The Golden State Warriors' offense, led by the Splash Brothers, was at its destructive best in Thursday night's 123-110 victory over the Miami Heat.

In a strong four-quarter performance, the Warriors scored between 29 and 32 points in all four periods, led by iconic backcourt duo Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Curry was the game's top-scorer with 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting, hitting seven of his 14 three-point attempts. 

Thompson also got up 14 three-point attempts as the Warriors – who play at the fastest pace in the league at 111.7 possessions per game – were determined to let it fly from deep.

The second Splash Brother hit five of his 14 attempts, while going one-of-five from two-point range for 19 points of his own. They were supported strongly by Andrew Wiggins, who grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds to go with his 18 points (five-of-10 shooting).

For the Heat, Jimmy Butler was terrific on both ends, leading his team with 27 points on an incredibly efficient eight-of-13 from the field (four-of-seven from deep, made all seven free throws), while adding eight assists, six rebounds and six steals.

The win means the defending champions are 3-2 through their first five games, while Miami fell to 2-4.

The Baniac delivers again

Memphis Grizzlies wing Desmond Bane is in a rich vein of form, and he led the way with 31 points in a 125-110 win against the Sacramento Kings.

It is the second consecutive game Bane has top-scored for the Grizzlies in a win, after dropping 38 to tie with teammate Ja Morant and set a new franchise record for points by a duo (76) in their victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Against the Kings, Bane stayed red-hot as he made 11-of-18 field goal attempts, including six-of-eight from long range in a true sharpshooter's performance.

One of the best shooters in the entire NBA, Bane now boasts a career three-point percentage of 43.3 per cent on 5.6 attempts per game.

Thunder collect another win over the Clippers

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers for the second time in the past three days with a 118-110 triumph.

Los Angeles were missing stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when they rolled into Oklahoma City for a two-game road trip, and were still without Leonard as George returned to the lineup.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24 points on 10-of-23 shooting) and Luguentz Dort (21 points on nine-of-15) carried the offensive load for the Thunder, while George was much less effective for the Clippers.

George could only muster 10 points on four-of-12 shooting, while center Ivica Zubac grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds with his 12 points. After starting their season with two wins, the Clippers have now lost their past three.

Devin Booker continued his prolific start to the season as the Phoenix Suns flexed their offensive muscle with a 134-105 win over Western Conference rivals Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

Booker, who turns 26 on Sunday, became the first player in franchise history to have three 30-point games in the first four of a season, finishing with 34 on 10-of-19 shooting from the field with seven assists and three steals.

Deandre Ayton added 16 points with 14 rebounds, including 11 in the first half, while Chris Paul had 16 points with seven rebounds and nine assists.

The Suns, who improved to 3-1, shot at 41 per cent from the field, making 12-of-29 three-pointers, with Paul draining four-of-five from beyond the arc. Phoenix outscored the Warriors 62-39 in the second half.

The reigning champions, who moved to 2-2, continued their worrying defensive start to the season, having conceded 109 or more points in all four of their games this season, averaging 124 points against per game.

Stephen Curry managed 21 points to end his 30-point run to start the season, shooting seven-of-17 from the field and four triples.

Jordan Poole was productive off the bench with 17 points, including 14 in the first half. Klay Thompson was ordinary again with two points, shooting none-of-five from three-point range.

Pels triumph over Doncic's Mavs despite key outs

The New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of Zion Williamson (hip) and Brandon Ingram (concussion) along with a Luka Doncic masterclass to win 113-111 over the Dallas Mavericks.

Doncic scored 37 points on 16-of-30 shooting, with 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Mavs, but the undermanned Pels triumphed, led by Trey Murphy with a team-high 22 points with 100 per cent shooting. 

C.J. McCollum struggled to find his range, shooting six-of-20 for 14 points but eight Pels players reached double-figure scoring as they improved to 3-1 to start the season. 

