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    The departure of James Harden from the Thunder in 2012 is still haunting a franchise that hasn’t really been able to recover and find a reliable replacement for the Beard. Oklahoma came into the 2013 draft with three picks, their own at No. 29 and two more, No. 12 and No. 32 from the trade with the Rockets.

    After covering their need for a big man with Steven Adams, the Thunder was also looking for some perimeter defense and more shooting. Andre Roberson was picked at No. 26 (in a cash swap for No.29) and, since it’s hard to find someone who can make an immediate impact in the early second round, the team took a flier on Alex Abrines.

    A pure shooter who was under contract with European powerhouse Barcelona B.C. and had no problem being stashed in Europe. Alejandro (or Alex) grew up playing professionally for a local Spanish team (Unicaja Malaga) and quickly made a name for himself after scoring 31 points in an ACB game at just the age of 18 and guiding the Spanish U20 national team to the bronze medal at the European Championship in Slovenia.

    After three seasons with a team like Barcelona B.C., which is consistently one of the top clubs in Spain and Europe housing several top international players, he didn’t actually turn out to be the scorer that everyone thought he could become.

    The Thunder, desperate to cover for the loss of KD, offered him a pretty lucrative deal ($17million over 3 years) in order to make the jump to the NBA. The amount of guaranteed money they offered to a 22-year-old rookie shows how heavily invested the team was into him but after a stellar rookie season, Abrines has actually regressed losing minutes to rookie Terrance Ferguson this year.

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    Need for spacing in Thunder’s offense

    Billy Donovan is one of the game’s best when it comes to individual development but he doesn’t want to put his players in a box, calling plays and telling them exactly where to be at any time. For example, he doesn’t love ball screens late in the clock because of the tendency for the defense to switch, giving instead the ball to Russell Westbrook and letting him attack even if that means passing up on favorable mismatches.

    Look at this possession where Abrines has a ludicrous height advantage over J.J. Barea, yet Westbrook first won’t give him the ball in the post and then he won’t be patient enough to wait until he comes out of a double screen, opting instead for a missed 21-foot pull-up jump shot.

    Donovan has traditionally played two non-shooters in many of his lineups, whether they included Steven Adams and Andre Roberson or forward Jerami Grant or whichever other duos he’s elected to pair causing some apparent lane clogging. But when Abrines is on the court, the opposing team needs to account for him rather than ignore him like they do with Roberson.

    This also allows fewer double team opportunities on Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. In this play, Abrines is stationed at the corner with his feet set and after an excellent screen by Steven Adams, PG attacks the rim but Marcus Georges-Hunt fakes the help as he knows that he can’t leave his man wide open.

    Even though Abrines presence hasn’t yet led to much offensive production from him, it has made the Thunder more efficient. The more shooting you have on the court, the more spacing you have. At the same time, you can space your guys all the way out, but if your shooting guard can’t shoot, it doesn’t make a difference where you put them because the well-coached teams won’t guard him.

    Abrines hasn’t hit more than 40 percent from deep in two seasons in the NBA but he is at 43.7 percent from the corners making him a lethal option that defenses have to respect.

    Charismatic shooter but limited scorer

    The Spaniard is one of the purest shooters among European players with fluid mechanics, quick release and deep range. He possesses an excellent off-ball game, exploiting screens and cuts while also using pull-up jumpers and pump fakes in order to require attention. He’s not only a very good open-shot shooter but has also proven able to make shots on the move coming off side screens, setting his feet quickly and letting it fly.

    During his time in the Euroleague, he made a name for himself by hitting off-balance shots from all over the floor but with most of the attention going to the big three this year, the majority of his shots are relatively open and the direct result of an extra pass.

    While his shooting efficiency is undisputed, Abrines doesn’t attack the rim nearly enough, he lacks a reliable mid range game and has poor footwork which translates to him not always running the floor and getting easy buckets. He doesn’t have any sort of explosiveness or advanced moves to get separation on straight isolations and therefore he fails to get to the fouling line often (only 0.7 free throws per contest), even though he shoots an elite 86 percent from the charity line.

    Look at him missing everything as he is unable to create some separation while attacking a smaller Darren Collison. Yet, he is long enough to score with the easy tip-in afterwards.

    What further limits his ability as a scorer is the lack of pick-and-roll action in a Thunder scheme that relies heavily on ISO situations for the Big 3. Abrines is basically being used as a decoy most of the time he is on the floor and only a change of scenery could reveal whether he is able to handle a bigger offensive load.

    Defensive liability

    The Thunder obviously knew what they were getting in Abrines as, his contributions through blocks, steals and defensive rebounds, have always been below average. The Spaniard has remained a steady shooter for the Thunder but his defensive flaws have become more apparent, to the point that Billy Donovan has elected to play Terrance Ferguson ahead of him, as the rookie offers significantly more defensively.

    Abrines lacks strength in his 190-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact and he doesn’t have the length to contest shots from mid-range or at the rim particularly effectively. Simply put, he is one of the worst defenders in the league and opponents immediately attack him when he steps on the court.

    Rick Carlisle puts the ball in Wesley Matthew’s hands as soon as Abrines enters the game and the veteran has no problem scoring on him with a couple savvy moves as the Spaniard looks helpless.

    Numbers sometimes lie and while he has an eye-popping 89.4 defensive rating this year, on two-pointers, Abrines’ opponents hit an astonishing 57.5 percent of their shots while on triples, he allows 42.7 percent.

