The OKC Thunder are missing a key piece on the second night of a back-to-back. Jalen Williams, who was pivotal in the crazy 18-point overtime comeback against the Warriors, will be sidelined for this tilt with a hip injury.
That leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder with a massive hole in their starting five. The first five that, when healthy, have remained true are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren.
The only time Mark Daigneault has been forced to deviate from that group was in the first In-Season tournament game against the Warriors when he was sidelined with a knee injury. In that game, the OKC Thunder tossed Cason Wallace into the first five-up, which was a seamless fit positionally.
OKC Thunder tip their hand on feelings about rookie Cason Wallace when putting him into the starting lineup in place of the injured Jalen Williams.
Cason Wallace has been stellar for the OKC Thunder this season, ranking in the top ten among rookies, and a lock for an All-Rookie team if he remains healthy. Starting him in place of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made sense against Golden State.
In that contest, the Thunder needed a defensive boost playing the Splash brothers and were down a guard. Now, without the perimeter-scoring threats and down a power forward, Wallace is still the go-to option for Mark Daigneault.
They are electing to play small instead of inserting Kenrich Williams or Jaylin Williams into the starting five. Cason Wallace allows Oklahoma City to play closer to their position-less identity while tasking the likes of Lu Dort to play bigger on the floor to help on the glass.
Trusting Wallace to enter the starting five playing small ball on the road is another sign of how the OKC Thunder view him. Trust is the best word to describe it.
The Thunder so far in his rookie season, which is just 13 games old, he has been assigned to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young, Bradley Beal, De’Aaron Fox, and even playing up on DeMar DeRozan/Zach Lavine.
To remain on the floor in the closing moments of contest like last night, just 13 games into your NBA career, is another sign of how Oklahoma City views the tenth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
For good reason, Wallace is averaging seven points, two rebounds, nearly two assists, and shooting 63 percent from the floor, 54 percent from beyond the arc, and turning in 1.1 STOCKS per game (steals plus blocks).
Cason Wallace is tracking to be an efficient offensive weapon and a defensive ace in this league if this is the starting point for his young career.