Doncic became the first Mav to ever open a season with three straight 30-point games. The Slovenian is also only the second player in NBA history with 100-plus points, 25-plus rebounds and 20-plus assists through the first three games of a season.

SGA's OKC down short-handed Clippers

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander produced a dominant all-round display with 33 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder cruised past the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers 108-94.

The Clippers were without former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard due to knee soreness along with seven-time All-Star Paul George with illness, with the defeat seeing them slip to 1-3.

Gilgeous-Alexander went at 50 per cent from the field, making two-of-two from beyond the arc, with five rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and three steals in a masterful display, while Tre Mann scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half.

Kawhi Leonard is experiencing stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee and has subsequently been ruled out of the Los Angeles Clippers' next two games.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP missed all of last season after tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs and has played 21 minutes off the bench in two of the Clippers' three opening games this season.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue revealed ahead of Tuesday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder that Leonard had not suffered a setback but would sit out of their next two games, including Thursday's second game at OKC.

"After shootaround, [he] experienced some stiffness in his knee," Lue told reporters. "We want to be cautious, make sure we're doing the right thing by him, even though he wanted to play.

"We just thought it wasn't smart. He can be mad at us if he wants to but just not smart right now."

The Clippers are opting for a cautious approach with Leonard, who will fly back to Los Angeles on Wednesday to undergo treatment, with the team to monitor him before making a call on his availability for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

"That [soreness] is part of the process when you have ACL surgery," Lue said. "It's known to happen to get a little stiffness so we just got to be smart about it."

The 31-year-old has averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.0 assists in his two games this season, shooting at 44.4 per cent from the field.

The NBA is back, which means excitement for most fanbases – but anxiety for others.

The new season should ensure a clean slate for everyone, but some situations have been allowed to fester in recent months without the distraction of on-court action.

Now, even with basketball returning, developments around Kevin Durant's future might prove every bit as intriguing to the neutral as anything that happens in the regular season.

And Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are not the only player-team combo in a tricky spot heading into the year...

Everyone at the Lakers

Before considering the wide-ranging implications of Durant's trade request, let's check in on last year's team in crisis.

Plenty of outsiders could have forecast difficulties for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined in a 'big three' by Russell Westbrook – at this stage in his career, consistent only in using up a huge number of possessions.

Westbrook had averaged a usage rate above 30 per cent in every season between 2014-15 and 2020-21, with his average over the seven seasons (34.6 per cent) only narrowly trailing James Harden's league-leading 34.7 per cent (minimum 500 possessions). A ball-dominant player on often mediocre teams, Westbrook's winning percentage of 59.2 ranked 109th over this period among those to play 100 or more games. Harden (66.2) was a far more respectable 29th.

Although his usage dipped to 27.5 per cent around better players in LA, Westbrook remained every bit as erratic as expected and, unfortunately for the Lakers, played more than 500 more minutes than any team-mate – comfortably ahead of an ageing James and bulkier Davis.

The three superstars started just 21 games together and even then only scraped a winning record at 11-10.

Having missed the playoffs – and even the play-in – in 11th in the West, the Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel, perhaps optimistically hoping he alone was the problem, and brought back each of James, Davis and Westbrook.

Seemingly determined to further upset a team who won the title just two years ago, the Lakers were also linked with a move for Kyrie Irving before settling instead on Patrick Beverley, who might prove only marginally less disruptive.

Westbrook and Beverley have repeatedly clashed in the past, although the new Lakers signing has described his team-mate as "someone I always wanted to play with", praising his "competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit".

New coach Darvin Ham thinks the pair can work together, but the potential for fireworks is considerable even before taking into account James' own "competitive spirit".

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets

The 2019 free agency moves for Durant and Irving certainly made the Nets relevant. But they haven't yet made them successful. And right now, Brooklyn might be the most explosive environment in the NBA.

Durant missed their first year together with an Achilles injury sustained playing for the Golden State Warriors, yet the Nets have still only won seven playoff games in the past three postseasons – all seven of those wins coming in a short-lived 2020-21 run.

