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The OKC Thunder strive to strike back

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Oklahoma City Thunder look to improve from last season

In last year’s season the Oklahoma City Thunder shocked the world, racking up 40 wins — almost double the amount of games predicted to win by national media sources on average. These wins led them to the postseason as the 10th position in the Western Conference, where they lost the play-in before making it to the official playoffs. This year they are looking to build on this success and hopefully bring playoff basketball back to Oklahoma City for the first time since 2019.

The most intriguing part of the team going into the 2023-2024 season is the long-awaited debut of Chet Holmgren. He was sidelined all of last season with a LisFranc injury, missing the entirety of his highly anticipated rookie season. Holmgren is 7 feet, 1 inch tall with guard-esque skills, something that has very rarely been seen in the history of the NBA.

Holmgren’s size is an attribute the Thunder desperately lacked last season. The Thunder played without a true center, no one in the usual rotation above the height of 6-foot-10-inch, which saw 6-foot-6 Kenrich Williams playing most of his minutes at center. Due to this, they were 28th in rebounding rate and opposing teams scored the most second-chance points against them in the league. Adding Holmgren, with his height and physicality, has the potential to help substantially fill this deficiency. Assuming the Thunder will be in the top half in the league by adding Holmgren is presumptuous; however, people can expect improvement this season and more down the line as Holmgren progresses with more experience. 

While the return of Holmgren is new and exciting, the returning roster is just as exciting. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forced his way into stardom with an exceptional season last year. Averaging over 30 points per game on 55% shooting as a guard, he proved himself to be one of the best players in the league. He made his first All-Star Game and even earned himself an All-NBA first-team selection, cementing himself as one of the two best guards of the 2022-2023 season. His impressive performance was one of the driving factors behind the Thunder’s surprising resurgence, but this season will be another test of Gilgeous-Alexander’s leadership, where it will be a year of discovery to see if he can be the No. 1 option on a playoff team.

To round out their core is second-year forward Jalen Williams and third-year guard Josh Giddey. Williams had a stellar rookie season last year, blowing expectations out of the water as he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting despite being drafted 12th overall. While he started off the season a little slower, some of which can be attributed to an eye injury he suffered in his first ever game, averaging only 12 points leading up to the all-star break. After the All-Star Break in a sizable sample of 22 games, Williams averaged just under 19 points on impressive shooting splits. He was a highly efficient second option next to Gilgeous-Alexander and looks to improve on his impressive rookie season with an even more impactful sophomore season. 

Giddey is a topic of discussion among many with his unorthodox play style. The 6-foot-9 guard is doing things that have few parallels throughout NBA history, with his absurd size for a guard and elite passing ability spearheading his unconventional methods. He played a massive role in the Thunder’s success last season, being the second-leading scorer while gathering the most rebounds of anyone else on the team despite playing guard. This year is a giant one for him, as he looks to cement himself as a possible No. 2 to Gilgeous-Alexander. As a ball-handler who struggles with three-point shooting, it will be important for the Thunder front office to monitor the fit between him and Gilgeous-Alexander.  

There is much to be excited for the upcoming season, as this should be the most successful season since 2020. There are so many storylines to follow already and will be many more throughout the season. If people haven’t been paying attention to the Thunder, then this is the year to jump back in.

Contact Lathan Pearce at [email protected]

About the Contributor
Lathan Pearce
Lathan Pearce, Staff Writer
Hello, my name is Lathan Pearce. I’m a senior, and this will be my third year on staff. My freshman year, I was in the Intro to Journalism class being taught by upperclassman team leaders, and now this year, I’m a team leader. I enjoy writing about many subjects, whether it’s movie/show reviews, features or sports. I’m a big Oklahoma City Thunder fan, and also support the Arkansas Razorbacks. Lastly, I have two cats, Eliza, who is full of energy, and Poku, who’s the laziest cat I’ve ever met.