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As the season winds down, the biggest thoughts on most Thunder fans’ minds involve OKC’s upcoming first round pick, the Clippers’ first round pick, the mystery surrounding Josh Giddey’s injury and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s return to dominance. So let’s have a Sunday chat about all of the above.
Root for the Pacers.
Yes, Thunder fans should still hold out hope and cheer for the slightly surging Pistons and the signs of life Magic to win every game, allowing OKC to crash the top-3 lottery odds. Yes, I’ve given up hope that a Rockets roster with Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate, Kevin Porter Jr, Dennis Schroder and DT favorite Alperen Sengun will ever win a game again. Yes, we should still skim those Kings, Spurs, Blazers and Knicks box scores to confirm Oklahoma City isn’t losing their cushion. But the most immediate danger to Thunder lottery odds is Indiana. OKC is 20-43. The Pacers are 22-43. At OKC’s current odds (fourth-best), there is an 81% chance at a top-6 pick. At Indiana’s current odds (fifth-best), there’s a 64% chance at a top-6 pick. Why is that 17% a big deal? The consensus is that 2022 is a six-player draft.
That Clippers pick could still be big.
The 2022 Clippers first rounder has been a roller coaster ride for Thunder fans. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s possible season-long absences gave oxygen to the idea that OKC may end up with two top-10 picks. But then Ty Lue somehow got Reggie Jackson to start playing like the point guard he thought he was back in 2015. LAC has won five straight and most Thunder fans have given up on the two lottery picks dream. Not so fast. The Clippers will likely have to play the revitalized Timberwolves in the 7v8 seed play-in game. KAT, ANT and D’Lo have won four straight themselves, have more star power and would be home favorites. If the Clippers lose, they’d likely have to play the winner of 9v10 seed play-in game, most likely the Pelicans or Lakers. New Orleans, also winners of four straight, has been a different team after the CJ McCollum trade and news just dropped that Zion may be back. And if Anthony Davis returns, is anyone really going to favor Reggie, Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard over LeBron, Brodie and The Brow to go 5-0 versus big brother this season?
Bonus sunshine: if the Clippers do fall into the lottery, there’s a solid chance one or two East lottery teams will have a better record than Lue’s crew. So that LAC pick could end up being top 12-ish. Right about that Jalen Duren, Tari Eason or Bennedict Mathurin sweet spot.
RIP to Josh Giddey’s Rookie of the Month run.
Mark Daigneault gave an injury update on Oklahoma and Australia’s favorite rookie in his Saturday media call, and it wasn’t what millions of Okies and Aussies wanted to hear. “We’re trying to balance development but also being cautious and wise,” said the Thunder head coach. “We’ll learn a lot more in a couple weeks.” Ouch. When asked point blank if he thought Giddey would return this season, Daigneault said, “That’s the hope.” Whether you’re Team Tank or Team Win, I think we can all agree that Thunder basketball is more fun when Josh Giddey is on the court. And from a long-term big picture point of view, this last stretch could’ve been helpful in kickstarting Giddey and SGA to develop the chemistry that will hopefully define the next era of OKC hoops. Here’s hoping along with Mark that we see Giddey again. And if not, let’s all meet up later to pour one out for such a consistently entertaining and excellent debut rookie season. The Thunder looks like they have added a blue chip talent next to SGA, and that was always the biggest hope coming into this season. Nice try, ping pong balls.
SGA is still an All-Star talent.
While Shai was rehabbing, there were murmurs, chirps and tweets that maybe Thunder fans were overrating him. Hogwash. That last year’s numbers were a fluke. Baloney. That he forgot how to shoot. Rubbish. That he should be traded. Nonsense. That the keys should be given to Giddey. Bollocks. The vocal minority has mostly gone silent since SGA’s return. Why? Because in the five games since the All-Star Break, Shai has scored 33 on 14-21, 29 on 10-23, 37 on 12-16, 36 on 13-24 and 32 on 13-22. And he’s been going prime Slim Reaper all while playing with the OKC Blue and being opposing defenses’ #1, #2 and #3 biggest priority.
Now imagine a world in the not-so-distant future when SGA and Giddey are surrounded by three capable shooters and scorers. You owe us one (or two), ping pong balls.