Last season, as they had been in their first season with Durant and Irving, Brooklyn were swept in the first round. It concluded a miserable campaign that was not about to get better in the offseason.

With Irving unvaccinated and so unable to play in New York City until March, he and Durant started only 17 games together in the regular season. The Nets had started the season with their own 'big three', but Harden – much to his frustration – appeared just twice alongside the star pairing before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came in the other direction and did not play once.

Far from a happy camp, when Irving then opted in to the final year of his contract in late June, the Nets were vulnerable to a trade request from Durant, which quickly followed.

However, with four years remaining on his own deal and Brooklyn asking for a huge price in trade talks, it was reported Durant had returned to the Nets and promised to stay if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Ultimately, Durant "agreed to move forward with our partnership" – as Marks phrased it – regardless, with Nash saying in September his relationship with the superstar was "good".

"I love the guy," added Nash, who understood Durant being "seething" at the end of the season. "Families have issues. We had a moment, and it's behind us. That's what happens."

In theory – especially if Simmons can return to his two-time All-Defensive First Team best – the Nets could have a great team in 2022-23.

Yet based on how this project has gone so far, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Brooklyn endure another desperately disappointing season and are again left attempting to convince Durant to stay.

James Harden at the 76ers

The 76ers moved one miserable superstar in Simmons for another in Harden, which was only enough to take them as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

And en route to that unsatisfactory conclusion, team-mate Joel Embiid was not shy in criticising Harden, repeatedly calling on him to be more aggressive while recognising he is no longer "the Houston James Harden".

It was an understandable complaint; Harden attempted only 13.6 field goals per game for the Sixers in the regular season – little more than half the number of shots he was taking in 2018-19 for the Houston Rockets (24.5), when he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game. He was also only making 40.2 per cent of his field goal attempts in Philly, down on every other season in his career.

So far, it is fair to say this has not worked. Doc Rivers, in a training camp clip published by the NBA, told Harden he and Embiid needed to "listen to each other" and acknowledged the partnership needed work as it was "unnatural".

Echoing some of Embiid's complaints, coach Rivers said: "You can't just say you're a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator."

Rivers for now believes it can still be fixed. "When it clicks, James, we're going to be unbeatable," he told a player who, for his part, agreed to a restructured contract that allowed Philly to bolster their roster in the offseason.

But this team – and certainly Embiid – might argue more help would not be required if Harden played in the manner he is capable.

"We've got to establish Joel and you – it's a pecking order," added Rivers. "This ain't a democracy."

Embiid may not believe this is "the Houston James Harden", but the team and Harden himself seemingly do, with the former Rocket announcing: "If my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP – and I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be."

Harden needs to start showing that, or this time his team might tire of him, rather than the other way around.

Jaylen Brown at the Celtics

Little has gone to plan for the Boston Celtics since winning Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals, as they lost the next three to the Warriors and then saw preparations for a bounce-back season in 2022-23 rocked by a number of key absences.

Boston will begin the year without new signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL playing for Italy, Robert Williams, who has also undergone knee surgery, and, crucially, coach Ime Udoka.

Udoka had turned around his first season as a head coach spectacularly, with the Celtics tied for ninth in the East at the turn of the year after a 17-19 start before leading the conference the rest of the way (34-12) to take the second seed.

But a year-long suspension for Udoka "for violations of team policies" was announced by the team last month.

And even between the ultimately disappointing postseason and repeatedly disrupted preseason, not everything was rosy, with Boston also impacted by the Durant saga.

When Durant looked to be on the move, reports claimed the Celtics had offered the Nets a package that included Jaylen Brown. That trade did not materialise, of course, but it is difficult to imagine Brown was too impressed.

In recent seasons, Brown has been hugely valuable to the Celtics – not least because he is being paid below his value.

