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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Cason Wallace

On the Mark Daigneaul Artist-to-Scientist Spectrum, Cason Wallace has undoubtedly been a basketball scientist.

He can quickly determine what the right decision for a play is and execute that decision to a tee. The growing pains associated with an NBA rookie season seem to have skipped Wallace entirely. A veteran’s mind in a rookie’s body. 

Wallace plays almost every minute with either Gilgeous-Alexander or Jalen Williams, which means he rarely gets to run the offense. This allows him to dedicate his energy towards hounding defense. 

He’s not quite as loud of a defender as Lu Dort, but his point-of-attack defense has been specially, given his youth.

Earlier this season, in the waning seconds of a tight game against the Warriors, Wallace forced a tough shot and a miss out of Steph Curry. Just this week, he picked James Harden’s pocket and took it the other way for a leisurely dunk.

On the offensive end, Wallace has had a shot chart that would make Daryl Morey blush. A third of his shots come from the rim and another third from the corner three.

No, that’s not to say that Wallace is a PJ Tucker-type, rooted in the corner, hands open,n just waiting for the swing pass. No, Wallace plays in the Thunder way, flowing from action to action, sensing for the opportune time to cut to the basket or relocate around the perimeter.

Key stat: After last night’s excellent performance against Utah, Wallace is just over 50/40/80 shooting splits on the season. I could only find three other rookies who crossed that threshold in the last decade. Wallace is nothing if not efficient.

Who could he turn out to be? His measurables and role scream Jrue Holiday. I haven’t seen quite enough out of Wallace yet to go that far. We can go with Diet Jrue Holiday or a more sedate Marcus Smart.