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Last year, the Thunder overperformed for the first half of the season before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was put on ice (along with Al Horford) to close the 2020-21 campaign in a more draft-friendly fashion. This year, Oklahoma City overperformed for the first two-thirds of the season, with a lot of the overperforming coming with SGA out of the lineup. OKC won’t be shutting down Gilgeous-Alexander barring another injury, and he’s been torching the league, scoring 30+ most of the last eight games in what has been one of the most impressive stretches of his career (last night’s 8-point clunker notwithstanding). But the team is plummeting around him and figures to keep falling. Josh Giddey is out indefinitely and the team announced season-ending surgeries for Lu Dort, Mike Muscala, and Ty Jerome.
Another year, another season-ending swoon for the most intense rebuilding project in the NBA. We’re once again watching the team angle for its abstract future talent via the lottery, but this time we get to see its actual, established talent of the future on display as Shai balls out. The 2022 Thunder tank model is a lot easier on the eyes.
Ian Levy (The Whiteboard) notes that Shai is the unluckiest passer in the league. “And, to be clear, this is not a fluke in the kinds of potential assist opportunities Gilgeous-Alexander is creating. He has five teammates — Lu Dort, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Josh Giddey, Darius Bazley and Ty Jerome — who are making less than 34 percent of their wide-open 3-pointers on at least two attempts per game. These are attempts with no defender within six feet of the shooter and they’re not even close to the league average for all 3-point attempts of any kind. If the Thunder can put some more competent shooting around Gilgeous-Alexander next season, his assist numbers could go through the roof.”
Mark Daigneault made The Athletic’s NBA 40 Under 40. As did Will Dawkins (Oklahoma City’s VP of Basketball Operations) and Daigneault’s agent Oliver Winterbone (who is also OKC’s former director of player development).
Eric Pincus (Bleacher Report) reminds us that the Thunder could drive the offseason as a conduit for cap-strapped teams to add talent via salary dumps. He names Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari, and Russell Westbrook as potential value plays for OKC.
Speaking of, there’s a lot going on with Westbrook. See: his campaign to halt being called “Westbrick”, beef between his wife Nina and Skip Bayless, and the Lakers melting down before our eyes. The lowly Rockets beat LeBron and Co. in overtime last night, keeping OKC’s chances of catching Houston in the reverse standings alive. My contribution to the Westbrook Take Wars remains diagrammable.