Key calendar dates for OKC Thunder and NBA events scheduled in coming months
The NBA Playoffs enters the Conference Finals phase starting today while teams like the OKC Thunder are already well into their offseason work. With just two rounds remaining in the postseason it points to a busy summer full of key dates.
Below are the critical dates to circle on your calendar as the OKC Thunder build toward training camp in late summer.
Eastern Conference Finals: May 13 – 27
LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers tip off on the road versus the Boston Celtics. This could’ve been a major coup for the NBA and television ratings had Kyrie Irving been healthy. In spite of the former Cavaliers injury expect the series to still center on the relationship of the King and his former sidekick anyway.
Notably, games the series initial four games run through May 21st. The fifth through seventh games (if necessary) are scheduled for May 23, 25 and 27 respectively.
Western Conference Finals: May 14 – 28
The series the NBA was salivating over since Daryl Morey retooled his squad is set to tip off on Monday May 14.
It will be interesting to see whether the Rockets and Dubs measure up to the pre series hype. I’m already on the record as stating the Cavs-Celts series has a better shot of a more competitive series. Making bold predictions like that can blow up in your face. In spite of that, don’t be surprised if the Warriors march into the Toyota Center and win by double digits in the first game.
This feeling gained steam for me listening to Draymond Green‘s podium response to the Rockets adamant desire to play the Dubs. Green laughed it off saying the Rockets were just the next team in line. Clint Capela naively stated Houston were the better squad. Its not that they aren’t – but giving someone like Green that kind of motivation wasn’t a wise move by the young center.
The series initial four games run through May 14th through 22nd. Should the series require more than four games the final three are scheduled for May 24, 26 and 28.
Draft Lottery: May 15, Chicago
The lottery balls will bounce out to determine placement for the NBA 2018 Draft this coming June. This year offers intrigue since it’s the last season tanking teams (we see you Chicago) have a greater propensity of snaring the coveted top pick. Also of interest is where the Brooklyn Nets ball bounces given the Cleveland Cavaliers have ownership of it.
Draft Combine: May 16 – 20
A first up close look at several prospects from this seasons draft class. In recent seasons the very upper echelon has trended toward not attending. But, on the flip side it’s also where players like Zach LaVine made his mark and landed on GM’s radar.
Ongoing workouts for draft prospects:
Already underway potential prospects are working out with teams. Notably teams can keep their cards close to their vests (looking at you Sam Presti) while other teams openly discuss, interview and televise the workouts.
NBA Draft Early Entry Entrant Withdrawal Deadline – June 11:
Prospects have until 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to withdraw their name from the prospect list.
NBA Finals – May 31 – June 16
Although the teams are to be determined bet on Cavs-GSW Part IV. Why any of us ever bought into the hyperbole I don’t know, but it was fun playing along.
2018 NBA Draft – June 21
Make sure to visit Thunderous Intentions daily as we’ll begin our annual prospect series after the draft combine completes. This will enable you to learn more about this seasons draft class. And, while the OKC Thunder don’t have a first round pick, it’s important to note Sam Presti is known for pulling out surprising moves. In other words, never say never to Presti pulling off a draft night trade or garnering picks via an obscure sign and trade. (Looking at you Mr. Hoodie).
As for the actual picks, the Thunder’s first round pick will go to Minnesota (via Utah). This leaves the Thunder with two second round picks – their own (53) and Boston’s (57) second round pick. Therefore both will occur late in the second round given where the teams finished. Presti could combine the two picks in an effort to move up.
Anthony Opt In Deadline: June 23
Barring the sky falling expect Carmelo Anthony to opt in to his final year $27.9 million on or before this date.
Awards Night – June 25
The second annual awards show occurs on Monday June 25th. Although finalists for the key awards have yet to be announced it’s unlikely any of the OKC Thunder players will be among the top three candidates. That said, if Rudy Gobert is going to get a Defensive Player of the Year nod, there’s an argument to be made Andre Roberson should also at least be one of the candidates.
After a season where the Thunder (mosty Westbrook) were up for multiple awards the only one he was nominated for this season was Best Style. This of course is barring him being in the top three for MVP which is unlikely despite a second triple-double season average.
George Opt In or Out Decision – June 29
This is the deadline date for Paul George to opt into his final contract year. Although George could surprise everyone expect him to opt out.
Qualifying Offers – June 29
OKC will need to tender a qualifying offer to Jerami Grant by this date if they wish to keep him a restricted free agent (i.e. allowing them to match any offers he receives).
In addition, if OKC elects to retain their two-way contracts of Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier they would need to extend the offers on this date. Given the Thunder luxury tax situation contracts like these are more valuable than ever before. This in spite of Donovan rarely utilizing his full roster.