Brown is one of only 11 players who has scored at least 1,400 points at an average of at least 23.5 per game in each of the past two seasons. Of the other 10, four have current or future contracts with an average annual value of more than $50m, another four are being paid over $40m per year, and the final two are bringing in a salary in excess of $30m a season.

Brown's deal, which ranks outside the top 50 contracts in the NBA in both total value and average annual value, earns him $26.6m each year.

And the rules around NBA extensions will prevent Brown being paid on par with his contemporaries unless he makes All-NBA in one of the two seasons remaining on his contract.

In theory, that carrot should encourage Brown to enjoy another big season, but at a franchise as fractured as the Celtics have suddenly become, focus could understandably drift instead towards free agency in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the Thunder

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have the pressure of needing to win now – but that is part of the problem.

OKC moved on their ageing stars, loaded up on draft picks and put together a young core that includes Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That is all very exciting... or at least it will be.

Rookie Holmgren is down for the year, seemingly making this another season in which the Thunder will lose games and then see what they can do in the draft.

That is no great issue for 20-year-old Holmgren or 19-year-old Giddey, but it does not suit Gilgeous-Alexander, now 24 and entering his fifth year, quite so much – even if he also starts the year injured.

Among the 63 players to score 2,000 or more points across the past two seasons combined, Gilgeous-Alexander ranked 18th for points per game (24.2). He ranked 61st for wins (32).

This is not a case of an average player stat-padding on a bad team; he is simply too good to be in this situation.

And having agreed a five-year extension in August ahead of Holmgren's injury, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander had unknowingly signed up for more of the same.

He disagrees, insisting: "I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension. I don't think we're going to be losing for much longer. It's not like I signed up to lose."

But lose they will, if they have any sense – and past experience suggests they do.

Without Holmgren, the Thunder are not going to be in any position to seriously compete, which opens up the possibility to pick high in a draft that includes a potentially generational talent in Victor Wembanyama.

At some stage, OKC will be ready, but that is not now, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be forgiven for finding his patience waning.

The Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder have negotiated an eight-player trade, according to reports.

The deal will see center Derrick Favors head to the Rockets, along with Ty Jerome, Theo Maledon, Moe Harkless and a 2025 second-round draft pick.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Thunder will in turn receive David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss from Houston.

It would mean the Thunder will have dropped roughly $10million below the luxury tax threshold, and both teams will have 18 guaranteed contracts on their rosters, which need to be reduced to 15 by October 17.

OKC only acquired Harkless and the 2025 draft pick in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Vit Krejci earlier this week, presumably with this deal in mind.

Of the players traded, only Maledon and Nwaba are under contract for the 2023-24 season, both with team options.

The Rockets get their pre-season under way on Sunday with a game against the San Antonio Spurs, while the Thunder face the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will miss the start of Oklahoma City Thunder's preseason training camp due to a knee injury.

The guard has sustained a grade two MCL sprain in his left knee just under a month before the Thunder start their NBA campaign with a road game at the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 19.

Gilgeous-Alexander will be assessed again in a fortnight to discover when he may be able to return.

The Canadian will play no part in the preseason games against the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks on October 3 and 5 respectively.

Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 56 games last season before being sidelined by an ankle injury.

Oklahoma City Thunder big man Chet Holmgren, the second overall pick of this year's draft, will miss the entire 2022-23 season with a Lisfranc injury sustained in his right foot.

Holmgren suffered the injury in the CrawsOver Pro-Am event on Saturday in Seattle while slipping on the court defending LeBron James.

The game Holmgren was injured in ended up being cancelled because of a slippery court caused by humid conditions combined with a large crowd at the Seattle gym.

"Certainly, we are disappointed for Chet, especially given the excitement he had about getting on the floor with his teammates this season," Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. "We know Chet has a long career ahead of him within our organisation and the Oklahoma City community."

Holmgren and James were a part of a handful of NBA players in the pro-am along with Jayson Tatum, Dejounte Murray, Aaron Gordon and the only player selected ahead of Holmgren in this year's draft, Paolo Banchero.

