OKC: A Thunderous Future Incoming?
Oklahoma City may actually be ahead of schedule with their rebuild
Once the Oklahoma City Thunder traded away Russell Westbrook and Paul George, it was clear they were ready to rebuild. With multiple picks and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander headed to OKC, all eyes were set on the future. But could Oklahoma City already be ahead of schedule on their long-term rebuild?
Just simply looking at their record you’d say no. OKC is currently 18–40, which is fourth-worst in the NBA. But don’t get it twisted, Oklahoma City has multiple key building blocks for their franchise. Starting with the focal piece, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
SGA was the start of it all for OKC’s rebuild. The former Kentucky guard hasn’t disappointed either. Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 22.7 points along with 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game this season. He also has cut his turnovers down from 3 per game last season, to 2.4 per game this year.
Shai, who is only 23, will also be with the Thunder for the long haul. He recently inked a 5-year $172 million contract extension to stay with OKC.
Now Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t the end all for Oklahoma City’s young talent. As a matter of fact, he’s just the beginning.
SGA missing games this year, has highlighted the superstar potential of rookie guard Josh Giddey. Coming over from Australia, Giddey was a bit of an unknown. He entered the league as the sixth overall pick, but was portrayed has having multiple weaknesses. Fast forward a few months, and Giddey now finds himself in the Rookie of the Year race.
Giddey currently sits at third in the NBA’s rookie ladder. This fresh off of joining Oscar Robertson as the only rookies with three straight triple-doubles. A three game stretch which also puts the rookie guard at four total triple-doubles this season, tying him with Luka Doncic for the most by a teenager. A mark Giddey likely will beat considering he doesn’t turn 20 until October.
Currently averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, Josh Giddey certainly looks poised to be SGA’s backcourt partner for many years.
But the young talent doesn’t stop there. Enter defensive menace Lu Dort. The 22 year old forward who is known for his lockdown ability, has actually begun making a name for himself on the offensive side of the ball. Dort has upped his scoring in two years from 6.8 points per game, to 17.2 per game.
A true three-and-D guy, Dort recently went 46 consecutive games with at least one three-pointer made. And while he has yet to make an all-defensive team in his young career, Dort has received multiple votes for both first and second team honors.
The big three of the future is set for OKC. SGA, Giddey, and Dort are all 23 and under, and are all only improving. Along with them, potential role players like Tre Mann and Aleksej Pokusevski have also shown flashes.
Mann, a 21 year old rookie out of Florida, is coming off of back to back games in which he scored 30 and 24. The young guard has high end scoring potential and could be a great sixth-man in the future.
As for Pokusevski, he’s still kind of rough around the edges. He only averages 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. OKC knew it would take time however, drafting him out of Serbia.
The raw potential is there though. A seven footer who can handle and shoot like a guard was worth a flyer. Not for nothing, Pokusevski is the youngest player in NBA history with a 20+ point, 10+ rebound, and 5+ threes made game (19). Still only 20, and in just his second season, there’s plenty of time for Poku to develop.
As previously mentioned, Oklahoma City does have a bad record. The good news is that’s exactly what they want. OKC is loaded with talent at the guard position, but need help from a big. Good news for them, the top three prospects in this draft class are all power forwards.
Currently sitting with the fourth-worst record, as long as Oklahoma City secures a top three pick, they’ll be right on track. And even if they don’t, they certainly aren’t lacking the assets to move up.
That puts OKC with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Tre Mann, Aleksej Pokusevski, a top-three power forward, and still countless future first round selections. The young talent is there. The flexibility to move picks for more talent is there. I’d say the Oklahoma City Thunder are right where they want to be.