3 players that will make or break 2024 postseason for OKC Thunder

Jan 26, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault looks on
Jan 26, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault looks on / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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After three straight years of postseason-less basketball, the OKC Thunder have officially punched their ticket back to the big dance following their mesmerizing win over the New York Knicks on Easter Sunday.

Despite their youth and admittedly lacking experience, in 2023-24 Mark Daigneault's squad has thrust itself into the conversation of the league's elite teams and, heading into the playoffs, is viewed by many as a legitimate threat to take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Of course, regular season successes are tossed out the door once the postseason comes underway, as all eligible teams will be starting from scratch and will be looking to scrap with the rest of their conference clinchers.

Players that will make or break postseason run for OKC Thunder

Though the franchise may have just recently claimed their sixth 50-plus win campaign since moving from Seattle to OKC back in 2008-09 and are in a legitimate position to claim the west's top seed, there's by no means a guarantee that they'll breeze through this year's postseason.

Odds may be rather high on their chances to win it all this year, as they currently rank as a top-five favorite to take home the illustrious crown, but in order to get to the promised land they'll need many of their players to step up when the lights are shining brightest.

With this in mind, fans should be heading into this year's playoffs focusing their attention on a few players, in particular, that could either make or break Oklahoma City's run.

3. Gordon Hayward

At this year's trade deadline, the Thunder made the splashy move to snag veteran forward Gordon Hayward from the Charlotte Hornets for an outbound package of Dāvis Bertāns, Tre Mann, Vasilije Micić, two second-round picks, and cash considerations.

Considering his productivity at the time of the trade, it appeared as though Sam Presti had pulled off yet another heist, as he was producing to the tune of 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and half a block while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from deep through 25 games played.

However, 20 games into his tenure with the Thunder Hayward appears to be a shell of his pre-trade self, as he's registering a mere 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists a night.

Of course, what seems to be a positive aspect of his play has been his efficiency from beyond the arc, as he's cashing in on a highly efficient 54.5 percent of his shots from distance.

As time goes by and he gains more comfort within and familiarity with coach Daigneault's schemes and his new teammates, the hope is that his well-rounded game will surface once more this year while his veteran leadership and experience in the postseason can have a positive effect on this youth-filled club.

Should he tap back into Hornets Hayward, having such a talent within the rotation could be a major positive for Oklahoma City, especially as part of a bench unit that, as of this writing, ranks a pedestrian 16 in the league in points per game (33.4).