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2021-22 Season Preview

2021-22 Season Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder kick off the 2021-22 NBA season against the Utah Jazz tonight in Salt Lake City. Following yesterday’s 22 Statements Made with Extreme Confidence, the Daily Thunder staff puts the final touches on its prognosticating with a season preview.

Brandon Rahbar, Beat Writer

W-L Record: 21-61
Thunder Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Thunder Most Improved Player: Aleksej Pokusevski
Season Preview: SGA’s rookie season, he was an integral piece of a “surprising” playoff Clippers team that wasn’t supposed to crack the postseason. SGA’s second season, he was the leading scorer on a “surprising” 5 seed that had a .2% chance to make the postseason. SGA’s third season, he kept a team that was supposed to be in pole position of the Cade Cunningham sweepstakes at near .500 “surprisingly” competitive basketball before he was shut down. This season, OKC is the consensus worst team in the league according to all the experts. I mean, look at DT’s own preview here. Shoot, look at my season prediction above! But given SGA’s history of surprises (plus a dab of Lu Dort and a gob of Josh Giddey), don’t be surprised if the Thunder surprises. And by surprises, I mean tops 30 wins and finishes with the 29th best record in the league.

Spenser Davis, Managing Editor

W-L Record: 19-63
Thunder Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Thunder Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Season Preview: This isn’t news to anyone who has been paying attention, but OKC is going to be bad this season. The primary hope is that OKC’s young core pieces (or near-core pieces) like Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort, Pokusevski and Josh Giddey show high-level potential this season. If that happens, this season will be marked as successful — at least until lottery night.

Olivia Panchal, Senior Writer

W-L Record: 23-59
Thunder Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Thunder Most Improved Player: Lu Dort
Season Preview: We are all about to witness something really special with SGA this season. With his extension squared away and the full confidence of the Thunder front office and coaching staff behind him, I think that SGA will finally reach the superstar status that has eluded him so far. He has grown so much as a team leader and seems increasingly more confident in himself as a star. I’m excited to see how he elevates his younger teammates and wins us a few games that we definitely shouldn’t be winning. As far as Dort goes, it’s hard to imagine him cranking it up to another level. He’s already so good defensively and shockingly good at shooting threes. However, his three-point shot selection was a bit questionable the past two years. This season, I think he takes the leap offensively and becomes more strategic with what he does. He’ll continue to be lockdown defender and finally earn his spot on the NBA All-Defense Team. People are going to know Lu Dort’s name this season.

John Napier, Publisher

W-L Record: 26-56
Thunder Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous Alexander
Thunder Most Improved Player: Aleksej Pokusevski
Season Preview: Is this team going to push for a playoff spot? Absolutely not. Last season, the Thunder had the league’s worst net rating (-10.5), which included 35 games without SGA where the team was historically bad, finishing with a net rating of -14.4 and a 6-31 record. On the flip side, when SGA was healthy, the team was a respectable 16-19. Shai is healthy to start the season, so it’s hard to fathom that the Thunder wind up as the worst team (by net rating) in the NBA again. They won’t win a lot, but SGA is good enough that the Thunder simply won’t be able to bottom out. But expectations should be tempered. This team will still lose far more games than it will win. So, for fans who care only about outcomes, this season will be painful. On the other hand, for fans who are invigorated by the opportunity of the unknown, the 2021-22 campaign is must-see TV. Like a parent watching their child learn how to walk (and as a parent, I know that a child learning to walk falls down a lot), Thunder fans will be treated to the fresh experience of seeing whether young, talented, but unproven players can take their first steps toward becoming a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Jayden Rule, Contributor

W-L Record: 22-60
Thunder Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Thunder Most Improved Player: Lu Dort
Season Preview: It’s set to be another year of keeping up with “Draft Twitter” (anyone see those Paolo Banchero highlights?) so we’re up to date with potential prospects that we could see in a Thunder jersey next year. With that being said, there is a very real chance that SGA wins us some games we should have no business winning, he’s just that good. Despite finishing the year as the 5th worst team in the league, OKC was actually 16-19 in games that Shai played. Will his brilliance be enough to stop the tank and get us into a play-in spot? No, it won’t be. But it will allow for some exciting games here and there, which we could all use after a pretty torturous 2021 season. It’s overwhelmingly likely that this team will be extremely bad and win very few games, but there are many interesting things to follow throughout the year which should yield a marked improvement in the viewing experience and the excitement of the team.

David Brandon, Contributor

W-L Record: 24-58
Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous Alexander
Most Improved Player: Luguentz Dort
Season Preview: OKC is gonna be bad. My question is: how bad? Is Shai alone enough to create a positive point differential when he’s on the floor? My guess is if he has a couple vets and good young players with him he is. They’ll have to intentionally tank lineups with him or really murder the plus minus with the bench, and there’s a fine line to walk between keeping your players happy and paying homage to the lotto gods. I love the Shai/Dort/Giddey backcourt, and my guess is they’ll probably minimize minutes with them to lose. This team feels a vet short of what I’d like. I’m a fan of what Minnesota did some years back with a veteran to player-coach each position (G, F, C). A couple of people have stated that they think OKC has 2023 circled. I tend to agree. That means two more years of losing. Is Shai on board with that? I don’t know. Keep an eye on the Deandre Ayton situation in Phoenix. That feels like a very Presti thing to pounce on. There are a few ways this team could pivot and this year will tell us a lot.

Logan Meyer, Contributor

W-L Record: 27-55
Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Most Improved Player: Darius Bazley
Season Preview: While this is clearly a rebuilding year, I do not believe that the team will win as few games as predicted. I believe that the team just has too much talent with SGA at the helm, to be that bad. I do not expect them to make the play-in game or the playoffs, but I predict that they will win a few more than the over/under for the season. This year should be a fun ride as fans get to watch SGA continue his ascent to superstar level, Dort’s defensive prowess, Giddey dazzling with beautiful basketball, and Poku’s development. Thunder U 2.0 is truly upon us.