Keeping up with the Thunder (KUWTT)

In previous seasons, it was easier to keep up with the Thunder because they were in constant headlines. Now, without a bonafide all-star and a young roster, the Thunder will fly under the radar. This is where real Thunder connoisseurs can keep up with what’s going on.

Here are five takes away after the first week of Thunder’s basketball.

LET’S HAVE SOME FUN, SHALL WE?
It’s no secret, this year, the Oklahoma City Thunder are build to develop their young players and to go get the highest possible pick in the upcoming draft. This obviously will translate into many losses. Well then, sit back, enjoy this development year: no better time to have some fun while maybe being able to get some remarkable win here and there.

SGA THE LEADER
It didn’t take long for SGA to show that he is ready to take the leader’s role for this Thunder team. Many people wondered if he can handle the pressure to be the main man or if he can just simply take over the pure point guard duties now that CP3 and Dennis are gone. These first three games showed us something for sure: Shai is 100% ready to take the next step.
In the season opener against the Hornets, SGA took and scored the game-winning bucket and took this responsibility against the Jazz in the next game (unlucky this second time). Personality! After three games, he is averaging 23.3 points, 7.7 assists (more than double compare to last season), and 5.7 rebounds. Of course, by having the ball in his hands a lot, the number of turnovers increased exponentially: 4.7 per game. I am pretty sure that this number will drop with more games under his belt as a primary ball-handler.



YOUNG AND SCARY
SGA is not the only one under the radar this season, but there is a lot of curiosity around two second-year players: Lu Dort and Darius Bazley.
We are three games in, and both look very promising. However, if I might be honest, I am super impressed with Dort’s start. The Canadian is just an incredible defender. Lu already knows how to move his feet and how to give nightmares to every opponent (ask Donovan Mitchel). But if his defense is something expected after last year’s exploit, what’s surprising is his improved scoring ability.
Dort is averaging 18.7 points per game. He is shooting 54.1% from the floor, 47.4% from behind the arc (on 6.3 attempts per game!!!), and 70% from the FT line. I am pretty sure Dort won’t be able to keep up these shooting percentages (I mean, can he?), but if he can keep on improving on the offensive end, then Lu might turn out to be very special.

THE ROOKIES’ FIRST WEEK
Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski had a very different first week. The French playmaker seems already at ease with the NBA rhythm showing already sparks of confidence and skills. In his first three games, Maledon averaged 5.7 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.0 steal. The big kid from Serbia seems still adapting. Poku didn’t find his shot yet (1-16 from the floor, 0-11 from behind the arc), but he contributed with hustle and effort: 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks game. One thing they have in common? They looked both very promising, and that’s the best way to start.

SPACING
One of the main takeaways after three games? Spacing. I have never seen so much spacing like this year in the Thunder’s offense. Having big guys who can stretch the floor is truly special. Al Horford, Mike Muscala, Isaiah Roby, Darius Bazley, Poku: every one of these players can be a three-point threat. Alright, maybe Poku is not yet dangerous, but I am sure it will be sooner rather than later.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Al Horford and George Hill are great veterans to help the young players to develop, sadly they might be gone before the season is over.
  • How about Isaiah Roby? The big man put up a show against the Magic: nineteen points, seven rebounds, two blocks, one steals, and most remarkably, both Vucevic’s ankles.
  • The NBA needs to find a solution to avoid postponing games due to Covid. Either the team without enough players lose, or the league should give the possibility to add more two-way players.

Alberto Bodei

Twitter: @euro_thunder

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