The Thunder drafted Holmgren after he averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 32 games in his lone collegiate season for Gonzaga in 2021-22.

Not only an excellent rim-protector on defense, Holmgren was a solid perimeter shooter for his size, knocking down 39.0 per cent of his three-point attempts.

Despite his thin stature, Holmgren did not appear to have any trouble making the transition to the pro game, averaging 14 points and 8.4 rebounds in five games for the Thunder at the Las Vegas Summer League.

"One of the things that most impressed us during the process of selecting Chet was his determination and focus," Presti said. "We expect that same tenacity will carry him through this period of time as we work together and support him during his rehabilitation."

The Sacramento Kings ultimately went down 86-80 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, but Keegan Murray put on a show for the Las Vegas Summer League crowd.

Murray, the fourth overall pick in last month's NBA Draft, was the best player on the court in the contest, scoring a game-high 29 points on an efficient nine-of-17 from the field, adding seven rebounds and four steals.

In his 34 minutes, he posted a plus/minus of plus 12, meaning his Kings team was outscored by 18 in the six minutes he was on the bench.

On the other side, second overall pick Chet Holmgren was quiet offensively, only scoring eight points on three-of-eight shooting, but he demonstrated the all-round game that will make him one of the NBA's unique talents.

Holmgren racked up five steals, dished three assists and hit a three-pointer in his 26 minutes.

Fellow Thunder lottery picks Ousmane Dieng (pick 11) and Jalen Williams (pick 12) were both strong, scoring 12 points each while shooting at least 50 per cent from the field and from three.

There was another strong rookie matchup as the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 91-80, with second-round pick Bryce McGowens tallying 24 points on just 10 shots.

McGowens was seven-of-10 from the field, five-of-six from long range and five-of-six at the free throw line, while team-mate LiAngelo Ball – brother of LaMelo and Lonzo – scored 12 points in 12 minutes off the bench.

On the Cavs' side, 14th pick Ochai Agbaji showed why he was the only college senior to be selected in the first round.

He projects as a starting wing from day one, and he showcased his two-way game with three steals on the defensive end to complement his 24 points, hitting seven-of-13 from the field and four-of-eight from deep.

Jabari Smith Jr had his best Las Vegas Summer League performance on Monday, helping the Houston Rockets defeat the San Antonio Spurs 97-84.

After a pair of inefficient showings – going four-of-10 for his 10 points in the opener against the Orlando Magic and five-of-19 for 12 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder – Smith found his range against the Spurs.

He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, two steals and one block as he displayed impressive defensive versatility, and he shot six-of-12 from the field, three-of-five from long range and four-of-five at the free throw line.

Smith, at six-foot-10 with a seven-foot-one wingspan, showed he can guard at least three positions, with only enormous centres and small, shifty point guards figuring to pose any threat to the smooth-moving wing.

He combined well at both ends with fellow first-round pick Tari Eason (17th selection) who shined with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals, hitting nine-of-16 from the field and two of his three attempts from range.

Spurs first-round picks Malaki Branham (20th selection) and Blake Wesley (25th selection) also both showed strong two-way games.

Branham scored a team-high 20 points on eight-of-18 shooting, and while Wesley was much less accurate (three-of-20 from the field for 14 points), he got to the free throw line (eight-of-nine), and collected team-highs in assists (four) and steals (three).

Immediately following that game was Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder as they beat the Orlando Magic 84-81 hours after it was announced the Magic's top pick Paolo Banchero would not participate in any more Summer League action.

While the Magic believe they have seen all they needed from Banchero, the Thunder are using Summer League to build chemistry between their young core, with second-year point guard Josh Giddey also suiting up again.

Holmgren led his team in points with 16 on seven-of-10 shooting, and rebounds with 10, while blocking two shots and dishing two assists.

