LAS VEGAS — The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the Las Vegas Summer League showcase with two wins beneath their belt, after going 2-1 in Salt Lake City earlier in the week. The No. 2 decide in the draft, Chet Holmgren, placed on a present in his NBA debut, posting 23 points, seven rebounds, six blocks and four assists in a win over the Utah Jazz.
The following sport, it was rookie (and No. 12 total decide) Jalen Williams who shined with 16 factors, three rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes. In the remaining sport earlier than heading to Vegas, second-year level guard Josh Giddey had one in all the finest dunks of the summer season up to now when he crossed over his opponent in the pick-and-roll setup and put Malik Ellison on a poster.
This is all very promising for a younger crew that gained solely a mixed 46 video games in the final two seasons. Holmgren was the prized decide in the 2022 NBA draft, however do not overlook the different gamers they picked up — No. 11 decide Ousmane Dieng (6-foot-10, 7-foot wingspan), No. 12 decide Williams (6-6, 7-2 wingspan), and No. 34 decide Jaylin Williams (6-10, 7-1 wingspan). All 4 are lengthy, athletic playmakers who can slide between a number of positions.
“It might not be this year, because this group has to figure out how to play together, but the Thunder are going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league,” one NBA scout advised Yahoo Sports. “While everyone was distracted with where other guys fell, Sam Presti drafted a group of players who are 6-foot-6-plus, can pass and have a ton of athleticism. Every single one of them. And you’re going to put them alongside Giddey, [Shai] Gilgeous-Alexander and [Lu] Dort? Ridiculous.”
Giddey, a 6-8 level guard out of Australia, was the first piece of the puzzle in the 2021 draft when the Thunder took him with the sixth total decide (in addition they added guards Tre Mann, Aaron Wiggins and ahead Jeremiah Robinson-Earl). This previous season, Giddey was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for three straight months earlier than being sidelined in February with a hip harm.
Giddey returned to the courtroom for Summer League in Utah for the first time in 4 months and appeared comfy alongside his new teammates. Holmgren constantly discovered the proper spot out of the pick-and-pop, and Giddey discovered his rhythm creating for others when he acquired in the lane or advancing the ball in transition. Last season, Giddey averaged 6.4 assists per sport in just over 50 video games. During the three video games in Utah, Giddey dished out 28 dimes that left followers impressed by his artful work in the lane.
“It felt good to get back on the court and play with these new guys on the team,” Giddey stated after his first sport. “This is our first game together and we found little things and the more we play, it’s going to grow and grow and anything we’re figuring out now in this short time is just a bonus.”
NBA personnel tuned into the first few video games had been greater than impressed with the means Giddey, nonetheless just 19 years previous, took command of this younger crew as the flooring common for the Thunder.
“The way Giddey commands so much space with the ball in his hands, frees up everyone else on the court,” one other NBA scout advised Yahoo Sports. “It’s going to be hard for these Summer League teams to stop the ball movement with these guys that can see over the defense and the way Giddey gets into the paint.”
In the first three video games in Salt Lake City, it wasn’t the unbelievable passes or flashy finishes at the rim that had been most spectacular, it was the affect on protection. The Thunder wreaked havoc whereas taking pictures the gaps, switching on all the things and blocking photographs throughout the place with Holmgren and 7-foot-1 Aleksej Pokusevski in the paint.
“I’m very excited and this is a special group of guys and I’m looking forward to what we can build,” Giddey stated. “I can’t wait for training camp when we’re ramping up things to get started for the season.”
Adding the veteran gamers to this group throughout coaching camp will solely strengthen the early glimpses of defensive versatility with Dort as one in all the finest younger defenders in the league and a wholesome Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt with Giddey.
The Thunder nonetheless have a outstanding 38 draft picks (19 in the first spherical and 19 second) in the subsequent seven years, something by no means accomplished by one other crew. There is a number of freedom and choices as common supervisor Sam Presti continues to construct something special from the floor up.
With so many future draft picks, many marvel if Oklahoma City will try and tank once more subsequent season with French phenom Victor Wembanyama and G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson ready in the wings of the 2023 NBA draft.
“We just want to be better than last year,” Giddey stated. “As long as we keep improving and get better and better, I think, whether it’s the playoffs or not, we’re going to be good. We have a really hard-working group of guys and I can’t wait to see where everyone’s at and get the season started.”
Many groups are already making strikes a 12 months out to place the franchise in a good place for subsequent 12 months’s draft.
The Jazz traded Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale and picked up 5 first-round picks and a decide swap in the course of. The San Antonio Spurs had three first-round picks and drafted younger, expert gamers to doubtlessly stash in the G League and develop. When speaking to scouts round the league in Las Vegas, many imagine the Spurs are positioning themselves to tank subsequent season for a top-five decide. The Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets are two different groups nonetheless in the rebuild section.
That leaves the Thunder. With all the draft picks they’ve (together with one first-round decide and two second-round picks subsequent 12 months), the Thunder do not essentially must tank for one more key participant so as to add to this younger, gifted crew. Only one crew goes to land Wembanyama, the touted prospect who might be a generational-type expertise. Just one. It won’t be price the effort to take a seat gamers and disrupt the progress and chemistry this present group might be constructing.
The day after Holmgren was drafted, he referred to as Giddey straight away and wished to get in the health club as quickly as he landed in Oklahoma City. The two had a exercise and completed with a sport of one-on-one.
“He hit me up right away and wanted to get in the gym when he got into town, and from that point on, I knew we were going to have a special talent,” Giddey advised Yahoo Sports. “We started playing one-on-one, and I knew he was going to be a handful for guys to guard him. He might appear skinny, but he’s strong, and strong with the ball in his hands. You think in any mismatch with a guard and big, the guard has the advantage, but he can sit down and defend, and yeah, he won that first one-on-one game.
“I can not wait to proceed to play with him, and we’re each team-first gamers and wish to win. What we’re constructing right here goes to be special.”
With Giddey already opening the spacing on the flooring at Summer League and discovering Holmgren, Pokusevski, Williams or anybody in the pick-and-pop, it is exhausting to think about the entrance workplace shutting issues right down to disrupt the growth of this harmful, younger crew. The Thunder quietly drafted the way forward for the franchise proper beneath everybody’s noses and it is solely a matter of time in the beginning begins to return collectively on the courtroom.