Fact or Fiction: Oklahoma City Thunder

Fact or Fiction: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the early stages of their rebuild and have many questions to be asked. Can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make the All-Star game this year? Will Derrick Favors play for them? Do they have pieces of their future already? Will they be the worst team in the league this year?

We’ve got you covered with our Fact or Fiction series. It features the boldest and biggest claims being made about the Thunder and offers you the answer with a decisive fact or fiction.

Make sure to check out all of our other Fact or Fiction articles.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be an All-Star

Last season, Gilgeous-Alexander put up All-Star-level numbers but missed out on making the team, likely because the Thunder were not in playoff contention. In 2020, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23.7 points, dished out 5.9 assists, and grabbed 4.7 rebounds. He displayed an ability to step up and lead the Thunder after the departure of Chris Paul in the offseason. If Gilgeous-Alexander can take another step up this year, he will probably make the squad regardless of Oklahoma City’s status.

Verdict: True, Gilgeous-Alexander will make the All-Star team.

The Thunder will be the Worst Team in the NBA this Year

Last season, before the trade deadline, the Thunder were far from last place. They had a 20-29 record and were competing in many of their games. However, in the second half, things took a turn. Al Horford was shut down for the rest of the year and Gilgeous-Alexander sat due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. With the Thunder’s two best players going down, the team finished the year with a 2-22 record over their last 24 games. Even with the poor finish, the Thunder still did not end up last; they were five games ahead of the Houston Rockets, who only won 17 games.

This year, Thunder fans can expect a team that will compete every night. Although they lost Horford in the off-season, they brought in Derrick Favors, who was solid in 2020. He scored 5.4 points and picked up 5.5 rebounds in just 15.4 minutes per game. Between Gilgeous-Alexander’s play and rookies Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Aaron Wiggins all having the chance to make an impact early, it is unlikely the Thunder will finish last in the NBA.

Verdict: False, the Thunder have too much potential to finish last.

Derrick Favors will Play for the Thunder this Year

Favors is in a similar situation to the one that Horford was in last year. The center was on a “bad” contract that was deemed untradeable by most. The 76ers gave up a protected first-round and unprotected second-round pick plus more just to trade him. Horford was able to play well last year and drew league-wide interest. The Thunder traded him to the Boston Celtics along with other smaller assets for the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Kemba Walker, and a 2025 second-round pick. Favors, in a similar situation, was moved to the Thunder along with a future first-round pick for a second-rounder and cash considerations.

Since the Utah Jazz had to give up a first-round pick to get rid of Favors, it is unlikely the Thunder will be able to find a trade partner willing to take on his contract. They will probably have to play him with the hopes of boosting his value.

Additionally, the Thunder do not have many true centers on their roster. Aside from Mike Muscala, no one on the roster’s primary position is at the five. Favors and Muscala could split time at the position, with Robinson-Earl also taking some minutes there.

Verdict: True, there is not enough interest around the league to trade Favors.

The Thunder Have Key Pieces of their Future on the Roster

Oklahoma City’s roster already possesses multiple key pieces of their future. First, Gilgeous-Alexander, the team’s franchise cornerstone, has shown signs of improving each year he has played. The 23-year old has shown off his adaptability over the years and has played well in each role given to him. He recently signed a five-year, $172 million extension, indicating that the Thunder are fully invested in him for the future.

The next key player on their roster is Luguentz Dort. He has displayed his high-level defense over the last couple of years. Dort did a terrific job guarding James Harden in the 2020 playoffs. Although Harden had multiple 30 point games in the seven-game series when guarded by Dort, he was incredibly inefficient. Dort also showed off his offensive potential by scoring 30 points in Game 7 against the Rockets.

There are also others on this roster who have high ceilings. Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski have been inefficient offensively throughout their careers so far, but both have shown signs of their potential. Bazley has nice versatility on defense and has the ability to guard the three, four, and five. He also has upside on offense since he can drive to the rim and shoot the ball, though he needs to improve his consistency. Pokusevski is a seven-foot forward with guard skills. He is a terrific playmaker but needs to improve his shooting. The native of Serbia also needs to add muscle to improve as a defender, but his upside is clear.

Theo Maledon is another player that could become a key contributor in the future. He is an elite passer, solid shooter, and good defender. Maledon lacks scoring instincts, but clearly possesses upside.

The Thunder also added Giddey with the sixth pick in this year’s draft. He is an elite playmaker and has a nice frame with his 6’9″ height at the guard position. Other draft picks in Mann, Robinson-Earl, and Wiggins could all carve out large roles in the future, too.

Verdict: True, the Thunder already have their franchise cornerstone and other key pieces.

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