Daring Thunder decision might break playoff basketball as we know it

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament
Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Time and time again, this 2023-24 iteration of the OKC Thunder has proven itself to be quite an unorthodox group. Not only are they the youngest team in league history to enter a postseason as the number one seed in a conference standings, but they've managed to do so with just three players within their regular rotation boasting previous playoff experience.

And while many fans and pundits feared the club's lack of familiarity could prove to be a weakness for Oklahoma City, through two games in, it seems rather evident that, in some ways, it ironically has become something of a strength.

As superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander noted during playoff preparations, their inexperience in the playoffs could actually help them "play free," for they know not of the norms that come in such situations. Perhaps the most noteworthy example of this approach is Mark Daigneault's choice to continue running with rather deep rotations.

Generally speaking, the postseason is when teams trim down their rotations from the regular season, with substantial minutes usually not shelled out to more than eight players during such times.

Coach Daigneault, however, is quite clearly breaking this mold with his decision-making early on during their first-round matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault utilizing different approach to playoffs

During the 2023-24 campaign, the Thunder consistently found themselves going 11 to 12 men deep with their in-game rotations, with stars such as SGA seeing substantial run with role players like Jaylin Williams, for instance, rather often.

Through two games played during their first playoff excursion as a collective, it appears things haven't changed all that much in regard to the coaching staff's decision-making, as they still are found dipping into the double digits in player participation, with their latest outing on Wednesday night seeing as many as 10 players register 10 or more minutes played.

For comparison's sake, the Pelicans only ran out eight players who saw double-digit minutes logged during Game 2, the Philadelphia 76ers have seen only seven players register such action over their last two outings against the New York Knicks, and the reigning champion Denver Nuggets have religiously rolled out just seven or eight players during this year's run thus far against the Lakers.

The benefit of coach Daigneault's deep rotation is that it allows his star players the opportunity to get much-needed rest on the sidelines and keep their legs fresh down the stretch of games, which certainly seemed to be the case during their epic Game 1 bout with a loose and energetic Gilgeous-Alexander sealing the win for OKC.

Perhaps the inexperienced Thunder may be onto something with their rotational decision-making, as their all-hands-on-deck approach seems to be working quite well for them thus far through these early stages of the 2024 postseason.

Let's hope they can continue to play in such a fashion, as it could very easily come in handy during the latter rounds when opposing players could be burnt out after taking on the typical milage that comes during a deep playoff run.