OKC has a lethal backcourt arsenal

This piece comes immediately after OKC’s second win in a row against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Their first win of the season came on Tuesday when LA’s stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George didn’t play. Two days later, their second win came against the same team, with George in the lineup.

I’m here to start the conversation about OKC developing one of the better collections of backcourt talent in the league with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, and Lu Dort; four guys that are extremely good at what they do, yet they all do something different.

The quartet already poses a threat to opposing teams, and none of the four are 25 years old. Neither has reached their prime, and that’s scary.

As we all (hopefully) can agree, SGA is the most well-rounded of the bunch, at least right now. He’s an All-Star caliber player, waiting for everyone else to catch up – and they are.

It’s fair to say that the only way to stop SGA from getting his buckets is to hope that he misses the shot. His repertoire is so vast offensively that most of the NBA’s best defenders can’t seem to stop him from scoring. What’s crazier than everything is he’s not reached his pinnacle yet. There’s still improvement to be made.

After watching Tre Mann’s summer routine of working out in Oklahoma City, getting tattoos, flying to Miami for Pro-Am appearances, and more on-court training in rotation, it’s not a shock to me to see the improvements he’s made thus far in this young 2022-23 season.

His handle may remind you of a young Jamal Crawford. His microwave-scoring ability shows shades of Monte Ellis during his brief prime. Plus, he’s sneaky athletic. Game after game, Mann looks increasingly more comfortable running OKC’s offense.

He’s OKC’s energizer.

Lu Dort’s most significant weakness is himself. He’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA and a makeshift scorer when SGA and Mann aren’t on the floor. Often, Dort will take ill-advised shots, thus leading to a poor shooting night, but regardless, his defense makes up for it.

Besides his defense, Dort draws the opposing defense by attacking the basket, allowing guys like Mann, SGA, Aaron Wiggins, and others to hit outside shots.

Dort is the hard-nosed wing that every playoff team needs.

Josh Giddey is harder to peg because he’s such a peculiar player. As a 6-foot-8 point guard, he can see over most of his defenders and see the floor. His height and size allow him to get to the basket, rebound with opposing bigs, and finish at the rim after contact.

Mix those attributes with a Steve Nash-like passing ability, and you have an absolute monster on your hands. Giddey is only in his second season and is very young at 20, so obviously, there’s room to grow.

You know who else I didn’t mention that could be added to this spooky collection of guards and wings? Aaron Wiggins and Jalen Williams.

OKC’s new highly-regarded shooting coach Chip Engelland has been working with Josh, and we’ve already seen improvement in the preseason and the early going of the regular season.

Yes, the Thunder do have a ways to go before they’re in contention again, so in no way am I saying OKC is “back,” but I think I can comfortably say that the Thunder are arriving and are set up for an extended stay in terms of NBA relevance.

About the author

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


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