Oklahoma City Thunder Team Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder Team Preview

by October 11, 2021 0 comments

The Oklahoma City Thunder were terrible in the second half of last year and their fans can expect a full season of it this year. Last season, they finished with a 22-50 record after starting the year after starting 20-28. Injuries to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort led the Thunder to a league-worst two wins in their last 24 games. Even with all the failure, they still were not the worst team and received the sixth-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery. Many fans were angry over the team’s second-half collapse, but there were some positives to the season. Gilgeous-Alexander showed tremendous improvement when healthy and other young players showed flashes of potential. The season was not a success but was far from a failure.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Trade Deadline Previews.

Offseason Recap

The Thunder had a rollercoaster of an offseason. From the 2021 NBA Draft to trading for more picks, the Thunder were active all summer. To start the summer, the Thunder gave away Moses Brown and Al Horford with a second-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Kemba Walker, first, and second-round picks. They used some of the picks they acquired to make draft night trades and ended up with Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Aaron Wiggins at the end of the night. They later bought out Walker and picked up Derrick Favors‘ contract with a future first-round pick in exchange for cash considerations from the Utah Jazz.

The Starting Five

PG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SG – Luguentz Dort

SF – Josh Giddey

PF – Darius Bazley

C – Isaiah Roby

The Thunder starting five is still up in the air. Gilgeous-Alexander, the star of the group, and Dort, a lockdown defender, are likely starters, but the rest is still to be determined. Gilgeous-Alexander did not make the all-star game last year, but he played like an all-star. Over 35 games, mostly in the early parts of the season, he averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds proving he can play the point guard position. Gilgeous-Alexander filled a void left behind by Chris Paul‘s departure via trade in the offseason well last year and will look to continue improving this year to become an all-star.

Dort continued his prowess on the defensive end last season, but an interesting development was his improvement on offense. He was more. productive offensively scoring 14 points per game while knocking down 34.3 percent of threes he attempted, a nice boost from 29.7 percent the previous year. Dort’s a reliable defensive-minded shooting guard/small forward which makes him valuable, but if he can be more than that is yet to be seen.

Giddey is technically a point guard, but his 6’9” height gives him versatility. He is an outstanding passer and has a nice floater. The rest of his offensive game needs work, but he will probably be able to hold his own because of his passing ability. Bazley is an intriguing player with lots of upside being able to play anywhere in the frontcourt but has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor. His 2020 campaign was poor offensively; although he scored 13.7 points per game, he contributed -2.3 win shares on offense. Additionally, his true shooting percentage of 49.1 percent was well below the league average of 57.2 percetn last year. He has shown flashes of creativity on offense, but how much consistency he can bring will be something to watch this year.

Roby is another player that fits the Thunder’s positionless basketball ideology. He has played a majority of his career at the power forward position but has shown the ability to move down low and play center. Last year, Roby spent 24 percent of his playing time at small forward, 46 percent at power forward, and 30 percent at the center position. Either Favors, Mike Muscala, or Roby could be the starter at the center position, but Roby’s youth could give him more chances on this rebuilding Thunder team.

The Bench

The sixth man for the Thunder could be Aleksej Pokusevski. He provides versatility with his 7’0” height and point guard skills, but can be a liability on the defensive end because of his lack of strength and inefficient on the offense side of the floor. Pokusevski was a poor 28 percent from beyond the arc last year and had -2.9 offensive win shares last year. He said he has gotten stronger since coming to Oklahoma City, but how much he has improved is something to look out for.

Theo Maledon is another player that could receive significant minutes off the bench. Maledon was one of the Thunder’s second-round picks last year. He was impressive in his rookie year, putting up 10.1 points and 3.5 assists per game. Maledon’s terrific passing ability was evident and he knocked down the three at a solid clip of 33.5 percent, but he will have to take another step up to prove worthy of a future roster spot.

Signs are looking good as he was impressive in Summer League and has said he is working on improving off-the-ball which is key to succeeding on a team with multiple players capable of taking primary ball-handling abilities. Favors, Kenrich Williams, Ty Jerome, and Robinson-Earl could all see the court every night off the bench as well. The Thunder bench has good depth with these players and positional versatility around the board.

One Potential Move to Make

A player that the Thunder should consider adding to their roster would be Sekou Doumbouya. The 2019 first-round pick was recently traded to and cut from the Houston Rockets and taking a bet on him would not hurt. Doumbouya’s defense is good and he can attack the rim well. However, his offensive game as a whole has been poor. Doumbouya showed flashes of upside throughout his time with the Detroit Pistons and if the Thunder help him live up to his potential it could help them significantly in the rebuilding process.

Season Outlook

The Thunder have low expectations this year and will probably be one of the worst teams in the league. Head coach Mark Daigneault is entering his second year with the team and will hope to see improvement from the young players even if the team is not successful. Maledon, Bazley, and Pokusevski will be three players to monitor and see if they can take a step up. Daigneault’s job is not on the hot seat since the front office is not expecting much from this year.

Season Prediction: 25-47 and 13th in the Western Conference


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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

Kamran Nia is a journalist from Los Angeles, California.

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