The OKC Thunder have been dealt a tough hand in the Injury department. Heading into the regular season opener, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be without Jaylin Williams, who is dealing with a hamstring injury he sustained in practice earlier this week.
The Thunder are also without Kenrich Williams for now, who is dealing with back spasms, though he has not been ruled out for the season opener yet. While Mark Daigneault tells me Aleksej Pokusevski is “progressing better than expected,” they will likely still miss the seven-footer on Wednesday in the Windy City.
The OKC Thunder are going to be without Jaylin Williams to start the season, and they are confident Olivier Sarr can step up.
With the potential of three key frontcourt members in street clothes on Wednesday, a team already lacking frontcourt depth will be scrambling to fill the void potentially left behind by Pokusevski, Kenrich Williams, and Jaylin Williams.
Throughout the preseason, the OKC Thunder have leaned on two-way big man Olivier Sarr. The French big man is heading into year three with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization, spending most of that time with the OKC Blue, “He knows the system,” Mark Daigneault explained when discussing Sarr.
Knowing the system is one thing; stepping up on the floor is different. Luckily for the OKC Thunder, they have seen Sarr bring production in a pinch. Last year against the L.A. Clippers, he played a part in one of the most thrilling road wins of the season.
For any player, but especially one with just 31 games played, per 36 numbers are flawed, but Sarr is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds, an assist, and a block per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep.
In a game that meant nothing for either side, Olivier Sarr was asked to clean up the regular season finale a year ago, where he posted 22 points, 15 rebounds, an assist, and a steal, only missing five shots all night.
Mark Daigneault has leaned on Sarr this preseason and even experimented with playing the 24-year-old next to Chet Holmgren, running a double-big lineup. I asked both parties about Sarr, and they gave glowing reviews.
The people in that locker room believe in Olivier Sarr and not in a “Coach speak” way. They have gone above and beyond to heap genuine praise on the two-way big man. Last season in the G-League, Sarr averaged 11 points, two assists, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game in 12 contests for the Blue.
Olivier Sarr dominated at the rim, shooting 69 percent at the cup; on catch-and-shoot attempts, Sarr posted 44 percent shooting. The big man dominated on cuts, posting 1.2 points per possession on such attempts, but struggled mightily as a pick-and-roll partner, turning in just 0.8 points per possession, shooting 41 percent in such chances.
Defensively, Sarr can get overzealous going for blocks, which led to him racking up three fouls per game in the G League and five fouls per game in the NBA (per 36 minutes).
Ultimately, Olivier Sarr is an excellent “break glass in case of emergency” option as a big man, and boy, is this an emergency for the OKC Thunder if they can not get the rest of the front court on the mend soon.