Five Weekly Takeaways from Thunder Basketball

The Oklahoma City Thunder played their first three games in Orlando’s Bubble finishing with a record of two wins and one loss. The Thunder blew away the Utah Jazz in the first game and the Lakers in their last, while they lost in overtime (first overtime loss of the season) against the Denver Nuggets.

THE RESULTS

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Utah Jazz 110 – 94
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Denver Nuggets 113 – 121 OT
Oklahoma City at Los Angeles Lakers 105 – 86

FIVE FACTS

BILLY DONOVAN – CO-COACH OF THE YEAR

Billy Donovan and Buck’s coach Mike Budenholzer won the coach of the year award. The two coaches tied for the most votes from the 30 coaches around the NBA.

This is not the official NBA reward for the coach of the year. However, this can be an even more prestigious prize, because it’s coming from the other coaches around the league.

Donovan has been on the Thunder bench for five years now, and he never had stability with his roster. In fact, this is the fifth different roster he has to coach, and maybe, the best one for his coaching skills. Ball movement, players movement, and solid defense. This is the receipt for Oklahoma City’s success. A well-deserved award.

SGA – FUTURE STAR

We didn’t need the first three games in the bubble to figure out how good Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is. However, the second-year player traded from the Clippers last summer is showing more and more improvements. With the absence of Dennis Schröder these past two games, SGA had the chance to lead more time the offense as the primary ball-handler, and he didn’t disappoint. In the first three games, Shai is averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. His shooting percentage from the floor isn’t optimal (41. 7%), but he is solid from behind the arc (40.0% on five attempts per game) and from the free-throw line (87.0% on almost eight attempts per game).

DEFENSE – KEY TO SUCCESS

The defense display in this first week has been outstanding. Every player is hustling, communication became vital, and the feeling is that there are not many lazy possessions on the defensive side of the court. The numbers are backing it up:
since real basketball started again in Orlando, the Thunder are the second-best defensive team in the League. In fact, after three games, Oklahoma City is second in defensive rating with 97.4 points allowed. This is an impressive number, considering that from the 3rd position on the defensive rating goes from 103.6 (Lakers) to 120.1 (Spurs). The Thunder are second only to the Toronto Raptors, a much more equipped team to make another run to the NBA finals.

LU DORT – DEFENSIVE BEAST

One of the primary factors for the Thunder’s success on the defensive end in this first week has a name: Lu Dort. The undrafted wing from Montreal can guard any position on the floor. Thanks to his big body, his fast feet, and his defensive mind, Dort can defend playmakers or wings, and maybe also some centers. Last night, when guarded by Dort, Lebron James went 1-5 from the floor, while Donovan Mitchell has probably still nightmares about Lu’s defense after that first game the Thunder won against Utah.
Dort is struggling with his shooting on offense, but he is not afraid to be propositive, to attack the rim, to dribble, and also very important he can pass the ball. A lack of experience might become a problem for him once playoffs start, but for now, nothing seems to scare him.

NEGATIVES

The Thunder have two major weaknesses since basketball is back: Turnovers and fouls. After the first game, where OKC turned the ball over twenty-one times, there has been a little improvement: fifteen against the Nuggets and thirteen against the Lakers. Despite this little positive sign, the Thunder are still ranked 19th in the whole league in turnovers per game. Fouls aren’t any better: OKC is also ranked 19th with 25.3 fouls per game. However, as always, when the playoffs will start, the referees will blow the whistle less, and this could be an important advantage for a physical defensive team like the Thunder.

Alberto Bodei

Twitter: @euro_thunder

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