Comparing the OKC Thunder rebuild to the Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Isaiah Joe #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Isaiah Joe #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the midst of an epic rebuild, trying to reassemble and recapture the magic that was their first era of basketball in Bricktown. From the time the OKC Thunder relocated from Seattle, they brought the city 11 winning seasons, and ten postseason appearances and four of those runs ended in the Western Conference finals or better.

Now, Sam Presti and the organization are looking to rebuild after gifting the Thunder multiple MVPs, future Hall of Famers, winning basketball, and city-wide growth. So far, so good, on the rebuild front. But can the team that the National Media have called the “black eye of the league” be compared to the NBA’s darlings in the Memphis Grizzlies?

The OKC Thunder are starting to turn the corner of their rebuild, sitting with a 14-19 record without one of their best assets from the rebuild, can they be compared to the Memphis Grizzlies?

The Oklahoma City Thunder have missed the postseason for back-to-back seasons for the first time since relocating, and they are in danger of making it three straight years without playing postseason ball, though that is still up in the air.

After the Memphis Grizzlies were knocked out of the 2016-17 playoffs in the first round, they missed the playoffs for the next three seasons before playing in the league’s inaugural play-in tournament and reaching the first round that season after surviving the tournament and going to the semi-finals the next year.

The Grizzlies are viewed to have a good young coach and team, and the Thunder should be viewed in the same light soon. Mark Daigneault has this roster playing as a top-ten defense, while they are just two games out of the play-in tournament as of this moment. He could be viewed as a promising young coach ala Taylor Jenkins.

The Grizzlies also have a transcendent star in Ja Morant, who can be matched by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who is currently averaging 31 points per game and has that same competitive spirit and ability to captivate an audience off the court.

But the similarities go beyond that, Jaren Jackson Jr is this elite shot-blocker with a ceiling that can reach heights we have not seen before, does that sound familiar? It seems an awful lot like how view Chet Holmgren, only many would consider Holmgren’s ceiling higher.

While Memphis fans will throw out Desmond Bane, Dillion Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Zaire Williams, and Santi Aldama as young promising players, the Thunder can counter with Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aleksej Pokusevski, Aaron Wiggins, Isaiah Joe, and whatever Ousmane Dieng can become given how high people viewed his ceiling and the bidding war that took place on Draft night with multiple teams vying for him in a trade with New York.

That is not even factoring in a 2023 NBA Draft pick in a loaded draft class that barring a fantastic second-half run will be a top-ten selection in a draft many scouts believe runs seven or eight names deep of top-three talent for an organization.

Then, there is the Steven Adams portion of the Grizzlies, the former Thunder big man helps tie this entire Memphis roster together. While trading for Adams was not a jaw-dropping, blockbuster trade, it was the right fit for Memphis. The Thunder have enough assets to make a Steven Adams-level move to put the bow on top of their young pieces, and/or trade for a disgruntled NBA star to skyrocket up the talent-level rankings in Bricktown to go along with Kenrich Williams as a highly complimentary role player.

Make no mistake, this is not a pick-one future Memphis or Oklahoma City article, but it is pointing out how the Thunder are stacking young talent just as Memphis is, and we could be watching two future cores that have to go at one another for the next five, six, seven years as contenders out west.

While OKC still sits below .500 for now, adding Chet Holmgren back, internal progression, and future moves Sam Presti can make all point to the OKC Thunder joining Memphis as one of the youngest and most successful NBA teams sooner rather than later.

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