Mailbag: Shai’s Health, Baze Play, and Draft Fever
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It’s time to open up my Twitter mailbag and answer some of the most popular questions from Thunder fans over the past week!
Any information on why Shai is currently listed as day to day?
The short term answer: ankle soreness. The long term answer: Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey. All kidding aside, SGA missed 10 games due to a very real ankle injury. And he’s been playing big minutes and carried a big load since returning. Of course the Thunder are going to be cautious with their young budding franchise player. But every other game for the rest of the season is a winnable game. Starting with, coincidentally or not, the Spurs tonight. Falling to the #5 lottery spot is in play given the schedule, but climbing to the #3 or even #2 spot are possible as well. So the Thunder may need to be extra cautious with that ankle.
How can they get their ass kicked on their home court night after night after night?
Fair question. OKC has lost 10 straight games in an area that was once arguably the best homecourt advantage in the NBA. Eight of those losses were by double digits. But this streak started when SGA was hurt and coincided with injuries to Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Kenrich Williams, Mike Muscala, Ty Jerome, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aaron Wiggins, Derrick Favors and–you know, maybe it would be easier to just list the healthy players during this stretch: the OKC Blue.
Is Darius Bazley turning a corner?
Baze’s career high as of Saturday night was 26 points. On Sunday night, he scored 29 points. On Monday night, he scored 25 points. Darius, despite all his self-admitted shooting struggles, has consistently flashed a couple of legitimate NBA skills: rebounding and blocking shots. He’s useful as an athletic gadget defender, but his scoring has had more ups and downs than The Texas Giant. It does seem Baze has improved his overall play and not just because he just recorded his all-time best back-to-back games. The second half of this season has justifiably renewed hope that the still-just-21-year-old can claim his place in the young Thunder core. And, if not, he can always fall back on his rap career.
How many different starting lineups are we up to now?
Through 68 games, the Thunder have trotted out an unbelievable 29 different starting lineups. There’s still 14 games left. Let’s get nuts.
Is there a better story in the NBA than Lindy Waters?
All depends on your favorite genre. If you’re a fan of underdog tales like Rocky or The Mighty Ducks, then the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves are right up your alley. If you can’t get enough of melodramatic daily soap operas, you’d enjoy the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. And if you happen to love comedy mixed with tragedy, the LA Lakers are must see TV. But when it comes to feel-good stories, it’s hard to beat the kid who grew up playing high school basketball in Norman, college ball in Stillwater, got completely ignored by the NBA Draft, found himself in tiny Enid playing semi-pro ball, called up to the G League for the OKC Blue, and finally getting to live out his NBA dream in his home state. Waters is fulfilling the ultimate Oklahoma hoops career.
Shaedon Sharpe over Paolo Banchero? Explain yourself.
This was in response to my latest Big Board rankings, in which I had Sharpe ranked #4 and Banchero at #5. I like Paolo. But he’s not a plus 3-point shooter or defender. He can create his own shot, but he’s not particularly efficient doing so. Sharpe has played the exact number of college, G League and international pro league minutes as Daily Thunder Publisher John Napier. And you know exactly how many minutes that is if you’ve ever had the privilege of seeing John play ball. Sharpe is a mystery. But he was the #1 rated player in his class. And Kentucky head coach John Calipari thinks he would be the #1 overall pick next year. He’s had four of them, so I’ll take his word for it.
Rank them. Who do you want in the draft?
I posted my first Draft Lottery Big Board a couple weeks ago in this space. But I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time since watching more tape, reading more scouting reports and being a complete draft geek in general. Here’s my latest board:
1. Chet Holmgren
2. Jabari Smith, Jr.
3. Jaden Ivey
4. Shaedon Sharpe
5. AJ Griffin
6. Keegan Murray
7. Paolo Banchero
8. Jalen Duren
9. Bennedict Mathurin
10. Tari Eason
11. Ochai Agbaji
12. Johnny Davis
13. TyTy Washington
14. Walker Kessler
15. John Napier