Despite the Thunder’s 2-4 record, there have been bright spots six games into the season. Specifically, three of the Thunder’s youngest players are standing out among the league’s rookies and sophomores. Here’s a look at each.
The Shai Show
On opening night, the Thunder were in uncharted territory: the club played its first ever game without Russell Westbrook on the roster. However, the young point guard they acquired from the Clippers in the Paul George deal was ready to shine.
In his debut for Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 26 points, the second-most for any debut in Thunder history (behind George). SGA’s scoring has been impressive. The 21-year-old is one of 34 players averaging at least 20 points per game. Among 59 second-year players, Shai ranks third in scoring at 21.6 points per match, one of three sophomores accounting for 20 or more points per game.
Gilgeous-Alexander carries himself well, his teammates appear to get along with him splendidly, and he’s a hit with the media. So long as SGA continues to better his passing skills and leadership abilities, he will excel at steering the Thunder ship.
It’s Hami Time
Coming out of the gates, Terrance Ferguson has struggled. However, Oklahoma City’s second-year shooting guard Hamidou Diallo has picked up the slack.
Following his Slam Dunk win at last year’s All-Star Weekend, Diallo suffered an elbow injury and was ineffective for the remainder of the season. One elbow surgery later, Diallo is back to himself and playing with a high level of moxie each night. Diallo has recorded the third-most rebounds among sophomore guards — trailing only his own teammate SGA and Mavs starlet Luka Doncic — and he is fourth overall on the Thunder in total rebounds.
The counting stats are not always there for Hami, but his effort and energy levels are always high. If he develops a consistent jump shot, the Thunder will have a dangerous backcourt duo on their hands. Until then, Diallo’s electrifying dunks, sneaky steals, and rowdy rebounds will keep him on the floor for Oklahoma City.
Prior to their afternoon matinee versus the Pelicans, Darius Bazley had scored 13 total points in his young NBA career. In his latest outing, Bazley recorded a career-high 17 points. Which is no small feat: 58 rookies have appeared in a game this season, but only 12 have eclipsed the 17-point threshold, including Bazley. Cracking the rotation has not been a problem for Bazley through six games. At the time of this writing, only 15 other rookies have played 100 minutes or more. Bazley being a member of that sweet 16 should be encouraging for Thunder fans.
Bazley displayed great poise and control versus the Pelicans. If he maintains his steady trajectory forward, he’ll continue to gain coach Donovan’s trust.