The Thunder started this set of ten games with things looking as great as ever. They beat Sacramento to begin the stretch in a thrilling victory which put them at a four game win streak. Yet, just as things were looking up for this young team, OKC would proceed to go 1-8 in their next 9 games of the season. Let’s take a look at how each player who received significant minutes during this stretch performed
Note* These ratings are not cumulative and are just about these ten games
Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (C… C-?)
Previous 10 Rating: B+
*Note: This does not include SGAs dominant 39 point outing vs Houston
Part of being “that guy” is being able to show up every night and carry the team on your shoulders, no matter the circumstances. The Thunder’s complete lack of offense outside of Shai has made things very difficult for him, as defenses have been locked in on him without getting punished for him. Yet, Shai has not found a great way to adapt to this defensive focus. One possible way to combat this attention would be off ball movement when Giddey or Dort are handling the rock but Shai often looks disinterested or unengaged off ball.
Shai has also struggled shooting the ball during this stretch. He shot 25% from 3 on about 7 attempts a game and 37% from the field on 17 attempts a game in the eight games he’s played during this ten game period. This also included an abysmal 2-12 night from 3PT SGA put up against the Bucks, a game which the Thunder only lost by 7. Part of the problem has been Shai being forced to take ridiculously tough shots, such as contested step-back threes, simply because of the lack of weapons OKC has. The ball often finds its way back to SGA late in the shot clock, where he is forced to improvise.
Part of this struggle is probably explained by the strange on-court fit with rookie Josh Giddey. Shai is a rhythm player and needs isolations and pick and rolls in order to get into his groove. Yet, Giddey also needs the ball due to lack of his 3PT ability. The proof is in the numbers. With Giddey off the court, Shai averages 27pts and 4ast on 52.3% per 75 possessions but with Giddey on the court he averages only 17.5pts and 5.3ast on 49% TS. This is a pretty big drop off for a team’s number one option and franchise guy. While this doesn’t all fall upon Shai, he can certainly switch things up slightly to make himself more effective without the ball.
The Thunder probably win some of the games they dropped this week if Shai was playing like his last year self. For Shai to return to that production, he will need to change how he looks at the game a little and also improve on his decision making. He took several low percentage shots towards the end of games such as the one vs Brooklyn that killed the Thunder momentum when mounting their obligatory comeback runs.
Luguentz Dort (A)
Previous 10 Rating: B
Dort was simply electric in this stretch of games. He averaged 19.2(!!) points per game in the ten games he played, shot 37% from three on more than 8 attempts a game and 46% from the field on 16 attempts a game. Dort scored in double digits every game of the period but one with a high of 34 coming against the rockets. With SGA missing some games and not playing like his usual self, Dort took it upon himself to make sure the offense still put up points. The great addition that he’s brought to his game in this stretch is the off-dribble three as he is shooting much better on those (50%) than his catch and shoot threes (27%).
Defensively, Dort has not brought the same aggression that we have seen in the past. This is understandable, however, as two way play is very difficult when producing at such a high level offensively. There’s a reason guys like Kawhi, LeBron, and Mike are amongst the greatest to ever do it. Yet, Dort has still shown the ability to turn it up defensively when needed. He started off this sequence of games with a game winner vs the Kings in which he forced the turnover to win the game.
It will be interesting to see if these numbers can stay relatively consistent throughout the rest of the season. While most would expect that they wont, Lu Dort has certainly surprised us before. It’s hard to believe this is the same guy from the bubble less than two years ago and it will be exciting to see where he goes from here.
Josh Giddey (A-)
Previous Rank: A
It’s rare that a rookie looks this comfortable when given the keys to a team. Yet, with his responsibility increasing and the opportunity to run the entire offense in two games with Gilgeous-Alexander’s injury, Giddey looks in his element. Giddey averaged 11 points, 5.4 assists, and 7.6 rebounds in the ten games he played in the stretch. He had his outright best game of the season against the Jazz where he put up 19/8/7.
Josh Giddey looks very awkward when driving but he somehow always gets to his spot inside. His strength and height are underrated assets for him being able to operate inside. Though he has struggled finishing a little in this stretch, his ability to get downhill and inside is promising for his future. His driving also opens up his greatest asset in his passing. When he drives hard he collapses the defense and is able to make some great interior passes to the big or passes to the outside which unfortunately are not being converted. Something even more interesting about his passing is the versatility of it all. Depending on the situation, he always finds a way touch to get the ball where it needs to go. He can make bounce passes, spin passes, chest passes, passes from the top of the key, passes from the middle of the floor, and passes in the interior. He can run the pnr with ease as well. This versatility makes him so difficult to stop, as he is as unpredictable as they come.
In this edition of miraculous Josh Giddey passes, we have this one he pulled off vs the Wizards, a spinning bounce pass to Kenrich Williams.
Giddey has still struggled in some areas though. He has not found his three point shot to start his blossoming career. He shot 25% from three in this stretch which is just about what he’s been shooting this entire season from deep. Like I said earlier, for this offense to unlock and for him and SGA to be able to maximize their potential next to each other Giddey must begin to knock down the three, especially catch and shoot threes, on a more consistent basis.
Darius Bazley (C-)
Previous Rank: B
Bazley has been simply disappointing in the last ten on the offensive side of the ball. There’s been a complete regression from his strong end to the last ten games and Thunder fans are beginning to lose their patience. He put up 6.6 points a game in the 10 games while shooting an abysmal 25% from three and 28% from the field. He has been a complete liability to have on the floor in tight games, which the Thunder have found themselves in many of to start the season.
Defensively though there’s another side to the story. Bazley has been very effective on that end of the floor, especially when it comes to shot blocking. His athleticism allows him to get to a lot of balls from the weak and strong side that do not seem very block-able. He averaged 1.4 blocks per game during these ten games including a great 5 block game vs the Miami heat and two three block games. Against the bucks, he was somehow able to block former NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo three times, something not many NBA players can say they’ve accomplished. While he is a great defender at the rim, the eye test will tell you he is not amazing in space. However, his long arms and athleticism still allow him to bother shots in space every so often.
Bazley is still very young and certainly has the tools to be a great contributor. His longevity with the Thunder will rest upon whether he can put those tools to work and make something happen, though.
Jeremiah Robinson Earl (B+)
Previous rank: B+
JRE seems like a seasoned veteran trapped in a 21 year old body a times. He played all ten games in the sequence and averaged about eight and a half points and seven and a half rebounds. JRE also shot a very good 36% from three on 4 attempts over the games. Robinson-Earl has a knack for always being in the right spot on offense, whether he is rolling to the rim or pick and popping out to the three point line. His only issue is due to his height and athleticism, he blows finishes at t the rim a little too often. A mark of 40% FG is quite low for a center. He has a tendency to bring the ball back too far or not keep the ball high when going up, which causes his shots to be blocked or easier to contest. This is something he will learn and improve on with time as his career is just starting, however.
The more interesting side of his game comes with his defense. He is kind of in a weird spot as a 6’8 big because he doesn’t have the height to deal with dominant bigs but is still a big himself, meaning he will get attacked on the perimeter. Yet, through creative play and serious effort, he plays great defense on the interior and on the perimeter. Though he may not block shots, he finds himself in the right spots defensively in order to remain effective against bigger players. His best defensive play of the week probably occurs here, where he shuts down James Harden, something bigger players are not supposed to be able to do.
It is still shocking that OKC was able to get JRE in the second round, as he is looking like one of the steals of the draft to start the year. He was even a nominee for Western conference rookie of the month, which is probably all you need to know about just how good he is.
Tre Mann (B)
Previous rank: C
Tre Mann has definitely earned some skittles. He’s been bringing some serious effort defensively, especially on ball. He does have a tendency to get a little lost off ball but this is normal with most rookies and is something he can improve upon. Thee effort is certainly there though, which is often more important than the execution as such as young age.
Offensively, he may be one of the most gifted rookies in this class. The amount of space he creates is ridiculous and the shots are starting to fall. He also shot a respectable 33% from three in this ten game stretch, which the Thunder desperately need. Now that the coaching staff is trusting him more after his stint in the G-League, he is one of the players I will keep a very close eye on in the next ten games.
Aleksej Pokusevski (C-)
Previous Rank: D
Poku still hasn’t put it together this year. The coaching staff has him on a tight leash but he is not playing well in the role they are trying to define for him. In this stretch he averaged 4.8 ppg and shot 13% from three. I think Poku could really use some time in the G League to get back to where he was at the end of last season. He is still good for a highlight play every once in a while that makes you wonder if he can ever reach his potential, however.
Ty Jerome (B+)
Ty Jerome is a nice comforting presence in a roster full of chaos at times. He averaged 7.7 points on 39% from three during this stretch. I do not expect OKC to keep him around for very long, however. With Tre Mann showing rapid promise, I would expect Ty Jerome to be on a contending team that needs a reliable backup shooter soon.
Kenrich Williams (A)
There’s a reason its very difficult to sort through the Thunder’s top rated lineups and not find Kenrich Williams. He may have the highest motor on this team and he plays like a 15-year vet. He draws charges, gets loose balls, key stops, and everything in between. His impact cannot really be measured in the box score, but he has easily been one of OKC’s best players this season. He makes great cuts on offense for easy points, can knock down the three at a respectable clip, and gets second chance efforts. I expect Kenrich to end up on a contender sooner rather than later should OKC not keep him around for the culture.