December Report Card: Grading the OKC Thunder's arrival

The OKC Thunder had a red-hot December, and they certainly seem to have arrived. It is time to grade the Thunder's December.

Dec 8, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7), and
Dec 8, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7), and / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
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Grading the OKC Thunder bench:

Isaiah Joe, G, OKC Thunder: B

December was a bit of a transformative month for Joe. It felt like, over the past few weeks, he turned from being a shooter who was improving defensively to a reliable option on both ends.

After starting the season with a number of hot shooting games and it getting to a point where it seemed like the guy was incapable of missing, that faded in December. The guard shot just 34.5% from 3-point range last month and averaged 7.1 points.

Overall, the month was a letdown for Joe offensively. After scoring in double figures in six of his last seven games in November, he only reached the 10-point threshold twice in December. We’ll see if his shooting can bounce back to his early season levels in January.

Aaron Wiggins, G, OKC Thunder: B+

As usual, Wiggins simply made things happen in the month of December. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time when the Thunder need a hustle play.

It also felt like this was the month he finally cracked the permanent rotation. Sure, his minutes have fluctuated, but the main thing is he played at least 10 minutes in basically 10 of 13 games.

He particularly came along toward the end of the month and played a vital role off the bench in the Thunder’s toughest stretch thus far.

Cason Wallace, G, OKC Thunder: B

In a similar case to Joe’s, Wallace struggled to keep up with his absurd hot shooting start to the year. His percentage dropped substantially in December, shooting just 30.8% in the team’s 13 games.

But his offense was not why he was drafted. Yes, it has been a welcome sight for the Thunder that Wallace has been a knockdown shooter for much of the season, but he has become a reliable option against some of the league’s best guards.

Essentially, Wallace has etched his name into the rotation for the rest of the year, if for no other reason than he is Lu Dort 2.0. 

Kenrich Williams, F, OKC Thunder: B+

For a moment, it appeared that Williams was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation. That did not last long. Williams’ versatility throughout the month showed that he is not only a mainstay in the Thunder’s rotation but will be a massive piece of their hopes to win a playoff series.

He showed that with stellar performances against some of the best teams in the NBA over the past couple of weeks. Whether nailing some timely threes or playing small-ball five against guys like Anthony Davis, Williams ensured his spot was not up for grabs.

Jaylin Williams, F, OKC Thunder: B

December was a rather iffy month for Williams in terms of playing time. After ending last season as the starting center, it looked like he may come into the season as a lock for 15-ish minutes per game. Instead, he passed the 10-minute mark just five times in December.

However, he continued to shoot well from outside and has had his usual impact as a communicator and charge-taker defensively. And on that end, the Thunder may have had one of their most important discoveries.

Williams played 16 minutes or more just twice in December, both coming against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, Williams has the size to match up with the former MVP that others in Oklahoma City, including Chet Holmgren, simply lack. Although it is just turning to January, the Thunder may have found their first chess move in a potential playoff series against the defending champs.

Vasilije Micic, G, OKC Thunder: C

The Thunder’s European rookie has had a tough start to his NBA career but looks to be turning a corner. While he is far from getting a regular spot in the rotation, Micic has shown his value and adjustment to the NBA game over the past few weeks.

He still has strides to make as a defender and shooter, but his playmaking will continue to aid his transition. Still, if he wants to stick in the NBA, he’ll need to shoot better than his December total of 4-of-18.

Ousmane Dieng, F, OKC Thunder: B-

The second-year forward has taken Aleksej Pokusevski’s spot as Oklahoma City’s long-term project. But with the team’s success since he was drafted, getting the same opportunities as Pokusevski is impossible.

His December started with a bang with an 18-point outing against the Utah Jazz. And although he continued to get minutes in the next few games, he couldn’t build on that momentum.

Albeit a small sample size, he shot 50% from deep and was a positive defender.

Tre Mann, G, OKC Thunder: C-

It may be the end of the line for Tre Mann’s tenure in Oklahoma City. Given recent rumors that Oklahoma City looked to trade him and his sporadic playing time, he is a likely candidate to be moved at the deadline.

As for his December, not much happened. Mann saw non-garbage time minutes twice to begin the month and never really got another chance. While he had a solid outing to start the month in Houston, scoring 10 points, it was not enough for him to crack any sort of fringe rotational role.

Davis Bertans, F, OKC Thunder: B

Bertans started the month with a bang in Dallas. He went 3-of-3 from outside and nailed six free throws after being fouled on a couple of outside looks.

He scored 15 against the Mavericks that night. He scored just nine points in five appearances the rest of the month. Still, if the Thunder do not find a trade to use his salary in, five minutes from him in the playoffs is enough of a threat to keep him around.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Lindy Waters III, Olivier Sarr and Keyontae Johnson combined for only seven appearances in December, with none looking like potential contributors in 2024.

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