Keeping up with the Thunder (KUWTT), Week 20

Here we go with the twentieth and last appointment of the season with Keeping Up With the Thunder.

Finally, this season came to an end. Even though the games played were ten less than a classic NBA season (seventy-two instead of eighty-two), it felt like a really long season: no fans in the stands, many games postponed due to Covid-19, and a packed schedule made this a weird year of basketball. Especially for the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, The Thunder were supposed to tank, but by the end of March, they ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere in the standings. This happened basically due to the improvements of SGA and Dort, plus the veteran presences of Al Horford and Mike Muscala, and let me also add the great job done by coach Daigneault. At the beginning of April, the Thunder sat on a 20-27 record. Not good enough for a playoff run and not bad enough for a good lottery position.

This was when things started to be “interesting.” The Thunder decided to sit Horford and Muscala. Add to the equation SGA’s injury, and the road to the tank can start. It can start because there is not much left: Dort, Baze, and guys without much experience. Of the next twenty-five games, Oklahoma City only won two and lost twenty-three. This is insane but part of the bigger picture. There is no denying, losing so many games sucks, but it’s also the only way for a small rebuilding market to be relevant again soon. The Thunder finished with a 22-50 record, valid for the 4th worst record in the league tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There are a lot of positives to take from this season. Without a doubt, the main one is the improvement of the young trio of SGA, Dort, and Bazley. This aspect should be enough to reassure Thunder’s fans about a bright future. But it’s not all. Oklahoma City will probably add, to its roster, a top-draft pick and a middle one (via Miami if Houston’s one doesn’t convert). Is it all? Not at all. Maledon and Poku, the two rookies, had both a very encouraging season (with ups and downs), probably better than many people (me included) expected. And think of this: if they both will improve by the start of next season, well, then it’s going to be hard to have another tanking season. It was great to see players such as Kenrich Williams, Ty Jerome, Moses Brown, Isaiah Roby, and Svi Mykhailiuk establish themselves as rotation players in the future. If not for the Thunder, I am sure they will find space in any other NBA team.

I want to spend a few words also for coach Daigneault and his staff. Besides the fact that the team played some solid basketball at the start of the season, the whole coaching staff did a great job to keep the players always engaged. No episodes of discontent, always going 100%, and even when losing, everyone always tried to think about the bigger picture. I don’t think it’s simple for a first-year coach to handle a season like this. Coach Daigneault did great.

As I wrote at the beginning of the article, this is the last episode of KIUWTT. I would like to say thank you to everyone who read this series weekly (or also once or twice), and I hope to “see you” all next season.

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