfect person to reach out to for the occasion. Without further ado, here’s the Q&A.

1) No Kevin Durant for 6 to 8 weeks. No Anthony Morrow for close to a similar timeframe. How do Scott Brooks and the Thunder manage in their absence?

Well, they’ll try to tread water. When they get back to full health, this team should be good enough to make up the ground and grab on to a respectable seed (#3 or #4?). So for now, the goal should just be to avoid digging too deep a hole until Durant and Morrow get back.

Based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like Scott Brooks is going to start Andre Roberson and Perry Jones III, a good duo of wing defenders. But this effectively leaves the offense up to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka – pending a breakout from Steven Adams. Brooks’ offense probably isn’t going to suddenly become a creative blend of off-ball action and side-to-side passing, so expect a heavy dose of pick-and-rolls for the team to make the best out of what they have. Reggie Jackson, even coming off the bench, will be called on often and for a lot.

2) Since his days at the University of Connecticut, I was never big fan of reserve Jeremy Lamb. Many figured him to be James Harden‘s replacement, but I saw those as too big of a shoe to fill. Now, with Durant out, many eyes have turned in his direction. Is this a make-or-break period for him?

Oh, absolutely. Lamb will be the second guard off the bench behind Jackson, and with Durant and Morrow gone, there’s going to be offensive touches to be had. Lamb has flashed some stuff – three-point shooting, shot creation ability, scoring touch – but the problem is consistency. Defense too, although I doubt that’s on the front of everyone’s mind.

If Lamb can show up consistently and provide some secondary scoring and ball-handling within the flow of the offense, that’d be fine enough. But this is his big chance to secure a role – perhaps his last, if Jones stays ahead of him on the depth chart for the whole season.

Oct 10, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb (11) and Dallas Mavericks forward Brandan Wright (34) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder defeated the Mavericks 118-109. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

3) Am I being overly delusional by being high on Perry Jones III and what he can do for this team when everyone returns from injury?

I honestly have no clue what to make of PJ3. He has size, skill and athleticism, which is usually a recipe for success in this league. But he risks becoming the next Anthony Randolph if he doesn’t sharpen his focus, and wise up as a basketball player. The little stuff – positioning, snap decision-making – still eludes him. I could see there being a role for him, as some kind of super-sized 3-and-D guy that runs and jumps like a hound on the break. But I’m not confident, and right now he’s more jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none utilityman than anything else.

4) PREDICTION TIME: is Reggie Jackson a member of the Thunder this time next year?

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  • I don’t think so. Jackson wants to start as a lead ball-handler and he wants to get paid. The Thunder can’t offer him the first and they’d be hard-pressed to offer him the second. The cap is on its way up and Jackson is going to be a restricted free agent in a buyer’s market for teams wanting point guards, so the Thunder have some flexibility. But with Kevin Durant’s free agency in 2016 and both Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka following him in 2017, it’s unclear and potentially risky for the Thunder to re-sign Jackson now – especially if Clay Bennett remains adamant about staying below the luxury tax.

    The market is in an early stage of transition right now, but based off the deals that Kenneth Faried and Nikola Vucevic have already gotten since the NBA signed the new TV deal for 2017, Jackson might net as much as $15 million per year on the open market. And some team will offer him the role he wants. For the Thunder, maybe they’re better off with a guy whose skillset fits better with Durant and Westbrook – a plus three-point shooter, for example. It’s still hard to say, and winning a championship this season will probably affect things to a degree. But right now, I’m not feeling confident that he’s wearing blue-and-orange next year.

    5) We saw a historic offensive run from Kevin Durant when Russell Westbrook was out with injury last season. Is it too high of an expectation to expect a similar, dominant run from Westbrook with Durant out?

    Westbrook obviously isn’t the scorer Durant is – his True Shooting Percentage was almost a full 10% behind Durant’s last season on similar usage – and the replacement value of having Jackson behind Westbrook is vastly different than it was with Jones and Roberson behind Durant last year. But you know what? Don’t rule it out.

    Westbrook is crazy. I can’t tell you what goes on in his mind when he’s on the basketball court, but it’s somewhere between “I want to score” and “HAHAHA I AM GOING TO TEAR YOU LIMB FROM LIMB.” He could put up thirty shots a game. He’s probably looking forward to it. There’s going to be a million bodies waiting for him in the paint every time, which is the tricky part, but I don’t think that’s going to stop him. And if anyone other than LeBron James is winning one-on-five on a mad drive to the rim, I’d put my money on Westbrook.

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