Today’s Fastbreak looks at some of the best bargains in spite of a money crazy NBA free-agency period. This edition is on Oklahoma City’s acquisition of Alex Abrines.
It has been a record-breaking summer on all levels in the NBA, with massive contracts handed out. Guys that once made little more than the mid-level exception now have more money than they know what to do with, as their salaries have jumped to eight-figure sums.
Other players haven’t been so fortunate. Perhaps because of injuries; perhaps because of reputation. Or just maybe it’s that they haven’t quite gotten the appreciation they deserve.
Whatever the reasoning, there are those who haven’t quite gotten the money their talents deserve, and as a result, some teams have gotten lucky, picking themselves up a serious bargain contract.
The Oklahoma City attempted to fill a dire need, or at least in part when they convinced Spanish sharpshooter Alex Abrines to finally make the switch to the NBA when the Euroleague’s reigning Rising Star accepted a three-year, $18 million deal to join the Thunder.
The Spaniard was the 32nd pick in the 2013 NBA Draft has long resisted the big move to the world’s biggest basketball league, and reports as recently as the end of last season were that he wouldn’t be coming across.
Perhaps it was the Thunder’s unfortunate summer that actually convinced Abrines to make the move. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant left town for new adventures, freeing up minutes and opportunities to shine. If he can quickly adjust to the pace and physicality of the NBA, he has the potential to be a real hit in Oklahoma.
On four attempts per game, Abrines shot a sensational 44 percent from deep last season (and has improved every year), showing flashes of his perimeter potential with an impressive debut against Real Madrid this week in the Thunder’s preseason opener. He hit 4-of-5 from three, finishing with 12 points for the night.
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) October 3, 2016
The Spaniard can provide much-needed spacing for a team in dire need of it. The Thunder have a serious amount of bigs on their roster, but not a whole lot of shooting. Cameron Payne just went down with a long-term foot injury, and he’s one of the teams few remaining big threats.
Considering he only averaged a shade under 20 minutes per game last season, it might be expected that he somewhat mirrors this in his first NBA campaign. It’s very doubtful with Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson ahead of him on the depth chart wing wise at the moment that he might be playing more.
Billy Donovan will certainly give him Spanish acquisition time to adjust, and will work him into the rotation rather than throw him in the deep end. He’s still got developing to do but averaged 17.6ppg, 4.0rpg and 2.0apg per 36 minutes last season.
There are various sets and plays that the Thunder use where Abrines talents could come to the fore. Here are a few examples from his time at Barcelona.
Three-point shots in transition are an increasing commodity in the NBA, whether it’s the pull up in transition or a catch and shoot from a teammate on the run Abrines has the skill to execute it:
The Thunder have been increasing use of backdoor cuts over time, particularly to get Andre Roberson and their other wings catching the ball on the move instead of standing still where they can’t utilize their best skills:
One of Kevin Durant’s favorite plays to get him catching the ball in space was coming off screens, and a pinpoint shooter like Abrines can thrive in these situations when he can get loose:
Russell Westbrook’s patented drive and kick move is something he has perfected. Serge Ibaka was a beneficiary, Durant too; Kyle Singler tried without success, something indicates Abrines will have more success:
Abrines has the potential to be a huge surprise packet this season for Oklahoma City. On a more than reasonably averaged $6 million per year salary, his unknown quantity and quality can work in the Thunder’s favor.
The Thunder kept a close eye on him his entire tenure in Spain, before and after he was drafted. Sam Presti has followed his former team the San Antonio Spurs lead in scouting heavily overseas, and he knows exactly who and what he is bringing over to the NBA. Other teams don’t, yet. This can be a distinct advantage for them when he tries to make an early mark.
He might be only coming into the league a rookie by definition, but the young Spaniard like Ricky Rubio has been playing proper professional basketball for five years since the tender age of 18. There’s a very good chance he can make an early impression on the league, and Oklahoma City could have snared themselves yet another talented young prospect.