Projecting the OKC Thunder’s starting five in 2023-24

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder enter an offseason full of possibilities after an exciting appearance in the play-in tournament. There may not be a need to make significant changes considering the core the OKC Thunder already has in place.

A way too early projection for the OKC Thunder 2023-24 starting lineup ahead of the NBA offseason.

Guard: Josh Giddey

The OKC Thunder’s first draft pick of the rebuild appears to be the playmaker of the future in OKC. Giddey came into the NBA as a good playmaker but has shown flashes of being one of the best in the league.

Giddey averaged more than six assists per game in his first two seasons. His assist totals reached double-digits in 10 games last season, and considering the offensive weapons around him, that number could rise dramatically next season.

While his playmaking is eye-catching, his most important ability may be his rebounding. He has led the Thunder in rebounding in both seasons. Giddey ranked second among guards last season behind Luka Doncic at nearly eight rebounds per game.

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Giddey’s all-around skillset netted him four triple-doubles last season. It seems that OKC has a thing for triple-double-posting point guards.

The most encouraging sign for Giddey from his rookie season to now is his improvement as a shooter, particularly from three. His percentage from deep went up to 32%, and as last season progressed, his confidence in taking those shots noticeably improved.

Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

It’s hard to put into words what Gilgeous-Alexander means to the OKC Thunder. He is the engine that drives the team and the newest member of a prestigious lineup of OKC all-stars.

SGA made his first all-star appearance last season, finished with first-team All-NBA honors and top five in MVP voting. He did all that despite the Thunder finishing the season at 10th in the west with a losing record.

After averaging 31.4 points last season, his elite scoring showed the league that a guard can still be effective even without a high volume of 3-pointers. However, adding that dimension to his game may make SGA the perfect superstar when the OKC Thunder get back to contending.

While SGA’s scoring numbers are staggering, his ability to get to the free-throw line is one of the biggest reasons. He finished third in the league in attempts at the line last season and shot 90% when he got there.

It often feels that no one in the league can stop Gilgeous-Alexander from getting to his spots and scoring at will. Once the promising young player in the Paul George trade, SGA has become the centerpiece for this era of Thunder basketball.

Forward: Lu Dort

If Gilgeous-Alexander is the anchor of the Thunder’s offense, Dort is the anchor of the Thunder’s defense. Dort’s defensive abilities transcend being a great individual defender. While he often smothers whoever he matches up with, the rest of the team feeds off his energy.

Dort’s teammates also note his importance in holding the team together on the defensive end of the floor. Making big plays and holding his teammates accountable has made him a respected leader.

What he lacks on offense, he can make up for on defense. However, the Thunder will look for the defensive stud to have a better season offensively.

The best way for that to happen will be for him to take a lesser role offensively. With Chet Holmgren returning and the continued improvement of Giddey and Jalen Williams, Dort’s role should be able to diminish to a 3-and-D wing.

With all the weapons around him, he can take the same role he had in his rookie season. If he can improve his three-point shooting to at least league average, his trade value would undoubtedly increase, but so would the likelihood he stays in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future.

Forward: Jalen Williams

When he was picked at 12, it was seen as a reach, but Williams has become an undeniable core piece for this generation of the Thunder. Williams showed steady improvement as the season went along and emerged as the steal of the draft.

Jalen Williams showed versatility on both ends of the floor in his rookie season. Williams averaged 1.4 steals per game to lead all rookies and was top 10 among rookies in blocks.

While his defense was consistently a solid defender, his scoring ability was on full display throughout the season—specifically, his ability to finish at the rim.

Williams had 77 dunks in 75 games last season, accounting for nearly 20% of his field goals. While his high-flying style of play first caught people’s eyes, he got into the Rookie of the Year race after the calendar turned to 2023.

Starting with a 21-point game against Boston, his numbers and efficiency quickly rose. Over the final 43 games, Williams averaged 16 points and five rebounds while shooting 39% from three.

If his finish to the season indicated things to come, he could soon join Gilgeous-Alexander as the next Thunder player to average 20 points.

Center: Chet Holmgren

A debut over a year in the making is set to happen sometime in October. Holmgren missed all of last season due to a foot injury, but his progress throughout the season was enough for Thunder fans to speculate about his return in the last few weeks.

The OKC Thunder don’t need the former second-overall pick to be a star. After playing without a big man last season, the Thunder having a 7-footer to protect the paint should make an immediate impact.

Although Holmgren will make his most significant defensive impact close to the rim, his offensive game fits perfectly with what the Thunder are trying to build. GM Sam Presti has talked about wanting a team full of guys who are a threat everywhere on the floor.

Holmgren can handle the ball and shoot from anywhere. Factor in his size, and fans have been quick to draw comparisons to former Thunder star Kevin Durant.

Holmgren should be able to help the Thunder win games as soon as he steps on the floor. And if he is still drawing comparisons to Durant at the end of next season, OKC could have a contender much sooner than anyone expected.

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