The OKC Thunder smashed their win total last season behind an All-NBA First Team berth from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They were 16th in Offensive Rating as a team, although that spiked to 7th over their final 46 games.
Which improvements will allow OKC to increase its offensive output? Check out below for three dream offensive scenarios for the OKC Thunder.
Three Dream Scenarios for the OKC Thunder on the offensive end of the floor this season.
Josh Giddey Boosts Free Throw Rate
Josh Giddey made tremendous strides during his sophomore season, but drawing free throws remained a glaring weakness. Of the 245 qualified players per Basketball Reference, Giddey ranked 212th in Free Throw Attempt rate, which measures the number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt.
Filter that sample to players that match or exceed Josh Giddey’s usage rate, and he was 51st of 52 players ahead of only Klay Thompson, who is extremely unlikely to draw free throws, given his shot profile.
Giddey often settled for deep floaters last year and shied away from contact. He’s a playmaker at heart, so opting for a kickout over shooting through contact appeals to his basketball nature.
However, OKC fans witnessed a more aggressive Josh Giddey during the FIBA World Cup, as he exchanged deep floaters for drives and nearly tripled his Free Throw Attempt rate during this tournament compared to last season. If Giddey builds on this offensive aggression, he will raise his efficiency and force defenses to collapse on a drive rather than allowing the deep floater.
Why are free throws so important, though? Their expected value is massive. The league average free throw percentage last season was 78.2 percent, so a pair of free throws would produce 1.562 expected points per possession.
Meanwhile, a 52 percent shooter from three produces 1.56 expected points per possession. For a startling comparison, a pair of Onyeka Okongwu free throws was theoretically worth more than a wide-open Luke Kennard three-point attempt last season.
Vasilije Micic’s Offense Translates
Vasilije Micic has dominated the EuroLeague through his superb three-point shooting and passing creativity, so OKC fans have rightfully been anxious to see him join the NBA. Micic is finally here and can fill an area of need: bench orchestrator.
OKC’s bench last season often failed to achieve desirable shot quality because of a lack of on-ball creators. With Micic on the court next to Wallace, the Thunder finally have a duo they can rely on without having to play one of Gilgeous-Alexander or Giddey at all times.
If Micic’s play and shot completely translate to the NBA, then the Thunder have a valuable sixth man who can create shots for others. As a result, OKC’s offense would take a massive leap because of the constant elite playmaking and selflessness.
Ousmane Dieng Sees An Efficiency Bump
Injuries limited Ousmane Dieng to just 39 games during his 19-year-old rookie season, but he flashed creation upside and defensive versatility when on the court.
The efficiency was far from ideal, though. Dieng shot 29.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes and 7.7 percent on pull-up threes. His form was rock-solid, and dealing with an injury when adjusting to the NBA is never a recipe for success.
Dieng recently thrived in Summer League, with averages of 15 points, nearly six rebounds, and five assists on 51/36/87 shooting splits, so this confidence boost can send Dieng into this season on a positive note.
Although he has plenty of time to develop, Dieng needs to raise his efficiency before he morphs into a productive, reliable piece for OKC. A decent increase this season would be an excellent sign for the young wing, who has the upside to become a future starter.