Giddey's goal of becoming a more efficient scorer is still a work-in-progress, finishing three-of-11 from the field for his 12 points, but his all-round game continues to blossom as he posted eight assists and seven rebounds.

In another notable stat-line, the seven-foot-five Tacko Fall came off the bench for the Utah Jazz against the Dallas Mavericks and collected an outrageous 15 rebounds in 17 minutes, with 13 of his rebounds coming on the offensive end. He also scored 12 points and blocked three shots.

Oklahoma City Thunder second-year standout Josh Giddey posted a triple-double in his side's 87-71 win against the Memphis Grizzlies in Wednesday's Summer League action.

Giddey, who at 19 years old is still younger than team-mate and newly acquired second overall pick Chet Holmgren, was in total control against a Grizzlies team consisting of players battling for the last few roster spots.

He finished with 14 points on seven-of-15 shooting, with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Holmgren could not match his incredible debut where he set the Summer League record with six blocks, but he still found a way to contribute despite shooting three-of-11 from the field. He scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished three assists and blocked two shots.

The seven-foot-one, 195-pound rookie was locked in a tantalising matchup against the Grizzlies' Kenny Lofton Jr, who measures in at six-foot-six and 290 pounds. Lofton's massive weight advantage provided a glimpse into the potential struggles Holmgren will face early in his career as he was physically pushed around at times on Lofton's way to 19 points on eight-of-17 shooting.

The Thunder's other two lottery picks were also serviceable, with Jalen Williams hitting all three of his three-point attempts on his way to 16 points, two assists and two steals, while the six-foot-11 Ousmane Dieng hit two-of-five from long range and collected a couple of assists.

Later in the day, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Utah Jazz 86-82 in a game where Charles Bassey made his case as the back-up center behind Joel Embiid.

Bassey, the 76ers' second-round pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, scored 17 points (seven-of-12 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and snatched four steals as he made the most of his seven-foot-three wingspan.

For the Jazz, there were signs of life from Bruno Caboclo – the man who became famous for being called "two years away from being two years away" by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla when he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Caboclo was out of the league this past season, but at six-foot-nine with a ridiculous seven-foot-seven wingspan, and an improved three-point stroke, the 26-year-old has a chance to make another run at sticking in the NBA after stuffing the stat sheet.

He scored 16 points with six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks – although he did commit five turnovers and seven personal fouls.

Chet Holmgren has lived up to the hype in his professional debut in the NBA summer league with a record-breaking performance.

Holmgren, who was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder at second behind Paolo Banchero in the NBA Draft a fortnight ago, scored 23 points with seven rebounds and four assists in a 98-77 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Gonzaga center impressed with a history-making record for blocks and three-pointers in a game, becoming the first player in summer league history to record at least five blocks and hit four three-pointers.

Holmgren finished with six blocks and shot four-of-six from beyond the arc in 24 minutes.

"Shout out to my teammates for setting me up, talking to me, just putting me in position to be successful," Holmgren told ESPN after the game.

Holmgren's Australian teammate Josh Giddey, who was a Rookie of the Year contender last season after going at pick six, praised the seven-footer who is generating plenty of hype.

"The hype that he came in with, the way he played tonight was big for us," Giddey said.

"Being a high pick like that, there's a lot of pressure coming in, and he handled it as good as he could have.

"It makes my job easy playing with someone like him. He can stretch the floor, finish at the rim. He protects me, he's got my back on the defensive end. So love playing with him.

"It's been one game, and the chemistry's only getting stronger."

Lu Dort, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker were among the players to get paid on a busy Thursday evening of free agency action.

Dort was shown good faith by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted to decline his team option that would have kept him on a $1.9million deal for next season, instead choosing to sign him to a five-year, $87.5million extension.

On a roster stacked with rookie salaries, the Thunder simply need to have some bigger contracts on their books to meet the league's salary floor, and in doing so they have rewarded a player who has become a cult figure, averaging 17.2 points per game this past season while being his side's premier wing defender.

