Grading OKC Thunder Players for their December Performances

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder Starters

A+. . G. Oklahoma City Thunder. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s early-season dominance continued into the month of December. He did nothing to remove his name from early-season conversations about All-Star Game representatives or the league’s Most Improved Player award. SGA averaged 31 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and one block per game through 13 games while playing 36 minutes per night. He also continued his torrid free-throw shooting pace by shooting 90 percent from the line while attempting 11 foul shots per game.

Shai only took three three-pointers per game but made 38 percent of his attempts to go with his 49 percent clip from the field. We don’t normally see the first All-Star voting return until after the New Year but don’t be surprised to see Shai in the running for a starting spot.

Oklahoma City Thunder. JOSH GIDDEY. A-. . G

Many people wondered if Josh Giddey was experiencing a sophomore slump based on his performance at the beginning of the year. December has been a much better month for the second-year guard. He’s averaged more points and rebounds than he did during October or November, and he’s kept his assist numbers up as well. His offensive rating in December (110) is also much improved from his early season numbers. He posted a true shooting percentage of 49 percent in November and raised that number to 57 percent in December.

Most notably, he shot 43 percent from three on three attempts per game after only making 24 percent of his attempts during the month of November. It will be interesting to see if Giddey can maintain this higher level of production – or even improve on it – when the calendar turns to 2023.

B-. . G. Oklahoma City Thunder. LUGUENTZ DORT

Dort’s offense dipped slightly during the month of December, but it didn’t fall off a cliff. He posted an offensive rating of 113 in November with a true shooting percentage of nearly 55 percent. He did this while shooting 37 percent from three and scoring 14 points per game. His shooting percentages in December were slightly lower (40 percent from the field, 35 percent from three, and 52 percent true shooting), but not too far off from his numbers the month prior. His offensive rating dipped from 113 in November down to 100 in December, probably in part because his turnover numbers were up while his assist and rebounds were down.

Obviously, Dort contributes on both sides of the court, and his defensive rating of 116 doesn’t fully represent his contributions. The Thunder hope he’s able to get his offensive numbers trending in the right direction, especially if he’s going to keep his usage rate above 20 percent.

G/F. Oklahoma City Thunder. JALEN WILLIAMS. B+.

Jalen Williams’s points, assists, and rebounds per game have gone up each month during his rookie season. He’s become a mainstay in the starting lineup, only coming off the bench twice during the month of December after starting less than 50 percent of the Thunder’s games during October and November. He brought his three-point shooting average up from 29 percent in November to 32 percent in December. He also brought his defensive rating down three points from the month prior. Overall, the first-year guard is averaging 11 points per game on 51 percent shooting. If he keeps this up, he’ll get plenty of buzz for the All-Rookie first team and he may even get some votes for Rookie of the Year.

B. . F. Oklahoma City Thunder. ALEKSEJ POKUSEVSKI

Unfortunately, the best grade for Aleksej Pokusevski in December might be “incomplete.” He essentially missed the last three games after injuring his leg on December 27th against San Antonio. He will be re-evaluated in 6-8 weeks with what was diagnosed as a non-displaced tibial fracture. Poku finished the month of December averaging eight points and five rebounds per game in 20 minutes per game. His field goal shooting was much better in November, but he raised his free throw shooting and his assists per game in December. Still, his offensive rating dropped from 116 in November to 99 in December. He continued to block one shot per game in December but wasn’t able to match his torrid pace of two per game from the month prior.

Hopefully, Poku’s leg heals quickly and he’s able to return shortly after the All-Star break. Even though his numbers were down in December, he’s still been a key contributor to this Thunder squad.

F/C. Oklahoma City Thunder. JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL. C+.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has missed the Thunder’s last nine games with a significant ankle sprain. In five games played during the month of December, J-Rob averaged nine points and five rebounds while playing 23 minutes per game. He came into the month shooting 40 percent from three-point range on the season, but only made three of his 11 attempts during the month of December. However, he increased his rebounding by a small margin and went a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line. All of those stats represent a small sample size but are still worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Another stat to watch is JRE’s defensive rating, which has increased in each month since the season began. At 6-9, JRE plays as an undersized big, but much will be expected of him especially as the Thunder wait for Poku and Ousmane Dieng to return to action.