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The first half of Monday night’s game against the Heat was a thrilling sneak preview of how bright Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s future is with the Thunder.
The second half of Monday night’s game against the Heat was a thrilling sneak preview of how bright Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley or Jonathan Kuminga’s future is with the Thunder.
OKC ran off to a 9 point halftime lead against Miami on the strength of Shai’s shoulders, as the snubbed shoulda been All Star scored 18 efficient points. But the Heat’s two former All Stars Butler and Bam, along with Duncan Game Six Klay Thompson Robinson, were too much for a Horford and Hillless Thunder squad.
As the NBA shuts the book on the first half of a shortened season, the Thunder’s season is likely to reflect their last game. The first half was filled with excitement and optimism, as the team defied the odds to exceed expectations while SGA faced off against All Stars but looked like the best player on the court. The second half, reality settles in and thoughts wander to the future and what this high effort ragtag of rugrats will look like when SGA has a blue chip sidekick.
Monday night was also a tug-of-war of two OKC 2021 draft picks moving in opposite directions.
The Thunder are 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Heat are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including three straight wins. Tankathon watchers have been rudely awakened from our delusional dream of Miami falling from a Finals cliff into the lottery abyss.
With the Miami matchup mirroring OKC’s Tale of Two Halves season and the Heat and Thunder’s draft picks continuing their respective climb and fall (or is it fall and climb?), it’s a topical time on the season clock to assess assets and take stock of the OKC flock.
The Thunder are currently tied with the Sacramento Kings for the #13 seed in the West. They are tied for the #6 worst record in the NBA. The odds of a ping pong ball with an OKC logo being drawn for a top 4 pick presently stand at 34.4%. The odds of Cade Cunningham staying in state for his second season on the national stage are 8.2%.
The rights to swap picks with the Heat and Houston are a mixed bag twice over. At the moment, the Heat are in the lottery with the #11 overall pick. While Miami is heating up and will likely end up in the playoffs, their botched beginning means a worst case scenario may mean Presti picks at 16-ish instead of 26-ish. The Beard and Russless Rockets have crashed back down to earth, losing 8 straight games and sitting in the #4 overall draft spot. Daryl Morey’s prudence in protecting the pick means OKC loses the swap if Houston finishes where they currently sit. But the bottom four teams only have basically a coin flip odds of being picked in the top four. TLDR: Even if Houston is one of the five worst teams in the league, OKC has a 50/50 shot of landing a pick between 5-9.
If you tied Sam Presti to a chair, force fed him the Ant-Man truth serum and asked him what his goals for the 2021 season were, here’s what he’d say: “Reposition and replenish sustained success scared money don’t make none.” Okay, that wasn’t helpful, Sam. Let me take a crack at breaking this down.
OKC is wishing upon an All Star for five things this season:
- SGA to make the leap to stardom. Smashing success.
- At least one of the young players to separate himself into a core long term piece. Go see what Magic Johnson, the Perd Hapley of Twitter, tweeted yesterday.
- The other young players to develop and show promise. Hamidou Diallo has transformed himself into an efficient Sixth Man, Isaiah Roby is the valedictorian of The Breakfast Club, Theo Maledon statistically has been more lottery rookie than second round rookie, Poku took his NBA lumps down to the G League and went viral, and Darius Bazley is way too nice and fun of a person for me to continue this sentence.
- The veterans to maintain or grow trade value. Al Horford, George Hill and Mike Muscala are all walking future draft picks. Even Miami YMCA Trevor Ariza looks like at least a shirtless second rounder.
- Finish with a bottom three worst record to secure a top 5 draft pick. This one started off a bit rocky with all that ridiculous winning the team was doing, but the team has righted the tank lately.
The Thunder’s 2021 Manifesto-k-c is materializing into what the team envisioned in their most positive plans and hopes. Only the final, but arguably the most important, milestone has yet to be achieved. But OKC still has a whole other half season to check lots of losing off their wish list.
Here’s hoping for a repeat of Monday night’s second half.
- Up next: Not as snubbed as SGA All Star DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are out, but LMA and Pop are in tonight at The Peake.