Speaking of cult figures, Portis' connection with the Milwaukee Bucks after helping to deliver the city their second NBA championship was strong enough to have him stick around for the following year on just over $4m.

That loyalty was rewarded with a new four-year, $49m deal that will keep the 27-year-old big-man in Milwaukee until after the 2026 playoffs.

The Bucks also made a second notable move, signing 34-year-old free agent Joe Ingles to a one-year, $6.5m contract. Ingles suffered a season-ending injury with the Utah Jazz this past season, but figures to fill a role as a 41 per cent career three-point shooter, who can also handle, pass and defend at six-foot-eight.

Tucker was also a member of the Bucks' 2021 championship team, and after contributing to the Miami Heat's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the 37-year-old has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $33m.

Over the years, Tucker has evolved into one of the game's best corner three point shooters, and across the past five seasons he has started 77 playoff games, often guarding the opposition's most dangerous wing scorer.

While Tucker is getting paid to come and provide a stabilising force, the Portland Trail Blazers are paying for upside with their four-year, $100m commitment to breakout guard Anfernee Simons.

After averaging no more than 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in each of his first three campaigns, the 23-year-old shot into mainstream attention this season and he piled up numbers on a Trail Blazers team that was missing star Damian Lillard through injury.

Simons started a career-high 30 games, and put up career-high numbers across the board. He averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting an impressive 40 per cent from three on an aggressive 7.8 attempts per game, emerging as one of the game's more lethal pull-up shooters from distance.

Backup point guard Tyus Jones will return to the Memphis Grizzlies on a two-year, $30m contract after a season where he became one of the league's most valuable backups.

Jones led the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.4 – putting a gap on the rest of the field – with his brother, Tre Jones of the Spurs, in second place at 5.1.

He also shot a career-high 39 per cent from long range, and averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds without Ja Morant in the line-up, making him one of the main reasons the Grizzlies were 20-5 in the 25 games their superstar point guard missed due to injury.

Chet Holmgren revealed he had already been in contact with Josh Giddey before his selection by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Thursday's 2022 NBA Draft.

The 19-year-old Australian represents a significant part of the Thunder's future plans, averaging 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in his rookie season, with Holmgren disclosing discussions between the two on how and where they could both fit.

While the 20-year-old Holmgren insisted he is eager to meet all of his future team-mates upon arriving in Oklahoma City, Giddey is a particular case after already outlining their potential future.

"I'm looking forward to meeting all of them and getting to work with all of them," Holmgren said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "But I've been speaking to Josh a little bit throughout this process, so I'm definitely looking forward to finally meeting him.

"[The discussion] hasn't been so much advice yet, as much as it has been talking about the Thunder and what they are, what he sees in me and how we can play together."

Even after Paolo Banchero was taken first by the Orlando Magic, there was little surprise Thunder general manager Sam Presti would then go with Holmgren at number two.

As a big who can stretch the floor, the seven-foot-one Holmgren exhibited unique shooting touch for his size in his freshman year at Gonzaga, potentially creating more space for someone like Giddey to make plays.

Despite leading the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament and the likely scenario of a lottery pick on Thursday, Holmgren still found it all surreal upon his selection.

"Obviously, Paolo's a hell of a player, he said. "I'm proud of him, and I'm happy for him, but when I heard my name, it was nothing but excitement, and I'm ready to get to work.

"I can't even describe it. I've got zero words for the 1,000 emotions that I'm having right now, but they're all very good."

To echo Kevin Durant's thoughts during Thursday's 2022 NBA Draft, it is a wing's league as size, length and shooting proved desirable for front offices, with the Orlando Magic taking Paolo Banchero first. 

The NBA's stylistic pivot towards skill and versatility since the introduction of the defensive three-second rule has necessitated the recruitment of more skilled and flexible players on both ends.

