Fan participation and engagement have been pretty low when talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder after two-straight losing seasons. During those two seasons, the franchise focused on developing its young assets, and this season, along with new acquisitions, we’ll start seeing the results.
So if you hopped off the Thunder bandwagon, discontinued your season tickets, or just plain don’t watch as many Thunder games, shame on you, but this should be the year to tip-toe back in and act like you never left.
The Thunder may not have a winning season, and they may not make the playoffs, but this will undoubtedly be a more entertaining season than the last couple, and here are a few reasons why.
Tre Mann is my Most Improved Player prediction
Whether Tre Mann wins the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award or not, I fully expect him to be much improved from last season, which is saying something. In Mann’s rookie campaign, he averaged 10.4 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 36.0% from three. Like Giddey, during OKC’s preseason, Mann looked spectacular – much stronger, under control, and collected with the ball in his hand, and something that flew under the radar was his defense.
Also, during the preseason, Mann averaged 16.0 points per game in 23.6 minutes while shooting a much improved 52.8% from 3.
Is new Thunder shooting coach Chip Engelland responsible for Mann and Giddey’s improvement from 3 thus far?
More Shai & Dort
SGA is an NBA All-Star caliber player, and the league knows it. Him receiving his first all-star bid depends on the success of the Thunder. Should it be that way? That’s up to you to decide, but SGA agrees that your team must achieve to be an all-star in this league.
I expect SGA to be the same exciting player he was before, alongside Lu Dort, who seems to improve on something every year since entering the league.
Dort regularly works on his game. In his first season, he was trying to make the team roster, and he did that. His second NBA season featured him polishing up his game to solidify his long-term spot on OKC’s roster. Entering his fourth season, Dort has undoubtedly come into his own and has a defined niche in the league, and I think it’ll be exciting to watch.
Chet’s out, but Jalen Williams should provide just as much rookie hype.
Yes, Chet Holmgren is out for the season – get over it. The Thunder are in good hands with the No. 12 pick, Jalen Williams, who has shown immense promise during training camp and preseason action.
How good will he be? Well, he’s been compared to Joe Johnson, and I’ve compared him to James Harden, saying he’s a better defensive version of him (that doesn’t over-dribble), but whether he is or not, J Dub is a talent you can’t deny.
From handling the ball to creating off the dribble, creating his own shot, finishing at the rim after contact, distributing the ball well (and creatively), and playing defense, Williams is the real deal. It will be exciting to watch him this season, and don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the Rookie of the Year conversation halfway through the season.
Did Josh Giddey get better?
Based on what I’ve seen in training camp and the preseason, Giddey has taken another leap and could be slated for a breakout season where he puts his name solidly into the conversation as one of the top point guards in the league.
After his rookie season, one big critique of his game was his sub-par shooting.
In five games of OKC’s preseason, Giddey averaged 14.2 points on 53.3% shooting from 3 (8-of-15) and 63.6% overall. Everyone knows what he can do as a distributor – he averaged 6.4 assists in 31 minutes per game last season. If he can add shooting to that, he could propel OKC to heights we didn’t expect this season.
Get your season tickets, tune into Bally Sports, and follow your favorite Thunder reporters because this season should be exciting.