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Far-Fetched Friday: The Oklahoma City Thunder Won the Draft
By: Khaqan Khan
The Oklahoma City Thunder won the draft. This was the first year in my Thunder fandom where I was nervous about the draft. This was going to be the make-or-break it for the rebuild. For Thunder fans in the last ten years, the draft meant drafting raw athletic long-term projects with later picks. Players like Josh Huestis, Terrance Ferguson, and Hamidou Diallo. As a result, the rosters always seemed one or two players short. As fans, we would hang on to highlight dunks once every month as a flash of things to come. To go from that to this after fully committing to a rebuild is so refreshing. For once, a reason for optimism that doesn't feel irrational.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at draft city.
Heading into the draft, there were only 3 guaranteed roster spots for next season. Shai Gileous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Tre Mann, with Lou Dort's name entrenched in numerous trade discussions. Leaving the draft, the Thunder drafted 3 players with athleticism, versatility, and globs of upside. Not to mention wingspan long enough to turn the light off in your bedroom and make it in your bed before the light goes off.
Though on the rawer side, the Thunder drafted two potential two-way wings In Ousmane Dieng and Jaylen Williams. Both have the framework to become complimentary shot creators with a sense of playmaking and ball-handling that will propel the Thunder offense into something more dynamic. The most exciting part of these additions is that they fit perfectly next to SGA, Giddey, and perhaps even more importantly, the prize of the draft, Chet Holmgren.
If Presti could create his perfect center in a lab, it wouldn't look too far off Chet Holmgren. If it weren't for his hunch and wonky skinny frame, Holmgren would have been far and away the consensus number 1 pick. He has no weaknesses. Holmgren is known for elite defensive IQ and instincts but can also space the floor while being a lob threat. He can handle the ball and pass at a high level for someone his height making him an open floor threat. Playing in Oklahoma City, Holmgren immediately does two things on the court. One- he gives SGA, the NBA leader in drives the last two years, a pick and pop threat. The Thunder offense looked the best whenever SGA shared the court briefly with Al Horford and occasionally with Mike Muscala. Shai's ability to get to the basket provided open threes for his centers. If Holmgren sets a pick for Giddey, expect him to be more of a roller. Giddey's creativity at his size will make him and Holmgren an efficient duo. On the defensive side, Holmgren immediately shores up the Thunder's defense, who were in the top 12 in defensive rating before completely bottoming out at the end of the season.
This newly acquired talent doesn't mean it's over for Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski on the Thunder. Instead, this might be best for everyone. Iron sharpens iron. The competition will only make the other guys on the roster work harder. Best case scenario, the Thunder have versatile wings coming off the bench. It was bleak at times for Bazley and Poku, but their resilience paid off towards the end of the season. Both found ways to be impactful on the defensive side of the floor using their length and athleticism. Success on one side led to confidence on the offensive side. Both of them seemed more sure of themselves, and next season, a more limited role might be best for them when the Thunder do decide to flip the switch.
The development of Bazley and Poku, as well as Tre Mann, gives me confidence in the coaching staff and the organization as a whole. Through the lowest of lows, the Thunder have maintained consistency in their messaging and patience. They invested in their young guys and gave them space to make mistakes. That has helped the young guys buy into what the coaching staff has been preaching. As a result, almost all of the players on the Thunder improved through the course of the season. More importantly, a culture has been established of broccoli over skittles.
The last few years have tested the patience of the fan base, but with 4 new rookies to add to our young core, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Anyone who has paid attention to the Thunder can understand the confidence fans have in Presti's eye for talent and head coach Mark Daigneault's ability to develop players. Though the team is still far from competing, this next season will put the rest of the league on high alert of what is brewing in Oklahoma City. For my Far Fetched Friday prediction, I predict the Thunder going 35-47 in 22-23 before making the playoffs in 23-24, thanks to the 2022 draft.
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