In the summer of 2019, the Oklahoma City Thunder watched their core disassemble after trading Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook (who might be the most emblematic player in the history of the franchise) to the Houston Rockets. It seemed like tough times were on the horizon, but four years later, the reality is very different.
A rebuild led by Sam Presti, the architect of a franchise now famous for collecting Draft picks (they have 20 first rounders until 2029), has solidified the Thunder as one of the teams to watch for the coming years.
With young and inexperienced squad (their veteran with the most seasons played is Dario Saric with six) commanded by Mike Daigneault, the Thunder were one of the most pleasing surprises of last season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder finished the season with a record of 40-42 that allowed them to access the Play-In as the tenth seed in the west. After beating the Pelicans in the first round, the Thunder fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the final game to enter the Playoffs.
In spite of that, OKC’s season was outstanding. They managed to step up and be competitive once again while also developing their young core.
Shai, Giddey, Williams and Holmgren: OKC’s four horsemen:
OKC has managed to build an exceptional core led by four promising young players destined to dominate the NBA. Te franchise’s main figure is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (25 years old), who forged himself as one of the best players and scorers of the NBA last season.
The Canadian, who was a part of Paul George’s trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, had an unbelievable campaign. The Thunder’s number ‘2’ averaged 31. 4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. This stat-line allowed the point guard to become an All-Star and also earnt him a First team All-NBA selection along with Doncic, Tatum, Antetokounmpo and Embiid.
But the Thunder have lots to offer outside of Shai. Their roster is filled with players with outstanding potential. One of them is the Canadian’s backcourt partner, Josh Giddey (21 years old).
The Australian shooting guard (selected with the sixth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft) stands out as a result of his well-rounded game backed up by his statline this season (16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists). The main question around him is his efficiency when shooting from the tree point line, although he improved his percentage last season (26.3% as a rookie compared to 32.5% the past campaign). In short, the best backcourt partner Shai could ask for.
In addition, during last year’s Draft, the Thunder selected Jalen Williams (22 years old forward) with the 12th pick. Born in Denver, he has surprised everyone with his performance and maturity on the court, which eventually made him the runner up for the Rookie of the Year award won by Paolo Banchero.
Out of the University of Santa Clara, Williams is an ideal complement for the small or power forward positions of the Thunder. His shooting consistency (shot 52% on field goals and 35.6% from three) and good decision making (3.3 assists a night this year) are proof of the solid player he is and the potential he has to be important in the league.
Last but not least, the fourth horseman is center Chet Holmgren, who missed his entire rookie campaign due to a foot injury. He will make his debut with the Thunder after being selected with the second pick of last year’s Draft.
A seven feet tall unicorn with a 7’5 wingspan that proved he is NBA-ready in the Summer League (15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in his first appearance). He could be Victor Wembanyama‘s main competitor for next season’s Rookie of the Year award.
In addition to their four central pieces, the Thunder have a quite deep roster. Players like Dort, Jaylin Williams, Saric, Oladipo (who they signed in free agency) or Cason Wallace (selected with the 10th pick of this year’s Draft) are vital complements to sustain the limitless progression of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Translated by Nuño Alonso.
Main image: @okcthunder.