OKC Thunder game grades: Season-Opening beat down

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2), forward Chet Holmgren (7), forward Jalen Williams (8), guard Luguentz Dort (5) and guard Josh Giddey (3) Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2), forward Chet Holmgren (7), forward Jalen Williams (8), guard Luguentz Dort (5) and guard Josh Giddey (3) Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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OKC Thunder
Cason Wallace #22 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Grading the OKC Thunder bench against the Chicago Bulls

Oklahoma City Thunder. CASON WALLACE. A+. . G

You literally could not ask for a better debut in Cason Wallace’s first NBA action he did not miss a shot. Going 5-for-5 from the floor and shooting 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, Wallace was stellar against the Bulls.

Perhaps more impressive than his perfect shooting night was his defensive prowess. Wallace had the range and recovery speed to show and recover in the NBA right away. His ability to rise up on closeouts against taller players gives him instant switchability on that side of the floor, and he was even able to swat a shot in this contest.

For a rookie to be up to speed (literally), this quick on the defensive end just shows his high-end starting point. Wallace has the tools and the environment with the Thunder’s coaching staff to be a top-end defender in the NBA. That was on display against the Bulls.

On the offensive end, Cason Wallace delivered as a catch-and-shoot option for OKC, knocking down all three of his opportunities. He also flashed a shot creation ability with an off-the-dribble jumper at the free throw line and has showcased an ability to finish around the rim as an off-ball weapon for Mark Daigneault’s squad.

Everything the tenth overall pick does on the floor is things Oklahoma City looks for and is the key to him sticking in this competitive rotation for the entire season.

A. . G. Oklahoma City Thunder. ISAIAH JOE

The Oklahoma City Thunder know they can constantly turn to Isaiah Joe for an offensive jolt off the pine. Isaiah Joe turned in 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal. The Arkansas sniper shot 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and 4-for-8 from the floor.

However, it was not just the offensive side of the ball. Isaiah Joe was a pest defensively, even coming up with a steal that led to a coast-to-coast exclamation point on the OKC Thunder’s statement win in Chicago.

Oklahoma City Thunder. OUSMANE DIENG. A-. . F/C

Ousmane Dieng played primarily small-ball five, which came in handy for the Thunder, who routinely like to play small but were without Kenrich Williams in this contest. Dieng played some of his best basketball, and his ability to cover ground defensively, switching 1-5, caused havoc on the Bulls, including a 24-second violation during Chicago’s sputtering third quarter.

While Dieng aced this first test, his swing skill will be finding that consistent shooting stroke. He shot the trey ball at a 60 percent clip in this contest, on his way to posting nine points and two rebounds.

If the second-year lottery pick can routinely toss in 3-of-5 three-pointers a night, he will have a constant role on Mark Daigneault’s squad thanks to his defensive makeup.

. F. Oklahoma City Thunder. AARON WIGGINS. C+

Aaron Wiggins was simply Aaron Wiggins. While nothing he did was earth-shattering, he did a great job soaking up nearly 11 minutes of action and helping the OKC Thunder bridge the gap in this tilt. Wiggins was the first sub off the bench, music to Thunder fan’s ears who hope he carves out a more steady role in Mark Daigneault’s rotation this season.

The Maryland wing finished with two points and three rebounds in this clash. He did not make his typical game-shifting plays off the pine. However, even without their top two bench producers, OKC could still rattle off a 20-point win.

. C. Oklahoma City Thunder. OLIVIER SARR. C

Olivier Sarr had to step up for the OKC Thunder, who were down Kenrich Williams and Jaylin Willimas in this tilt, two of their best frontcourt options, while Aleksej Pokusevski was only able to log a single minute in garbage time for the Thunder in his return from an ankle injury.

That left Sarr needing to sop up rotational minutes for the Thunder, and he did… okay. Nothing was glaring one way or another about how Sarr plays, but since he looks a bit different than you are used to seeing the five position in Oklahoma City, fans convince themselves of things.

In the G-League last year, Sarr was scored on at a 64 percent clip, which grades out as “poor” according to synergy. While his body might look closer to a traditional NBA big man, he is by no means an anchor at the rim.

However, Sarr is a really good break glass in case of emergency two-way contracted big man. He filled that role nicely in Chicago, going for four points and as many rebounds.

The benefit to Olivier Sarr is the trust Mark Daigneault, and this team has in him. He understands the system and has proved, even last year on the road against the Clippers in the stretch run of the season, that he can play highly impactful minutes in spurts in the NBA.

That is more than most two-way players can say, so Sarr gets a passing grade in this contest as the Thunder were forced to unexpectedly lean on the Kentucky big man early in the season.

Game Grade Notes

Aleksej Pokusevski, Tre Mann, and Lindy Waters III all played under three minutes in this contest, so they get an incomplete for the evening. Waters III was the only player to check in before garbage time, and that was an attempt for the Thunder to put an extra shooter on the floor at the end of quarters to steal a quick bucket.

For game recaps of all 82 contests, check back with Thunderous Intentions after each game and return for daily coverage all year.  

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