With training camp creeping closer it’s that time of year where analysts and experts dive into predictions for the season. Although the OKC Thunder will be actively tanking there are a few members of the roster that could be in the mix for awards.
ESPN pegged the first of the OKC Thunder four draft additions rookie Josh Giddey as a dark horse to win Rookie of the Year. It’s more likely he’ll be in the running for All-Rookie first-team selection.
Although he’s not getting much Luguentz Dort could also make a run at making an All-Defensive team. It’s likely his name doesn’t come in conversations for Defensive Player of the Year because the OKC Thunder are expected to spend the season mired in long-losing streaks. A defensive specialist simply won’t garner much attention on a team anticipated to finish in the basement.
ESPN taps OKC Thunder captain Gilgeous-Alexander with a great shot to win MIP
However, the player who’ll garner the most attention will be the captain and cornerstone of the club point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. When Vegas initially posted odds for awards they pegged the Canadian in a tie with New Orleans Pelcians superstar Zion Williamson to win Most Improved Player.
The experts at ESPN offer their insights on the awards yesterday with the Thunder point guard garnering strong support. The trio Vegas liked find themselves on the ESPN list but not in the same order.
With Jamal Murray rehabbing from his ACL injury he’ll miss a good portion of this coming season. That will open the door for Michael Porter Jr. to be featured more offensively. Expect plenty of pick and roll plays and whipped passes to the perimeter all crafted by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
Given that reality, it’s not surprising the ESPN experts tap Michael Porter Jr. to win Most Improved Player. MPJ grabbed 16.7 percent of the votes for first-place with 30 points.
In identical fashion to what happened with the Vegas odds, Gilgeous-Alexander is essentially in a tie again but not with the same player and not for the top spot. This time he draws an equal first-place vote percentage (5.6%) with Rockets, Kevin Porter Jr.
SGA does eek ahead based on points but barely with the Thunder guard grabbing 20 points and KPJ receiving 19 points.
Williamson doesn’t fair as well dropping into a tie for seventh with Ja Morant. The interesting part of this scenario is each of Zion, Morant, and Jaren Jackson Jr. each grab 11.1 percent of first-place votes but obviously don’t fare as well in the second and third place offerings. In order, the players ranking fourth to seventh (with the tie) are LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Jackson Jr., Morant, and Williamson.
Eleven other players also registered votes including Kings backcourt stars De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton both. With the Clippers missing Kawhi Leonard due to injury both Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann got nods. Raptors Fred VanVleet makes the cut as he’ll need to carry the majority of the early season with Pascal Siakam recovering and Kyle Lowry now in Miami.
For the rest of the honorable mentions check out the article.
Gilgeous-Alexander is a smart pick for everyone given how well he played in his 35 games last season and the leaps he’s made each season as a pro. With the OKC Thunder tanking fans can invest in the SGA – MIP watch as our driving force this season along with watching the youngsters develop.