Thunder Rumblings: Keeping up with OKC’s preseason

Thunder strike the Aussies in OKC

In OKC’s first game back in the Paycom Center since last season, they took on the Adelaide 36ers out of Australia. They blew Josh Giddey’s former team out by 33 points.

Is Tre Mann a starter or OKC’s next great 6th man? 

Last season we saw Tre Mann as a rookie with serious potential to be one of the top scorers in the league, and through a few preseason games, he’s trending more in that direction. 

Testimony: In a one-on-one conversation with Mann during Thunder Media Day, I was joking with Tre, asking him if all he did during the offseason was get tattoos and hoop. He confirmed just that, saying that he literally traveled to and from Oklahoma City and Miami multiple times for basketball training, got tattoos on a regular occasion, and ate a lot of food, which is apparent as he’s put a ton of weight on.

Mann was seemingly gunning for OKC’s 3-point record that Paul George set in February of 2019, where he hit 10. Against Adelaide, Mann scored 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting from 3 and 9-of-11 overall. 

Darius Bazley looked good?

Contrary to popular belief, Darius Bazley didn’t play a terrible game tonight. While he clearly lacked confidence at times, he impacted the game in multiple areas, putting up 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks in 23 minutes. 

This is typical of the type of player he’s been throughout his career. He looks lost, confused, ineffective in one game, dynamic, and productive in the next. So, this may be more of that. 

OKC falls to Dallas in Tulsa

In OKC’s second preseason game, they traveled to Tulsa to play the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks. Dallas played like they were missing their star, but still etched out a win over the Shai and Chet-less Thunder.

The Mavericks won the night 98-96, and Josh Giddey led a balanced scoring attack for OKC. 

Here are a few brief observations from OKC’s win. 

Not an ideal start for Baze

For this to be a contract year for Darius Bazley, following an inconsistent start to his NBA career, he was expected to show up and show out this season. That being said, he hasn’t gotten off to a great start. 

Baze looked downright uncomfortable on the offensive end of the floor and didn’t provide the same energy we’ve seen from him on the defensive side, either. 

Baze finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds, but that’s not indicative of how of sorts he looked on the court at times. 

Jalen “Dub” Williams is the real deal

I’ll use the clichè saying of “it’s only the preseason, and I don’t want to overreact to anything, but Williams looks incredibly comfortable on the court – almost like he’s been doing this NBA thing for a few years already. 

The way J Dub handles the rock through and around traffic, gets to the rim, finishes after contact, and passes the ball reminds me of a particular Thunder player who won 6MOY back in the franchise’s glory days. The most significant difference between Dub and that particular former Thunder player is shooting – Jalen’s not quite that level of a shooter yet, and defense – Jalen’s a much better defender than the man with the large beard has ever been. 

On Wednesday night, Williams finished as OKC’s second-leading scorer with 10 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals. 

Josh Giddey is just better than everyone else

It keeps becoming more evident that Josh Giddey is on another level. He’s taken another step, and it will be exciting to see what he does in an actual NBA game when the real season starts. 

Though he wasn’t flirting with a triple-double against the Mavericks, he appeared controlled through everything, took quality shots, and flashed some nifty passes that would have been assisted if not ruined by missed shots.

Giddey and Mann show out against Denver

Tre Mann and Josh Giddey made sure to make their impact in OKC’s first preseason game against the Nuggets. 

Josh may have turned the ball over too many times and warranted a technical foul within the first handful of minutes of the game, but after that, he took off.

The second-year Aussie needed extra time to get comfortable – and boy did he. In 25 minutes, Giddey was narrowly shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.

Tre Mann was the offensive firecracker that we all assumed he’d be, but an aspect of the game he keeps developing is his defense, which is downright respectable. If he can continue to develop that aspect of the game, he’ll be known for more than being an outstanding microwave scorer off the bench.

Mann finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

Yes, Mann and Giddey looked like the best players for the Thunder with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out, but another player that could surprise some people this year is Aaron Wiggins. He seemingly came out of nowhere last season after being selected 55th in the 2021 draft. He turned out to be an impact player during his rookie season.

Wiggins is scary because he hangs his hat on his smothering, handsy, athletic style of defense. After working on his shot all summer, he shot 5-of-8 from the field and a 4-of-4 from three and was second in team scoring with 15 points.

Oklahoma City will travel to Tulsa for their yearly preseason game in the 918. They’ll play the Dallas Mavericks.

About Author

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

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