Free Agency Moratorium Begins – July 1:
Ahh, this is when the fun starts. This season in particular will be lit with the LeBron James Sweepstakes taking center stage for the NBA. Closer to home what Paul George decides to do will be of far more interest.
The list of OKC Thunder Free Agents is:
- Corey Brewer UFA
- Raymond Felton UFA
- Jerami Grant (RFA)
- Josh Huestis *UFA
- Carmelo Anthony ($27,928,140 early termination option)
- Paul George ($20,703,384 player option – with OKC holding his bird rights)
RFA = Restricted Free Agent, UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent. *Since OKC didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Huestis he is UFA
Official Signing for Free Agents – July 6
This date is when teams can officially put pen to paper. Offer sheets tendered during the moratorium can be made official with parties signing. Notably, teams who extend offers to restricted free agents have to afford the existing team two days to match.
Expiring Exceptions – July 6
This date is also huge given Sam Presti has some free money to play with (sort of). Via the trades of Domantas Sabonis ($2,550,000) and Victor Oladipo ($1,491,042) to Indiana the OKC Thunder picked up two trade exceptions. They cannot be used in combination, but they can be used individually in a trade where the team wouldn’t have to send out matching salary. Although it doesn’t seem like much money given today’s market they could prove useful for a mid level player.
If Presti intends on using them it’s more likely we’ll see him utilizing them around the draft to gain assets.
Vegas Summer League – July 6 – 17
In previous seasons the OKC Thunder elected to participate in the smaller Orlando Summer League. But, this year Orlando decided to dissolve their tournament in favor of attending Vegas.
This means the OKC Thunder will also travel to Vegas. Expect to see Terrance Ferguson for sure. Outside of TFerg the other attendees aren’t a certainty. There is the potential Dakari Johnson, and Josh Huestis could participate, but it’s not necessarily expected.
In addition, the Summer League offers an opportunity to seek undrafted players or G-League prospects to round out rosters. As an example of how Summer League can uncover hidden gems, the Raptors picked up undrafted Fred VanVleet following his showing for them in Vegas. While this is the exception, it still showcases the type of opportunities which exist.
Deadline to Waive Carmelo Anthony (utilize stretch provision)- August 31
Let’s just set it straight, Carmelo Anthony is opting in because he’s not about to leave money on the table to walk. We’re talking more than half of what he’s due to make. This because on the open market Anthony would likely be offered between $8M and $12M per year,
Regardless if Anthony feels he’s a starter and worth superstar money he’s in for a rude awakening. The due date for the Thunder to waive Anthony and utilize the stretch provision is August 31. Barring some team pulling a Vlade Divac or having an unnatural belief in Melo’s abilities this date will be key for the organization.
Hall of Fame Weekend: September 7
The Hall will hold it’s annual weekend of activities including the big night where former players and others (coaches, media, teams) are inducted. This year’s class of 13 includes OKC Thunder Assistant Coach Maurice Cheeks. He’ll be joined by former players Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen and Charlie Scott.
Three women’s players also made the cut (Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington). Rounding out the class is executives Rick Welts and Rod Thorn, coach Lefty Driesell and European player Dino Rada.
Early Training Camp Opens: Late September
While the actual dates are yet to be confirmed, it’s conceivable the dates will be similar to last year. If that’s the case expect the first camps to open September 21st, for teams participating in overseas preseason games. Veterans would then be able to report September 24th. All other teams would officially open September 25th. Again, this is if the NBA keeps a similar schedule to last season.
Westbrook No Trade Restriction Ends – September 29
Don’t shoot the messenger and no I’m not suggesting OKC trade him. However, this is the official date his no trade restriction ends.
Preseason Games Begin: Late September
Once more, this is a guess since the NBA hasn’t officially released the dates, but if they stay on track to last season the date would be September 29th.
Team Options and Extentions: October 31
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The OKC Thunder have until October 31st to pick up the option on Terrance Ferguson which is a no-brainer given the state of their salary.
Additionally, OKC have until the first day of next season to sign Alex Abrines to an extension. This is important on two levels. First the Thunder don’t have many economical contracts aside from the youngsters which is imperative for OKC given the unprecedented luxury tax they could be paying next season. In addition, the offer needs to be made to retain Abrines as a restricted free agent.
Likewise Dakari Johnson is in a similar situation. Given Johnson is only contracted for $1,378,242 next season it seems likely Presti retains him. Whether the team extends a qualifying offer remains to be seen.
Financially it makes sense, however if OKC do keep Johnson it would behoove them to at least give him consistent serviceable minutes in season. The option would be to treat Johnson like they did Huestis this season by not extending an offer. This would mean letting his last contracted year play out with Johnson entering he summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent.