The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a fun team to watch for several years, heading into 2023-24 that statement is going to remain accurate. Even without No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren they blew past preseason expectations a year ago. They vastly improved from 24-58 to 40-42, their best record since 2019-20. That all came on the back of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.
They had surprise rookie performances from Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams. Both Josh Giddy and Tre Mann had second-year leaps. The expectations were among the lowest in the NBA and they hit their stride finishing with the 15th-best NET Rating after posting the fourth-worst NET in 2021-22. It was a step in the right direction for OKC.
Surprisingly, they had a good offseason too. They had a full 15-man roster and $30 million in cap space. Hard for them to do anything with that outside of the draft, unless trades occurred. They did.
The No. 10 overall pick out of Kentucky has already turned some heads in Summer League and the preseason. He was a star for the Wildcats in his freshman season averaging 11.7 points on 45/35/76 shooting, 4.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 32.1 minutes. He likely won’t play that many minutes in OKC right away, but he projects to be a combo guard with a smooth catch-and-shoot game. Many analysts have compared him to the Celtics’ Jrue Holiday.
The 7-year veteran is not really a starter but they don’t need him to be. If Bertans can do what he’s done for the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks… he’ll be a good addition to come off the bench. As a career 39.8% three-point shooter Bertans projects as another catch-and-shoot guy in the second unit.
After he tore his patellar tendon in the playoffs during the first round of the playoffs, there is no timetable for his return. When he does return, he may be a valuable addition to a young nucleus in his second stint. A two-time all-star who is mostly a second-unit leader at this stage of his career.
Actually, there are none. The Oklahoma City Thunder only lost Dario Saric and Jared Butler heading into the 2023-24 season. Holmgren will fill the gap created by the loss of Saric, while Butler only played six games in his stint with the team.
The addition of Holmgren to this starting lineup is going to make the lineup much better. Holmgren did not suit up as a true rookie due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in Summer League, but he’s got a remarkable blend of size, handle, playmaking, defensive aptitude, fluidity and floor spacing at 7-foot. Both Jalen and Jaylin carved a role for themselves last season as they played very well alongside SGA and Giddey. Though with the return of Holmgren, Jaylin is likely to be coming off the bench.
There’s going to be some elite shooting coming from the second unit. Bertans, Wallace, Mann and Joe all figure to receive some valuable minutes. There might not be enough minutes to go around for everyone.
The Thunder were a game away from the postseason in 2022-23, which would’ve been their first appearance since 2019-20. They are in a loaded Western Conference but they should be able to squeak in as the No. 7 seed with a 44-38 record.
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