Expectations were low coming into the season, especially without no. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, sidelined after a stellar summer league debut. But the Thunder blew past even the most optimistic projections, landing in the play-in tournament and finishing one win away from a playoff berth.
With such a surprising season, despite coming up short of the playoffs, optimism abounds in OKC.
One big narrative that took a hit this year was the Thunder being a "black eye" for tanking.
After the Thunder's exciting win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the reviews on the play-in tournament (and OKC's place in it) were stellar. Rohan Nadkarni (SI.com) said that the Thunder's showing was proof the play-in is working.
Ascending teams should want a taste of the postseason, even if it comes via the play-in and potentially puts them at the end of the lottery. Sure, it helps the Thunder have Holmgren and enough draft picks to survive a nuclear apocalypse waiting in the wings. Still, this is exactly one of the scenarios the NBA likely dreamed of when making this tournament. As opposed to a young team leaning into losses, we got to see budding stars start to make a name for themselves in a playoff-like atmosphere.
Even in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it feels like the Thunder are staking their place among the league's playoff contenders in seasons ahead. Mark Spears (Andscape) agrees.
Always one of the most interesting parts of the offseason is Sam Presti's exit interview. Presti sat with the media for over two hours yesterday discussing this past season and looking ahead to the next.
Some other interesting tidbits via Daily Thunder beat writer, Brandon Rahbar:
To close, the Athletic conducted an anonymous player poll, and the Thunder got some love. SGA received votes for MVP, Lu Dort finished second for "best defender," Shai received the second-most individual votes for "most underrated," and OKC's fans finished 6th in "best fans."