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Thunder fans have many things to be thankful for this year.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s contract extension, Lu Dort’s newfound efficiency finishing at the rim, Mike Muscala’s microwave scoring, Kenrich Williams’ general awesomeness and Poku’s irrational confidence.
But there’s one item on the OKC faithful’s “Thankful For” list that stands out more than anything on this Thanksgiving weekend: the 2021 Thunder rookie class.
The Lottery Draft results were a gut punch to Thunder fans who had been dreaming of lineups featuring SGA, Dort, Cade Cunningham and Jonathan Kuminga. OKC had a chance for two top 5 picks and ended up instead with picks #6 and #18, the second worst case scenario. While the results were deflating, Sam Presti made chicken salad out of chicken something else.
Josh Giddey was deemed a reach when the Thunder selected him at #6 less than four months ago. But the way he’s played thus far this season, he may end up being a steal.
The 19-year-old is averaging 10.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1 steal and .6 blocks on the season. As a comparison, the Rockets’ #2 overall pick Jalen Green is averaging 14.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, .6 steals and .2 blocks. Green is considered the stacked 2021 NBA Draft’s best scorer. But Giddey and Green are both shooting the exact same effective field goal percentage at 45.2%. Giddey’s weakness and Green’s strength is 3 point shooting, yet Giddey is shooting a not great 28.6% from 3 and Green is shooting an even not greater 27.8% from long distance.
Giddey’s ranks among this rookie class: 8th in points, 3rd in rebounds, 1st in assists, 5th in steals and 3rd in blocks. The second youngest player in the NBA has been the definition of well rounded and has impacted the game in every facet.
Oh, and he’s even more exciting to watch than the Baby Yoda float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Wizard of Aus has that unique “it” factor that few players have in that every time he has the ball in his hands, there’s an audible anticipation from the live crowd knowing that they might be about see something special.
But Giddey hasn’t been the only Thunder rookie fans are including in their thanks around dinner tables this weekend.
If Giddey was a steal at #6, then Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was an Ocean’s 11 level thievery at #32.
JRE (not the Joe Rogan Experience) is averaging 7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, .9 assists, .7 steals and .3 blocks on the season. He’s played in all 18 OKC games and started 11. Most impressively, the 2nd rounder is leading all rookies in 3PT% (minimum 2 attempts) at 39.3% from long range. The son of a former high school slam dunk champion, JRE is the modern stretch big who can defend multiple positions, rebound and shoot.
Robinson-Earl’s ranks among this rookie class: 12th in points, 5th in rebounds, 16th in assists, 10th in steals and 13th in blocks.
Forget being a 2nd round steal, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is playing like a lottery pick.
The rookie duo is displaying instant chemistry on and off the court. In a starting lineup void of proven outside shooting outside of SGA, Robinson-Earl has become an effective pick and pop outlet for Giddey. On social media, JRE and Giddey have been showering other with praise and kudos, telling each other they’re honored to be the other’s teammate and JRE branding Giddey as elite. I’d be shocked if they’re not sharing a Honey Baked Ham and green bean casserole as you’re reading this journal entry.
And while they’ve been side dishes thus far, don’t forget about #18 overall pick Tre Mann and 2nd round sleeper Aaron Wiggins. Mann had just started showing off the offensive bag that had him pegged as an elite scorer and shooter in this rookie class before an injury and G League assignment. His latest Blue performance: 30 points. All Wiggins has done is earned a spot start last night in SGA’s absence and seems to be a candidate for the Lu Dort/Moses Brown special: a two-way player signing a real NBA contract before the year ends.
The 2021 Thunder rookie class was labeled a turkey but now it’s looking like those draft experts were full of s… tuffing. This season is all about the future and with Giddey, Robinson-Earl, SGA and Dort leading the way, there is much for OKC fans to be excited about and thankful for in the years ahead.