Do the OKC Thunder deserve National TV games this season?

Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder speaks with teammate Josh Giddey #3. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Chet Holmgren #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder speaks with teammate Josh Giddey #3. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been attempting to rebuild their roster and find a path back to contention. So far so good, as the team has finished with less than 25 wins each of the last two seasons netting four lottery picks, five total first-round prospects, and a trio of interesting second-rounders to pair with an already established Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort. In this process, the OKC Thunder have been skipped on the National TV docket by the NBA.

The League has not placed them on one of their marquee networks (ESPN, ABC, or TNT), and has only given them a handful of NBATV games throughout the last two seasons. This, of course, is on the heels of the OKC Thunder being a staple of TNT, ABC, ESPN, and Holiday coverage for over a decade.  While it will not return to that peak for a while, this year should put the Thunder back in the National spotlight.

Should the OKC Thunder find themselves on the National Television slate this season?

it is incredibly hard to predict where the Oklahoma City Thunder will finish this year, record-wise. Not only is it always tough to guess what level of impact rookies can have, teams that rely on young players typically lose games, and we have no idea what the team’s motivations will be once this season enters the second half of the year.

The OKC Thunder used the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Chet Holmgren who the organization hopes can be their next cornerstone alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and last year’s number six overall pick Josh Giddey.

Holmgren has already gained a ton of attention for his awkward frame, his guard-like ability, rim protection, and shooting stroke all at 7’1. Everyone has strong opinions on the Gonzaga product, ranging from the next all-time great to one of the biggest busts in the history of the draft who will get “bullied” at the next level.

On top of the strong opinions one way or another that fans want to see if they are correct, Holmgren has a very marketable personality with his confidence and “bet on yourself” message. He has made bold proclamations about wanting to join the 50/40/90 club and being the best player in the league. He also gave fans a glimpse at how great he can be with a near-perfect Summer League debut.

You pair Holmgren with Josh Giddey who was a triple-double machine a year ago racking up four triple-doubles including being the youngest player to record one in NBA history. This allowed Giddey to take home all but one Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, the only award he missed was in a month that he did not play due to a hip injury. The NBL star was named second-team All-Rookie and between his play on the floor and social media presence, Giddey has been a name that can grab NBA fans.

Despite the team’s record, Giddey was not the only in-season award winner, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also brought home a Player on the Week award in the Western Conference. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 27 points, seven assists, and six rebounds per game that week.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the prize here, getting him on National Television should be considered a must for a league that has, at times in the season, six National Television dates to fill per week.

By all metrics, the 24-year-old is an elite driver, the best in the league according to some data points and that has been a consistent theme throughout his career. Last year, he shot a career-high 62 percent at the rim though he had two other years of his four-year career shooting 61 percent at the tin.

post-All-Star Break, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander turned in 30 points, five rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a block per game on 54 percent shooting from the floor, and 40 percent from three-point land.

That is not to mention Lu Dort who is one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, Tre Mann who is capable of a hot scoring night any time, interesting rookies Jalen Williams and Ousmane Dieng, plus a scrappy team that has proven an ability under Mark Daigneault to come back from a first-half deficit. The League has been looking to avoid prime-time blowouts, and OKC might be the team who can help avoid that.

So do the OKC Thunder deserve National Televised games this season? Yes. Will they be littered throughout the slate? I do not think so. I could see a matchup between the Magic and Thunder sneaking onto one of the plethora of National slots the league has given the star power Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren has shown so far this summer from Vegas to pro-am events, and social media drama, there is interest around the top two picks.

I would be shocked to see a third straight year without at least one National Televised game for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season when the schedule is released.

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