Team Tidbits – Avalanche & Thunder

A new feature that consists of my take on small news items involves my teams. These are topics that I don’t feel are column worthy, but I still feel like writing about.

This edition features my thoughts on the Colorado Avalanche signing Matt Duchene to an extension and the Oklahoma City Thunder getting something for Kevin Martin and looking to sign Mike Miller.

Avalanche – Locking Up Matt Duchene: It was nice of the Colorado Avalanche to lock up Matt Duchene for the next five years at six million per year. Duchene handled last year’s negotiations like a pro, taking a bridge contract in order to prove himself after a down season, and Avs management rewarded him after his big season with a new contract that’ll pay him handsomely after this year. This is how the Ryan O’Reilly situation should’ve played out, but O’Reilly wanted his money now instead of trying to prove himself like Duchene did.

I would hate for the Avs to take the “C” off of Gabriel Landeskog after just one short season, but if they do, it has to go to Duchene. He’s going to be the leader of this franchise for years to come. He does everything the right way, both on and off the ice. He’s constantly working to improve his game and he’s very mature for his age.

The thing about Duchene is that I know this money won’t go to his head. He wants to be part of this team and he wants to win. He’ll want to live up to this big contract. Even though it doesn’t kick in for another year, he’ll want to have a big year to show management that they did the right thing by giving him the contract now. Hell, if Duchene doesn’t have a good season, I wouldn’t be shocked if tries to restructure his contract, even though I know that can’t happen.

I expect a big year out of Duchene though. Not just because this contract has raised expectations, but because he knows that this is his team now. He and P.A. Parenteau had excellent chemistry last year and that should carry over into this year. Plus O’Reilly will be added to that line, which will take some defensive pressure off of Duchene. Not only that, but O’Reilly has very good puck control and creates a lot of turnovers, which should allow Duchene to use his speed to get open or create odd man rushes.

Don’t be surprised if Duchene puts up the best numbers of his career this season.

Thunder – Martin Trade Exception/Pursuing Mike Miller: In the end, the Oklahoma City Thunder got a little something for Kevin Martin in the form of a trade exception, which allows them to take salary without giving any back. It doesn’t sound like much, but this is a pretty big exception (6.6 million) and general manager Sam Presti is very good at getting the most out of these things. More than anything, this extends the life of the James Harden deal since the Thunder didn’t let Martin walk away for nothing. Let’s say this trade exception turns into a valuable player or draft picks who turn into valuable players, you have to take that into consideration when evaluating the Harden deal.

Don’t tell Bill Simmons this, but the Harden deal can’t be judged for many years. First we need to see how Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, and Alex Abrines pan out. Then we need to see who the Thunder draft with the Dallas Mavericks future 1st round pick and how he pans out. Now we have to see what the Thunder do with this trade exception and how that works out. The Thunder traded one piece for an entire puzzle that is going to take years to come together.

In a potential short term move, the Thunder is trying to sign Mike Miller, who was recently amnestied by the Miami Heat. Because Miller will continue to be paid by the Heat, he can take a lesser contract with a contender. I could stand Miller on the heat, but I’d welcome him to the Thunder.

He can’t play defense and he’s not going to handle the ball, but he can stand still and knock down jumpers better than 95% of the league. That’s something the Thunder could use, especially in a league that has gone small. Miller would see a lot of open looks as teams collapse on a driving Russell Westbrook or double Kevin Durant.

A small ball lineup with Westbrook, Reggie Jackson (or Jeremy Lamb or Thabo Sefalosha, depending on who is shooting better), Mike Miller, Durant, and Serge Ibaka is a pretty scary offensively. Miller’s minutes would have to be managed and there are obviously injury risks involved, but it’s a relatively low risk signing that has big time potential if Miller is able to knockdown three’s for the Thunder like he did with the Heat, especially in the playoffs.

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