2 Thunder players who deserve more playing time, and who needs to play less

Jan 31, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench celebrates after a score
Jan 31, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; The Oklahoma City Thunder bench celebrates after a score / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
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Josh Giddey should play less

I am starting to doubt in Josh Giddey’s fit with the starting lineup for this season’s playoff run. I’m no coach. I’m just a guy watching Thunder games. But what I’m seeing from this season is that Giddey is a player who looks like he makes his teammates better. High assist numbers, defensive rebounding that leads to fast breaks.

These are blatant examples of positive impact. In other words, it’s easy to see when a Giddey play goes well.

What is harder to discern is the way that Giddey’s shortcomings make things more difficult on his teammates. Some teams have begun defending him with their centers, sagging off Giddey in favor of staying close to the rim. When Gilgeous-Alexander or Jalen Williams gets past their defender, their usual open runway to the basket is replaced by a big who is ready to contest. 

Because opposing wings know the rim is safe, they can feel more confident holding close to their assignment on the perimeter. This further weakens the Thunder offense, who relies on open threes created off of drive-and-kick penetration. Having a non-shooter in the starting lineup can do serious damage to the Thunder’s well-oiled point-scoring machine. 

Now, not every team is going to defend Giddey in this manner, but as long as his shooting isn’t a threat, defenders are going to leave him open and clog up driving lanes. 

This analysis admittedly ignores the benefits that Giddey provides for Oklahoma City. His size gives OKC a necessary boost in rebounding ability. He can bully small guards and get himself easy push shots in the paint. He’s among the league’s best at inbounds passing, as he displayed in the tour de force game against the Raptors earlier this week. 

Obviously, Giddey is still a player with a bright future. He’s a 21-year old who is starting for a team on pace to win 57 games. And I haven’t forgotten last year’s Play-In game versus the Pelicans. Giddey was essential to the Thunder pulling out that win.

But for as many Giddey triumphs as we’ve seen, there are just as many games where he’s a non-factor or even a detriment to OKC’s success. 

As we start to think about the playoffs, there are certain players that I believe should have an opportunity to start games. Players with different skills that may better compliment the Thunder’s stars. In order to accommodate that, I do believe we should see Giddey’s role reduced some.