One of the NBA’s biggest storylines this season is Victor Wembanyama. Rebuilding teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder would love to get the French giant in the 2023 NBA Draft. His seven-foot frame and impressive offensive and defensive skills already have some teams tanking to get him.
However, let’s dare to ask something controversial. Is drafting Victor Wembanyama the right choice for the Thunder?
OKBET players who watch the NBA will be the first to tell you how fun it is to watch the Thunder this season. With Shae Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey leading the squad, this young and energetic Thunder squad is putting the league on notice.
They are far from a ragtag bunch of players under an unproven Mark Daigneault that many thought they would be ahead of the season. This piece will examine how the team is playing so well this season. We’ll also check what the Thunder Nation can expect from this ball club.
It’s Shai Time at OKC
Every NBA fan knows that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid player and is the centerpiece of their rebuilding efforts. However, people would be lying if they said they knew SGA would lead one of the most exciting League Pass teams.
The 24-year-old guard is having an incredible regular season so far. More than halfway through the season, he’s averaging around 30 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and a block a game on 51/31/91 shooting splits.
Gilgeous-Alexander is the runaway leader of the Most Improved Player honors with the stats he’s putting up. Kevin Garnett also noted that SGA would win the Michael Jordan trophy if not for his peers’ unbelievable production this season.
One of the reasons why he’s become such a productive player for the Thunder is his powerful playing style. His herky-jerky movements keep defenders honest when marking him. His explosive speed, unpredictable change of pace, the strength of his 6’6” frame, and deep bag of moves at the rim allow him to overpower his opponents.
Moreover, his playmaking makes him a tough player to double. If the defending team collapses to double- or triple-team him, he has the vision to make an outlet pass to a waiting teammate. He also has an intricate pick-and-roll game with the team’s bigs.
SGA’s All-Star season is the biggest reason the Thunder is fighting for a playoff spot. If he continues his development, there’s no reason why he won’t become a future MVP candidate.
The Thunder Is Feeling Giddey
The Thunder’s other playmaker is helping them make an easier call to end their rebuilding process and start their championship chase.
Josh Giddey was polarizing when they drafted him sixth overall in the 2021 Draft. Many sites booked him at the late lottery, so Thunder fans were somewhat puzzled when they brought the Australian to the side.
His rookie season was decent, but nothing to write home about. He averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on 42% FG and 26% 3FG. He was a playmaking threat, but his lack of scoring allowed defenses to sag off him.
However, his second NBA campaign saw him improve his production across the board. He’s getting 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on more attempts and better shooting splits (49/33/78). Guards are becoming warier of his shooting, which allows him to drive better into the basket and make easy dishes to open teammates.
While it’s illogical to expect him to become a dangerous three-level scorer, his scoring has improved to the point that he is a legitimate scoring threat. It’s fascinating to know that Giddey can still improve his already-great play since he’s only 20.
Sam Presti’s Superb Team Building
Oklahoma City held a lot of draft capital after trading Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets and Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers. Some thought it would take a while before the team returned to playoff basketball.
While SGA’s growth as the team’s first option accelerated their plans, the team’s smart team-building decisions gave them a decent roster that would allow them to build up for playoff contention.
Lu Dort is at the heart of OKC’s solid roster of role players. Over the past two years, he blossomed as one of the team’s top perimeter defenders. He’s currently the third-best scorer on this upstart Thunder squad with 14 points on 41% FG efficiency and 36% accuracy from deep.
Aleksej Pokusevsky is an interesting player for the Thunder. While he’s not playing starter-quality minutes, he’s shown flashes of what he can do. He’s a good three-point threat with a 38% shooting clip from beyond the three-point line. He’s also contributing on the defensive end with five rebounds and a block every night.
Jalen Williams is the latest product of OKC’s treasure trove of picks, and he’s already looking like a terrific addition. The 6’6” shooting guard is netting 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on decent shooting percentages. While his three-point shooting needs work, he’s becoming an indispensable part of their rotation.
Kenrich Williams, Tre Mann, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are other solid players off the bench for a young but exciting OKC squad. Sam Presti will have a lot of fun finding the right pieces to take the Thunder over the edge.
The Resurrection of the Baby Thunder?
It’s hard not to feel excited about the situation at Oklahoma City, whether you’re a fan of the team or not. However, we haven’t even discussed what their prize pick in the 2022 Draft could do in the NBA.
For long stretches of the 2021-22 season, Chet Holmgren was considered the consensus first pick of the draft. The seven-footer from Minneapolis, MN can score anywhere on the court. His outstanding frame and wingspan make him a terrific rebounder and rim protector.
However, the one-and-done Gonzaga product had to sit out his rookie year due to a Lisfranc injury. The big man has since gone under the knife and is currently focusing on rehabilitation.
OKC fans would struggle to stop comparing their three young stars to the Baby Thunder team that took the league by storm in the early 2010s. Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden helped OKC make an improbable run to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they fell to an experienced Miami Heat.
The parallels between the two groups are easy to notice. Holmgren is the white version of a young Durant, while Giddey occupies the weird space Harden took when he was starting off the bench. Meanwhile, SGA is Brodie with a three-point shot.
What’s Next for OKC?
These are exciting times for Oklahoma City basketball. SGA is quickly becoming a superstar, Giddey is improving by leaps and bounds, and the team is playing entertaining basketball. Moreover, Holmgren promises a bright future for this upstart squad.
All the Thunder needs to do is make the play-in to make it a successful season. Anything beyond that can be considered a huge bonus.
With how things are going for the Thunder, they don’t need Victor Wembanyama. Building on what they have now should become the way to go for this exciting basketball team.