How the OKC Thunder are trying to steal rest for rising star

Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder are fresh off consecutive off days for just the second time all season. Given the entire NBA getting Thanksgiving Day off on Thursday and the Thunder having a scheduled off day on Friday, the only thing stopping the Oklahoma City Thunder from an entire week off is a Wednesday affair with the Chicago Bulls.

The Oklahoma City Thunder did not have Jalen Williams for the last game against the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the second night of a back-to-back that was the third game in four nights, and on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors the OKC Thunder’s rising star suffered a hip injury.

The OKC Thunder are able to steal rest for their rising star, as Jalen Williams will have a week off by only missing two games.

Resting him against the lowly Portland Trail Blazers after he woke up sore on Sunday morning was a smart move. The OKC Thunder blew out the Trail Blazers with a historic shooting night that put the Thunder up as many as 47 points and saw all five starters playing in less than 23 minutes.

On Tuesday Mark Daigneault announced Jalen Williams will also miss Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls. His status for Saturday’s tango with the Philadelphia 76ers is still up in the air. However, this could be an excellent strategy for stealing rest.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have already played the Chicago Bulls, dominating them in the season-opener, earning a 20-point win in the United Center. That sparked a players-only meeting after the first game of the year (never a good sign!), and since then, the Bulls have gone 5-9. In their last ten games, the team from the Windy City is just 3-7.

If the OKC Thunder can again take care of business against the lowly Chicago Bulls, this time without Jalen Williams, the Thunder will have secured six off days for the rising star leading into Saturday’s game with the 76ers.

That matchup with Philly opens up the most challenging stretch of the season to date, featuring the 76ers, Timberwolves, Lakers, Mavericks, Jazz, Kings, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Clippers, and Lakers in the next ten games.

Getting the 2022 Lottery pick primed for that stretch will be incredibly important for the Oklahoma City Thunder, even at the cost of having to patchwork a rotation to beat the Bulls before Thanksgiving.

To this point in the season, each time the OKC Thunder have missed one of their five typical starters, Mark Daigneault has placed rookie Cason Wallace in the first five. This seems to be the Thunder’s go-to option, even when missing Williams, who is classified as the power forward.

Of course, the Bulls present an intriguing, lengthier matchup for the Thunder than the lowly Trail Blazers. The only other time Wallace started was in place of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is an obvious positional fit.

However, the Thunder have options. Perhaps Kenrich Williams or Aaron Wiggins will get the first look with the Thunder starters, given their play style more naturally aligns with Jalen Williams’ role.

Ultimately, even with Jalen Williams sidelined, the OKC Thunder should still beat the Chicago Bulls. This is as close to a must-win game as you can get in November, given the difficult stretch the Thunder are staring down.

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