Season Recap: Isaiah Joe finds his role

Isaiah Joe #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Isaiah Joe #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That pretty much summed up Isaiah Joe during the 2022-2023 season.

When Isaiah Joe signed with the OKC Thunder on a three-year, six-million deal, it certainly felt like a cheap roster filler for a team that was supposed to finish with one of the worst records in the NBA. Instead, Joe took a leap, as did the rest of the Thunder, to land in the NBA Play-in tournament.

Isaiah Joe had a breakout season for the OKC Thunder after being a free agent weeks before the season started.

Isaiah Joe averaged nine points, two rebounds, and an assist assists through 73 games with the Thunder. His offense, which was predicated on his incredible three-point marksmanship, catapulted him to an impressive 41 percent on five three-point attempts per game.

Joe’s advanced numbers on the offensive end were also a sight to behold, coming in at nearly 63 percent on his true shooting rate and 60 percent on his effective field goal rate.

His shooting has also equipped the Thunder to be more creative on their set plays and provide the necessary spacing for the team’s main guns, such as Shai Gilgeoous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, to operate on the floor.

One main play that Joe has decked out for the Thunder was the guard-to-guard pick-and-rolls. For most of the season, this has been the team’s calling card on offensively cold stretches as the guard-to-guard screening actions utilized the double-edged threat of Joe’s gravity rooted from his insane sniping, and a Thunder guard’s — mainly SGA or Giddey — driving exploits.

Joe has also proved that his shotmaking is more than capable of withstanding the minutes left by some of the starters when they were on the bench or out of the lineup due to injuries.

Joe has scored 15 or more points off the bench this season 14 times. He also recorded his season-high on a game without Gilgeous-Alexander, torching the hoop with 33 points against the Charlotte Hornets albeit on a losing effort.

But none of it was bigger than his late October game versus the Dallas Mavericks, where he checked in to drop 15 points, in which eight came in overtime, on just nine minutes of playing time to help erase a 16-point deficit en route to a 117-111 win.

The win was merely Joe’s revelation at that time but it proved to be incredibly pivotal in the Thunder’s play-in push as the victory allowed OKC to have the head-to-head advantage over the 11th seed Mavericks in the Western Conference standings, which, as a result, gave the Thunder the 10th spot and the final play-in ticket.

Joe had since gained the trust from head coach Mark Daigneault — not just for what he brought to the Thunder’s offense, but also for his tenacity on the defensive end.

Joe’s relentless pursuit of guards who loved to move off-ball has stood out in his defensive displays. Despite his six-foot-three stature, he competes on elite on-ball offensive players with great intensity, which not only put him far from being a liability defensively, but also made him a valuable asset against quick-footed guards.

From the eye test, Joe was an extremely disciplined defender, moving his hips through elite mechanics and staying low on laterals to keep in step with opposing guards. His defense — despite a pedestrian average of 0.7 steals per game — has also emerged as one of his most underrated facets.

Additionally, he had not gone shy of doing the dirty work, finishing the season with the seventh most charges drawn with 20. The OKC Thunder led the league with most charges drawn this season mainly due to Jaylin Williams’ total of 43 and Kenrich Williams’ 23.

Isaiah Joe’s value has reached far above his salary, making him one of the best bargain contracts in the league.  His shooting coupled with his surprisingly good defense will give the Thunder another weapon of choice come the time the team puts up all their artillery for a playoff war.

Next. 3 OKC Thunder players who might not return. dark