The Oklahoma City Thunder were prepared to enter the 2022-2023 season with an increasing amount of optimism. After the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, Chet Holmgren, impressed in the NBA Summer League, the Thunder’s young core was in position to turn some heads next season.
However, after Holmgren appeared in the CrawsOver Pro-Am event in Seattle, Washington, this summer, Holmgren suffered a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. Holmgren is set to miss the entirety of the 2022-2023 campaign, which puts the Thunder in another tough position.
In the past two seasons, the Thunder have a record of 46-108 and scored 103.7 points per game last season, which was last in the NBA. Not ideal, but the franchise hasn’t had a whole lot to work with. Outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort, the Thunder have struggled to find reliable players, especially in the frontcourt.
Darius Bazley and Kenrich Williams have both had their fair share of moments and could be reliable pieces off the bench, but they are not the long-term answer down low. Since Holmgren is out for the season, the Thunder’s frontcourt could continue to have its ebbs and flows.
With uncertainty surrounding the majority of Oklahoma City’s roster, Thunder fans may have to strap in for what looks to be another underwhelming season.
The Wembanyama Affect
It’s not really a secret anymore that there are a handful of teams preparing for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes next June. Wembanyama’s one of the most highly-touted prospects in the past two decades, and teams like the Spurs and Jazz have already started to dismantle parts of their roster to get in line for the 18-year-old French prospect.
With Holmgren already declared out of the year, the Thunder could easily find their way into the Wembanyama sweepstakes. The Thunder finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA last season, but ended up with the second pick in this year’s draft. With the NBA Draft lottery odds shifting a couple of years ago, more teams will talk themselves into sitting players in order to get increased odds in the draft.
It’s likely that the Thunder will take this approach, especially if they get off to a shaky start. Wembanyama would fit any roster in the NBA, but Wembanyama seems almost too perfect for the Thunder’s roster. Like I mentioned before, the Thunder lack upside in their frontcourt, and at 7-foot-2, Wembanyama brings that and then some.
To go along with his height, Wembanyama has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and affects both sides of the ball with his length. Along with his length, Wembanyama has displayed that he is more than capable of stretching the floor. He’ll most likely need to bulk up so he can withstand a full NBA season going against NBA centers and forwards, but again, he’s only 18 years old.
If the Thunder are able to pair Wembanyama with Holmgren, they will form one of the lengthiest frontcourts in NBA history. The NBA is clearly shifting towards players that are lengthy and positionless, and the Thunder seem to be gearing up to build a roster of players that fit that mold.
Oklahoma City may not be very competitive next season, but if the ping pong balls bounce the Thunder’s way next May, it will have been more than worth it.
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