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Oklahoma City Thunder: 3 way-too-early bold predictions for the 2021-22 NBA season

Thunder

If you’re a basketball fanatic still stuck in limbo on which team to support, our suggestion is that today’s the day to hop on the Oklahoma City Thunder bandwagon. They have a promising future ahead of them. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be tagged as their best player. Others such as Lu Dort, Aleksej Pokusevski, Darius Bazley, and sixth overall pick Josh Giddey could turn out as promising players. Let’s not forget that the team also has tons of future draft picks in the future.

Several fans are probably keeping a close eye on the Thunder. So it’s only proper that we aid them with our own predictions (though extremely bold and early) on how the Thunder will fare in the upcoming season.

3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wins Most Improved Player

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander started off his NBA career on the wrong foot. After his stellar rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers, he found himself packing his bags and looking for a home the Oklahoma City. He was included in the massive trade deal which landed Paul George to the Clippers. When news broke that Chris Paul was traded to OKC, almost every analyst believed that the guard was going to look for a buyout. He didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding organization like the Thunder.

But as we all know by now, Paul stuck with the team and aided greatly in the development of the players, especially SGA. So much so that after Paul left, the young guard boosted his averages to 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists across 33.7 minutes. It was unfortunate that his season was cut short after just 35 games.

While the Thunder was nowhere near playoff contention when Alexander was around, they were just able to snag three wins in the final 29 games when he was out. Perhaps the data was clear. The Thunder need Alexander in the fold for their long-term plans. Earlier this month, Gilgeous-Alexander inked a massive five-year, $172 million maximum rookie contract extension.

This seems like a familiar narrative. After a breakout year, a rebuilding team offers a massive contract to the player. Then, the player heeds to this call and becomes the new franchise star. Of course, it isn’t always a happy ending. But Alexander has the tools to make it happen.

2. Luguentz Dort joins NBA All-Defensive Team

Luguentz Dort entered the mainstream consciousness in the 2020 NBA playoffs during the Thunder’s first-round series with the Houston Rockets. At the time, Dort immediately got the respect of everyone after his stellar defense on James Harden. Let’s not forget that he also hit some big shots in the bubble.

It’s quite unfortunate that most NBA fans never saw Dort progress, probably because the Thunder were out of the radar last season. They piled up the losses after Alexander went out with an injury. But looking at his statistics, Dort improved on almost all statistical categories. He averaged 14.0 points per game, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He also shot 34.3 percent from deep. His shot mechanics may not look sound, but they got the job done.

Paul, during his stint with the Thunder, was right all along in instilling that confidence in Dort.

Props to Dort for improving other facets of his game. But let’s go back to what put him in the spotlight: his defense. Dort actually received 17 points in the NBA All-Defensive Team voting. Among guards, he got more points than the likes of Cp3, Paul George, Alex Caruso, Dejounte Murray, Jaylen Brown—players who are part of more popular teams and thus garner more attention. This is an ultimate testament to Dort’s defensive abilities. In the coming season, more people will recognize him.

1. Thunder Won’t Make the Playoffs (Not Yet)

Thunder fans would have to wait a little bit more to see the team back in the playoffs. They have a very young roster, not to mention a newly minted head coach in Mark Daigneault. It’ll take some time for them to develop, find their identity, and rack up those wins. We may even see OKC arrange some trade packages to boost their development.

The talk of the town is the ridiculous amount of draft picks the Thunder have acquired. This gives them plenty of options. If the player fits well into the system, they could develop him further. If not, they could ship him out for, let’s say for a veteran player who could serve as a locker room voice.

Yes, the Thunder will likely not make it to the postseason in 2021-22. But in the upcoming seasons, they’ll likely become perennial contenders.