Banchero serves as an apt first selection in this respect - a 6-foot-9 forward with the ability to create his own shot and make decisions with the ball in his hands, as well the versatility to switch on the defensive end.

From the likes of Mario Hezonja to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic have had a predisposition towards rangy forwards who struggle to stretch the floor in recent years, though. Whether Banchero can improve on his outside shooting could again prove definitive in their rebuild.

The Duke freshman averaged 17.2 points per game but connected on 33.8 per cent of shots from three-point range, with their elimination in the Final Four characterised by defenders sagging off him.

A slight improvement at NBA level would be needed in this respect, to force close-outs and help maximise his ability to get to the basket.

Size and shooting are the primary characteristics for others in the lottery however, with Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. the other standouts in this year's draft class.

The 7-foot-1 Holmgren has reportedly set a goal of achieving 50/40/90 shooting splits in the NBA, which previously would have been unheard for someone his size.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10 Smith presents a similar spacing threat for his size, with ability to quickly get shots up off the catch or when putting the ball on the floor.

Eight of the top ten picks were within the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-10 range, before even considering the added dynamics of wingspan on the defensive end.

Shooting took over as the most sought-after skill in the late stages of the first round and early parts of the second, with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat respectively going for Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Nikola Jovic.

TyTy Washington is yet another example of the value placed in shooting and skill for the Houston Rockets, seemingly seeking their own answer to the Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey.

 

2022 NBA Draft first-round picks

1. Orlando Magic - Paolo Banchero (Duke)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
3. Houston Rockets - Jabari Smith (Auburn)
4. Sacramento Kings - Keegan Murray (Iowa)
5. Detroit Pistons - Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
6. Indiana Pacers - Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
7. Portland Trail Blazers - Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)
8. New Orleans Pelicans - Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)
9. San Antonio Spurs - Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
10. Washington Wizards - Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder - Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand)
12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jalen Williams (Santa Clara)
13. Detroit Pistons - Jalen Duren (Memphis)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers - Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
15. Charlotte Hornets - Mark Williams (Duke)
16. Atlanta Hawks - AJ Griffin (Duke)
17. Houston Rockets - Tari Eason (LSU)
18. Chicago Bulls - Dalen Terry (Arizona)
19. Memphis Grizzlies - Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest)
20. San Antonio Spurs - Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
21. Denver Nuggets - Christian Braun (Kansas)
22. Minnesota Timberwolves - Walker Kessler (Auburn)
23. Memphis Grizzlies - David Roddy (Colorado State)
24. Milwaukee Bucks - MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite)
25. San Antonio Spurs - Blake Wesley (Notre Dame)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke)
27. Miami Heat - Nikola Jovic (Serbia)
28. Golden State Warriors - Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee)
29. Houston Rockets - TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky)
30. Denver Nuggets - Peyton Watson (UCLA)

The Orlando Magic sprung a surprise on Thursday, taking Paolo Banchero with the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder followed up by selecting Chet Holmgren second overall and although many projected him to be the top pick coming into Thursday, the Houston Rockets took Jabari Smith third. 

Reflecting the evolving nature of the NBA, the Magic looked to the wing this time in Banchero, selecting front-court prospects with their previous three top selections in franchise history, in the form of Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Dwight Howard. 

"I don't even know what to say. I really can't believe what just happened," Banchero said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "I never would have thought that this would happen. I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn't know I would be here. This is unbelievable.

Banchero is the fifth top selection to come from Duke University, following Art Heyman, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson, also making for the 13th consecutive freshman to be taken at first.

The 19-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists as he led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, earning first-team All-ACC selection and the ACC Rookie of the Year. 

As a big who can stretch the floor, the 7-foot-1 Holmgren exhibited unique shooting ability for his size in his freshman year at Gonzaga University, potentially creating more space for the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to make plays. 

Simiarly gifted for his size, the 6-foot-10 Smith is arguably the most NBA-ready of the three coming out of Auburn University, with his ability to score off the catch and off the dribble, along with a versatile defensive skill-set. 

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