OKC Thunder: B/R top under 24 by team – SGA grade too low

The OKC Thunder have the youngest average roster age in the NBA at 22.9 years of age. With the front office turning their attention to the future and rebuilding through the draft of course the roster is teeming with younger players. Of the 15 players and two 2-way players on the Thunder 12 are under the age of 24.

This summer Sam Presti drafted Josh Giddey (19), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (21), Tre Mann (20), and Aaron Wiggins (22).

In 2020 three rookies were added: Aleksej Pokusevski (19), Theo Maledon (20), and Vit Krejci (21). Then factor in the other members of the roster 25 or under:

  • Darius Bazley – 21 years, June 12, 2000
  • Luguentz Dort – 22 years, April 19, 1999
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – 23 years, July 12, 1998
  • Isaiah Roby – 23 years, February 3, 1998
  • Ty Jerome –  24 years, July 8, 1997

That’s a ton of youth and puts even more perspective on the fact the OKC Thunder went on a winning spree of five out of seven games.

Ten club’s average roster age is under 25. Those nine teams and their average age are the Grizzlies (23.7), Pistons (24.1), Wolves (24.1), Hornets (24.3), Pelicans (24.7), Spurs (24.7), Magic (24.8), Bulls (24.9), and Rockets (24.9).

Ponder that for a second -even among those nine squads, only one other has an average age under 24 and the majority of those clubs haven’t performed as well as the OKC Thunder.

Inevitably each year the National media will comprise the top 25 under 25 or rank these young clubs in order of the best potential in the future.

B/R shafts OKC Thunder cornerstone Gilgeous-Alexander with a terrible grade

The first of those articles comes courtesy of Bleacher Report writer Grant Hughes who pens a post focusing on the best under 24 player on each team after two weeks of play this season. Hughes offers insight and a grade for that player.

No surprise that the OKC Thunder individual selected was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But, fair warning – loyal fans might not be thrilled with his grade.

It’s going to take Grade-A patience for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to make it through this season. His Oklahoma City Thunder have played hard to open the year, even beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 27, but no team has less talent or experience anywhere in the league.

It’s going to be a long year for one of the game’s most gifted young guards.

Rookie Josh Giddey is handling the ball often, so SGA is playing facilitator less frequently than he did a year ago. As a result, the guy who led the league in drives per game in 2020-21 is taking a much lower share of his shots at the rim.

And despite spending more time off the ball, Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates aren’t setting him up. A comically low percentage of his field goals are assisted.

It isn’t his fault, and the Thunder should think seriously about the wisdom of any strategy that takes the ball out of SGA’s hands. But Gilgeous-Alexander, 23, hasn’t been quite the same player that he was last season.

Grade: C-

In fairness, Hughes looked at each individual just two weeks into the campaign, before there had been much time to develop chemistry. And clearly, this was prior to the four-game win streak and victories those five wins in seven games.

In the first two weeks of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander was averaging 22 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. SGA was shooting 44.2 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from deep, and 76.5 percent from the stripe.

In the two and half weeks since he’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks.  His shooting admittedly has vacillated back and forth from games like the step-back logo 3-pointer at Staples versus constantly being double and triple-teamed.

So his shooting is actually slightly less efficient from the field (40.1%) and perimeter (32.7%) but improved (89.2%) from the stripe.

Nor is it surprising he said, “no team has less talent or experience anywhere in the league”. Zach Lowe has already stated he underestimated the Thunder and there are several experts and analysts who are rolling back on predictions of similar substance.

After all, there are six teams who possess fewer wins and two who’ve played more games to gain an extra win than OKC has. Therefore they have two options, either do what Lowe did and admit he miscalculated (which we all do). Not even the brilliant Zach Lowe gets everything right. Hey, I’m still processing the Wizards and Bulls although hindsight makes it easier to see why they’re doing well.’

Or the second option is to point to those six clubs and suggest they either don’t try as hard as the Thunder, or there are issues with coaching. Not a great choice – take option one.

Now, I get where Hughes was coming from regarding the inexperience but I take umbrage with SGA’s rating of C minus.  Several players on his list got a better grade with what felt like unfair support or substance. Eight players ranked lower and four were tied with him and in the star player cases like Trae Young, they are playing on loaded deep squads.

It seems there was leeway given to those players who are rising on a deep team because Hughes assumes they’ll get better opportunities. That’s true, but for SGA to be doing the same things or better without that depth and experience in our biased opinion he deserves a better grade.

We’ll cut Hughes some slack, acknowledge our bias and go back to the fact this article was written two weeks into the season. Sure wish Hughes would revisit this now or in a month because I think he’d be upping SGA’s grade substantially.