Oklahoma City Thunder was expected to be among the teams with the worst records in the league this season with Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder and Danilo Gallinari leaving the franchise. However, they’re still fun to watch and pretty ahead of the expected curve.
OKC is definitely not going to make the playoffs this year or become, however they are many things to pick up from the young Thunder squad already.
First of all, Mark Daigneault, who was promoted to the head coach position, seems to be what the Thunder need in a rebuilding situation. A coach that will grow along with the team.
Mark Daigneault system
OKC is on a 14-19 record heading to the All-Star break with Daigneault setting a team that excels in playing on a relatively higher pace (100.70 possessions), however he is relying on his veterans to carry most of the playmaking burden in the team.
According to Cleaning the Glass, George Hill and Al Horford are among the leaders in AST% being in the 88th and 94th percentile in their respective positions.
The Thunder is a pretty adequate team, when they are moving the ball well, being the fourth best team in producing points in spot up situations with 31 per game.
The shooting is the most important aspect of OKC’s system this season as they are among the best in the league producing points in off-screen situations, where they are getting 1.08 points per play.
However, the most deciding factor for the team is its swarming defense. With Lu Dort, Darius Bazley and other ‘long’ wings like Dialo in play, the Thunder’s defense is really disruptive.
In particular, they are 7th in the NBA in the paint defense limiting their opponents on a 40-percent clip, whereas they are also limiting their opponents to a 33.8-percent in above the break threes being the 5th best team in that category.
They are 11th in DefRtg allowing 110 points per 100 possessions and 12th in opponents points per game with the franchise rightfully building their young team from the defensive end.
And that’s a great trait for the future, as Daigneault convinced a young team without having pressure for wins to play clamping defense at times.
The SGA show
With all the veteran stars from lasts season leaving, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander was going to have to take more responsibilities in the offensive side, and that’s what happened so far.
SGA is playing with confidence leading his team in scoring and assists. He puts up a career-high 23.2 points and and 6.3 dishes per game shooting 51.5-percent from the field and 42.6-percent from deep-both career-highs.
He’s on the 95th percentile of points per shot attempt in his position scoring 126.4 points per 100 shot attempts. He even went off for a career-high 42 point last week in Sacramento to confirm his progression as a scorer.
SGA is playing with incredible confidence putting up side-step threes and going strong inside the paint averaging 6.7 attempts from the free throw line.
The young guard is showing promising signs of leadership skills on court and that’s maybe has to do with playing alongside Chris Paul last season.
In addition to SGA’s leap this season, you can also add to that Lu Dort’s chance to polish his offensive game, Darius Bazley becoming rapidly a legit power forward and Theo Maledon showing flashes in the point-guard position.
Also, the Thunder has some real projects in the back of their roster with Aleksej Pokusevski and Ty Jerome, who played his first two games with the team vs. Atlanta and Denver.
At the top of that, Sam Presti added a huge load of draft assets as the backbone of his rebuilding process for the next 5-6 years for Oklahoma City to return to the elite of the Western Conference.