Checking in with the OKC Thunder rookies at the mid-season mark

The OKC Thunder rookies have helped elevate this squad, grading the trio at the midway point.
Dec 29, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) and Denver
Dec 29, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) and Denver / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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Despite the recent road struggles in Los Angeles, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a ton to be excited about this season.

They’ve got an MVP-caliber star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. An elite coach leading the team from development into playoff contention. And after some seriously skilled drafting, they’ve got a rookie class that is lighting up the league.

The Thunder have three rookies that I would consider “in the rotation”: Chet Holmgren, Cason Wallace, and Vasilije Micic. I wanted to see how rare it was for a team to win like the OKC Thunder have while featuring three or more rookies in their playing rotation. The answer is exceedingly rare.

There were 78 teams that won 50+ games in the last decade (or had a 50-win pace in shortened seasons). Out of those 78 teams, only three of them featured three or more rookies regularly in their playing rotation. Less than five percent. 

Granted, the Thunder have some unusual circumstances for their rookies. Chet Holmgren is a redshirt rookie, having missed what was supposed to be his rookie year due to injury. Vasilije Micic is a rookie who was actually drafted back in 2014, but is making his NBA debut this season.

Regardless, it is still a stunning accomplishment for the Thunder to win how they have despite their lack of NBA experience.

Now that we’ve seen half of the season play out, I figured it was a good time to check in on how each rookie has fit with the Thunder. (Spoiler alert: They fit great!) For each rookie, I’ve included a future projection as well as a key stat from their first half season. 

Before I begin, I also wanted to shout Keyontae Johnson, OKC’s second round pick from this last draft. He hasn’t had many minutes with the Thunder, but he's averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds per game with the G-League OKC Blue.

OKC has shown in the past that they’re willing to give their two-way players some run, so we may see Johnson called up as the season goes on.