    Lack of supreme athleticism and injury prone

    Even though Abrines’ wingspan and height are great for his position and while his athleticism is reasonable, he doesn’t have the lift or quickness to create many shots and often gets overpowered by opponents. His frame is still skinny and the lack of strength, length and athleticism is apparent at all times. As a result, Abrines struggles to stop the ball and to close out on shooters. To make matters even worse he frequently fouls 3-point jump shooters because he is late to contest.

    He has also been plagued by miscellaneous injuries in the last couple seasons in his hip, groin and knee further validating how his body is not yet ready for the physical level required at the NBA level.

    Thunder surprisingly better with him on the floor

    Abrines’ style of play reminds many scouts of another Rudy Fernandez with a sweeter looking stroke and a bigger frame but the lack of strength hasn’t help him make that leap yet. Thunder are 8.9 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor while they make more shots, more threes and find more efficient opportunities.

    His ability to stretch the floor, his skill level and his understanding of how to play the game make for an excellent rotation guy but there is still much to be wanted. Donovan clearly believes in him and he recently talked about how important he thinks it is for Alex to continue to grow and develop defensively, as the Thunder has invested a lot of money in him and hope he can become a valuable piece of their core moving forward.

    Hope you enjoyed reading this article and don’t forget to let us know about your favorite international prospect that you would want to learn more about. Make sure you follow all of our breaking news and rumors on our brand new account @HoopBallFantasy .

    Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of January 26.

Fantasy News

  • Kevin Porter Jr.
    SG-SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Kevin Porter Jr. (left hip contusion) will play on Thursday against the Heat.

    Porter Jr. hurt his hip during Tuesday's loss against the Sixers but it won't cause him to miss any ball games. Expect Porter Jr. to have his typical role off the bench but he is only producing value just inside the top-300 at this time. He does have a higher ceiling than some other players around that value due to the fact that he will likely improve as he gets more seasoning his first year in the NBA.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Matthew Dellavedova
    PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Matthew Dellavedova (right calf soreness) has been upgraded to available for Thursday's game against the Heat.

    Dellavedova is a deep rotation piece for the Cavs and is not currently fantasy relevant at only 14.9 minutes per game.

    Source: NBA Injury Report

  • Dante Exum
    PG, Utah Jazz

    Dante Exum (patellar tendon) has been upgraded to probable for Thursday's matchup against the Grizzlies on Friday.

    Exum has been mired by injuries dating back to his sophomore season in the NBA. He last played a game on March 14, 2019 so it will be great to see him get back out there. He is best left on the waiver wire until he proves that he is healthy and a viable fantasy option. He is currently behind Mike Conley and Emmanuel Mudiay while both Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles also handle the ball at times during their games.

    Source: David Locke on Twitter

  • Duncan Robinson
    F, Miami Heat

    Duncan Robinson has earned another start on Thursday and will be joined by Jimmy Butler, Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard as the Heat take on the Cavs.

    Robinson has started in five of the Heat's last six ball games prior to Thursday night and has had his moments. However, he is the least attractive fantasy option out of any of the starters and it is likely that Goran Dragić and Tyler Herro have higher fantasy ceilings despite the fact that they have been coming off the bench.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    Tyler Herro has been upgraded to available for Thursday's contest vs. the Cavs after missing one game with an ankle injury.

    This is good news for fantasy owners as Herro's ankle injury won't cause him to miss more than one game. Expect Herro to have his typical role off the bench. He is currently on pace to finish with top 140/144 value in 8/9 cat leagues.

    Source: Heat PR on Twitter

  • Daquan Jeffries
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings have called up two-way player DaQuan Jeffries from their G League affiliate on Thursday.

    DaQuan Jeffries is likely insurance in case Trevor Ariza (groin) is forced to miss some time as De'Aaron Fox has already been ruled out for weeks. He has yet to play a minute in a regular season game but might get his opportunity in the near future. He is not on the fantasy radar.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter

  • James Johnson
    PF, Miami Heat

    James Johnson (illness) will play on Thursday against the Cavs.

    Johnson has barely cracked the rotation as he is averaging 14.3 minutes over four contests so far this season. He is best left on the wire for now.

    Source: David Wilson on Twitter

  • Tyler Herro
    PG, Miami Heat

    Tyler Herro (sprained left ankle) is still questionable to face the Cavs on Thursday and his status will be decided after he goes through warmups.

    Herro has already missed one contest due to this injury and might miss another. He has been a surprise so far for the Heat as he has a meaningful role and has even started three contests. Herro is currently averaging 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 turnovers and 1.8 three-pointers on .418 shooting while he is shooting .833 from the foul line. He is doing all of that in 29.2 minutes per game.

    Source: David Wilson on Twitter

  • Goran Dragic
    PG, Miami Heat

    Head coach Erik Spoelstra told the media that Goran Dragić will play on Thursday against the Cavs after being out with an illness.

    It is good news for Dragić who has been averaging 28.7 minutes off the bench over his first 10 ball games. Expect Dragić to take on his usual role off the bench in this winnable matchup.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Kevin Huerter
    SG, Atlanta Hawks

    Kevin Huerter suffered a left rotator cuff strain with an associated shoulder capsule strain and will be re-evaluated after two weeks.

    This news guarantees that Huerter will miss the next eight contests before being re-evaluated. Look for Cam Reddish and DeAndre' Bembry to see more minutes during his absence. Bembry has the higher floor while Reddish has the higher ceiling if he could only improve upon his efficiency.

    Source: Marc J Spears on Twitter