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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Vasilije Micic

At the start of the season, the DNPs had me worried. Is the game too fast for him? Is he just not able to be an effective defender? Did Presti sign him just to be trade fodder? These questions plagued me. Micic was able to get on the floor, but solely in short bursts or during garbage time. 

How quickly things can change. Vasilije Micic now finds himself as a core member of what might be my favorite Thunder lineup.

That would be the start of the fourth quarter Shai-less Squadron. Jalen Williams takes on the primary ball-handling role, but Micic will often get to initiate offense during these minutes. 

This lineup has been crucial for closing out games. Simply staying above water without Gilgeous-Alexander in the game is a blessing.

These guys have done that and more, building leads and putting away games. Jalen Williams certainly deserves the most credit for that, but the playmaking that Micic provides is a vital component of their success. 

I feel like Micic channels some sort of trickster deity in the way he plays the game of basketball. His points are often predicated on deception. Head fakes. No look passes.

Last night against Utah, Micic was driving to the basket. John Collins was helping off the corner man with one foot in the paint. All it took was a split-second feint; the suggestion of a kick out pass to the corner and the lane was clear. Wide open layup for Vasa.

Is Micic going to be a playoff rotation guy for the Thunder? My heart and my mind are at odds. So far, he’s held up fine defensively, but I noted that he absolutely did not want to switch on to Harden during the Clippers game.

Likely teams will try to hunt him in the playoffs. Maybe his minutes will depend on favorable matchups. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the basketball chicanery that is unique to Vasilije Micic. 

Key stat: Micic has usurped Isaiah Joe as the Thunder’s resident On/Off efficiency darling. Cleaning the Glass has Micic as the 3rd best player in the NBA in “On/Off Efficiency Differential”. To put it simply, the Thunder are winning the minutes that Vasilije Micic plays. Another stat for the road: Micic hasn’t had a negative single game plus-minus in 10 straight games. 

Who could he turn out to be? Micic just celebrated his 30th birthday, which makes a future prediction feel pretty silly. I see some Ginobili in his game, but he’s like if Ginobili was winning 10th Man of the Year instead of 6th Man. No shade, either. I consider myself a core member of the Micic Mob. 

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