Intriguing storylines for a less than intriguing Thunder season

Entering the 2021-22 season, many question marks revolve around the Oklahoma City Thunder. After enduring their second-worst season in franchise history and worst in a decade, we’re all bracing for a year that may surpass the Thunder’s inaugural season as the worst in our brief history.

However, there’s still excitement for Thunder fans to look forward to. Listed are a few of those storylines. 

Will Shai Gilgeous-Alexander be an all-star this season?

After averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game last season, yes, Shai should be an all-star. However, all-star births are predicated on a few other things:

  • Popularity.
  • Comparisons to other players who play the same position.
  • An unofficial evaluation of team success. 

Unfortunately, last season, SGA wasn’t overly popular. There were also a plethora of guards that trumped him. Guards like Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic were all considered more notable and talented last season. However, after being the center of attention at New York Fashion Week, clearly sharing popularity with Jordan Clarkson as the most fashionable NBA player and gaining popularity with his new Converse endorsement, Shai may have checked that ‘popularity’ box. Skill-wise, he was there last year, and I fully expect him to be there this year. Despite the challenging season that’s facing OKC, SGA should be an all-star. 

Who’s this team’s leader?

Well, unless you want to count 30-year old Mike Muscala as the Thunder’s veteran leader or 29-year old Derrick Favors, the Thunder will have to lean on the veteran leadership of their coaching staff, who are also young. 

I said this year was going to be a struggle, didn’t I?

While SGA, Bazley, and Dort are all still young players, I think their one season with Chris Paul has prepared them for this moment. I fully expect those three, especially OKC’s new cornerstone piece, SGA, to assume that role as the outright leader of this team. 

Will Josh Giddey adapt to the NBA game easily?

At first, I was skeptical about Giddey simply because he was unknown. While I still wish the Thunder could have made a move on draft night to pick up a player that better suits their immediate needs, Giddey’s going to have an easier transition than most foreign rookies due to his skillset. Guards with excellent court vision and passing ability tend to do well in the league, hello Luka Doncic, Ricky Rubio, Manu Ginobli, and more. I believe we’ll be adding Josh Giddey to that list. 

What’s OKC’s ceiling? 

After what I watched last season, I do not depend on team success to measure the caliber of the season the Thunder are having. I’m basing everything on individual success and, more importantly, growth. If SGA plays at an all-star level for the second-consecutive season, that’s a success. If Josh Giddey shows promise and proves that he will be a productive NBA player, that’s a success. If OKC’s other rookies assimilate to the NBA and show promise, that is a success. If Bazley makes a dramatic jump in his production this season and Theo Maledon does the same, I’ll consider this season successful. 

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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