The Thunder wrapped up their 4-game preseason slate yesterday, putting on a highly entertaining display of basketball in Tulsa despite the absence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and Derrick Favors.
There were some very exciting signs shown during the preseason and while these games mean close to nothing, it’s still worth taking a look into what we saw.
Josh Giddey is the real deal
When Adam Silver took the podium and announced Josh Giddey was heading to the Thunder with the 6th overall pick, many fans were less than pleased. Rumors had been swirling for weeks prior to the draft that the team was zeroing in on one of Scottie Barnes, Jonathan Kuminga and James Bouknight. So when it was someone completely different, naturally the immediate reaction wasn’t so pleasant.
Giddey played all but five minutes in the Summer League due to an ankle injury, so coming into the preseason we were all anxiously awaiting a glimpse at our prized new lottery pick, and he did not disappoint.
Giddey’s debut against the Charlotte Hornets saw him drop 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists with a dazzling display of passing ability and transition scoring, sending Thunder fans into disarray as they rushed to delete their negative Twitter comments from draft night.
His final two performances, both against the Nuggets, were the pinnacle of his first taste of NBA action.
Wednesday at Paycom Center, Giddey was having a rather ordinary game, just 6 points and 2 assists through the first three quarters. But in the last four minutes of the final quarter, Giddey took complete control of the game, scoring 6 points against the Nuggets’ starters to secure the victory. Including this absolute beauty:
He looked incredibly poised and made all the right decisions. Pretty impressive for someone who celebrated their 19th birthday mere days ago.
Thunder took the floor at the BOK Center yesterday where Giddey had full control over the team with four starters on the bench. He came excruciatingly close to a triple-double with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. He has until the 27th of February to become the youngest player to record a triple-double in NBA history and it seems extremely plausible that he could achieve it, further adding to the triple-double lore in Oklahoma City.
Lu Dort’s shot looks improved
Dort excelled on the defensive side of the ball from the very minute he stepped onto an NBA floor in late 2019, but at just 29.7% from behind the arc, his jump shot didn’t exactly strike fear into the opposition.
His shooting in his sophomore year was inconsistent but had improved to the point where you no longer audibly groaned when Dort put up a three.
Let me put a disclaimer on this by acknowledging that this is preseason. With that being said, he shot 62.5% from three on 16 total attempts in three games. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but he was stepping into the shots with confidence and even had a few deep ones hit the bottom of the net.
From an undrafted rookie to a 30-point scorer in a Game 7, to an elite defensive guard, Dort has made massive strides in his game over the last 2 years. Now, he looks set to take another step up. A three-point percentage of 37% or more would do wonders for his game.
Aleksej Pokusevksi remains inconsistent, but shows flashes
It feels as if “showed flashes” should be Pokusevski’s middle name at this point. Averaging 5 points on 24% from the field in his first 3 preseason games, fans were disappointed with his play.
But in the preseason finale against Denver, he had 22 points on 56.3% from the field, including four threes. He looked completely comfortable handling the ball and running the offense, especially through the pick and roll.
One minute he looks like he deserves all the hype surrounding him within the Thunder fanbase, the next he looks like he should never touch an NBA court again.
Year 2 is about to begin for Sam Presti’s project out of Serbia. Will he be a positive contributor this year? Chances are he won’t be, but OKC has all the time in the world to wait for him to become one.
This team isn’t very good, but it certainly is entertaining
ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently published his NBA League Pass rankings for the upcoming season, which saw the Thunder in last place at #30. The Thunder are not going to win very many games this year, but with the combination of exciting rookies, budding young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and an offense with great ball movement, this team will certainly be a fun one to watch.
Last year we often found it hard to stay awake during games. But with a far more intriguing roster this year (with hopefully no injuries this time around), year 2 of the tank should be much more watchable.
Preseason has now concluded and we have a long 82-game year ahead of us. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds for this team.