What started as a season of low expectations, devoid of positively meaningful games with ploys devoted to boosting the odds for a coveted first-round pick, ended not just as a stark contrast to the pre-season assumptions but also as a declaration of the young OKC Thunder arrival.
General manager Sam Presti summed up the 2022-2023 Thunder campaign before the season even started: “Save your predictions, burn your assumptions.”
The OKC Thunder have a lot to look forward to, despite their postseason loss to the Timberwolves
After the OKC Thunder fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament, it’s easy to feel regrets — besides, losing by that big to a team missing some key players was not quite enchanting.
But, with the way the youthful Thunder crew is set up for the future, the optimism for what is next must be at a fever pitch and should completely out shadow the single-game blowout that just occurred.
Starting with what has been worn out in the past three years: the Thunder have a treasure trove of draft picks.
Oklahoma City shall enjoy over 15 first-round picks in the next five years, putting them in almost always great positions to snag valuable talents around the league through trades. With that draft capital, one can only imagine what Presti — one of the savviest GMs in the league — could pull off.
That looming, if not inevitable, reality of cashing into a marquee player should salivate the Thunder faithful. It will only further beef up a roster full of capable talents and an already-established All-Star.
None can argue the value of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the OKC Thunder this season. He broke out MVP-like numbers of 31.4 points, five rebounds, and five assists on 51/34/90 shooting splits.
He led the league in 30-point games, made himself a finalist for the Most Improved Player award, and, most importantly, was the top cog to the Thunder’s offensive machine that allowed them to extend their season from 82 games to 84.
SGA, at 24, was already the oldest of the usual starters of the team, whose average age of 23.3 years old converts to the second-youngest in the league. That should make the fact that they won 40 games this season a much heavier feat, considering that 14 of the listed players in the roster were under 25.
Sophomore Josh Giddey has also proved his place as one of the cornerstones of the Thunder, especially after his brilliant performance to knock out the New Orleans Pelicans in their first play-in game, where he dropped 31 points, nine rebounds, and ten assists.
GIddey’s jump from his rookie to his second year pushed the Thunder to new heights. However, it is easy to think that his ceiling is still undetected.
Rookie Jalen Williams’’ emergence as a potential star was also a talking point, perhaps not just for this season. Williams is a finalist for the Rookie of the Year nod and looked like, on most nights, the best rookie in this class. His leap should be a fun one to witness.
And possibly the most thrilling of all, the debut of Chet Holmgren is still upon everyone. What his seven-foot-two frame and shooting prowess bring to a young team short of interior presence and enough shooting throughout the season is anyone’s guess. However, the mystery of his insertion into an already promising squad should be spine-tingling.
The future, in nature, has always been uncertain. Still, the Thunder’s chances of success — predicated on timely trades and exceptional luck and decision-making — is at the optimistic end of the spectrum.
OKC Thunder has positioned itself to be great for the future. However, the season that just ended was only the beginning. The arrival just started; please watch out for what is next.
OK-C you next season.