Oklahoma City Thunder On The Rise

Oklahoma City Thunder

For their short history in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Thunder have had an eventful history. 


Upon arrival from Seattle, the Thunder were a young team filled with promising young stars. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were the young stars. As they grew and developed, the franchise pushed to greater heights, culminating in an NBA Finals appearance in 2012. The Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in five games. 


The Durant/Westbrook era continued, with the Thunder making four Western Conference Finals over six years. This era ended in 2016 when Kevin Durant announced that he was leaving the Thunder to go to their rival, the Golden State Warriors. 


Once Durant left, the Thunder’s front office made a series of moves to rebuild the team, including acquiring forward Paul George. This incarnation of the Thunder never got past the first round in the Western Conference playoffs. 


General manager Sam Presti sensed that the team needed another rebuild and began to sell off all the big pieces. They traded Paul George to the Clippers after Kawhi Leonard requested George join him in Los Angeles. They sent franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook to the Rockets. Another era of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball was starting. 


Now, at the end of January 2022, the look of this new era of Thunder basketball is becoming clear. Led by future All-Star Shai Gilgeous Alexander, and with a surplus of draft picks over the next half-decade, the Thunder are building a team that will compete in a crowded Western Conference.  


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Efficient and Can Score in Bunches

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the most prominent “piece” that the Oklahoma City Thunder got in the Paul George trade. Originally from Canada, SGA played college basketball for one year before being selected at no.11 in the 2018 NBA Draft. 


It became clear that he was a franchise centerpiece after he arrived from the Clippers. The Thunder saw his potential and gave him a max contract in 2021. 


The Thunder’s faith in SGA shows in his performance on the court. He’s been named Western Conference Player of the Week twice and continues to set career highs in different individual stat categories. 


Draft Capital and Eventual Return of Chet Holmgren

General manager Sam Presti has long been considered a draft wizard. Through all of the trades over the last few years, the Thunder have accumulated 36 draft picks over the next seven years. 


Presti spent one of those picks on Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren, a 7’1 power forward/center. His skill set, paired with point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, will give the Thunder an incredibly dynamic duo to compete against the rest of the Western Conference. 


Unfortunately, Holmgren injured his foot in a pro-am before the season started, and he’ll be out all of the 2022-23 NBA season. With the surplus of draft picks, the Thunder could vault into contention quickly when Holmgren returns and gets more NBA minutes. 


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