The Oklahoma City Thunder entered this season with raised expectations after a play-in appearance last season. The Thunder are off to a 3-3 start, and through six games, there is already a sense of the highs and lows that this young Thunder team will experience.
Oklahoma City Thunder Week 1 Takeaways
Chet Holmgren as Good as Advertised
Chet Holmgren is already making himself a defensive force. Through five games, he’s averaging 2.6 blocks a game, along with one steal per game. In last Friday’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, Holmgren set a Thunder rookie record with seven blocks. He is still finding his place offensively, averaging 15.8 points per game. An uptick in shot attempts per game could unlock more for the offense, as he is only attempting 9.4 field goal attempts. That will come with time, as this is only the group’s 5th game played together.
Holmgren is still just a rookie, as mentioned. Additionally, missing an entire season of basketball at a crucial time in his basketball development is not easy to just push to the side. It is an easy leap to understand that Holmgren will continue to improve at a rapid rate and when that happens, the Thunder take the next leap.
Rebounding a Glaring Issue
In Wednesday night’s loss vs the New Orleans Pelicans, in which the Thunder blew a 22-point 2nd quarter lead. The offensive rebounding count was 22-6 in favor of the Pelicans. That is a 16-rebound disparity, which means the Pelicans earned 16 more possessions in the game. Sixteen possessions were quite possibly the difference-maker in the Thunder’s loss.
There was no answer to the Pelicans’ big men Jonas Valanciunas, Zion Williamson, and even guard CJ McCollum, who had 11 rebounds in the game.
A little more effort was left to be desired from the OKC crew, which prides itself on its gang rebounding after playing mostly small last season.
The OKC Thunder will get a lift on the glass when Kenrich Williams and Jaylin Williams return to the fold. While they might not rack up high rebound totals, they fit the team style of rebounding better with post positioning and the ability to box out and allow the guards to swoop in for the boards.
Shai’s Rapid Decline in Free Throw Attempts
A lack of free throws continues to be an issue for Gilgeous-Alexander. This time around, he only went 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. What made last season so memorable for him was his ability to easily score 25-plus points without high shot volume due to his ability to get to the line 10-plus times with ease.
It’s early in the season, but Gilgeous-Alexander is not getting the calls he received last year.
“It feels like defenders are allowed to be a little more physical this year,” Gilgeous-Alexander said on the lack of free throws. “That’s what it feels like. But yeah, I don’t know.”
Through 5 games, Gilgeous-Alexander is only averaging five free throw attempts. That is while maintaining one of the highest drives per-game rate in the league. Amazingly, Shai is still dominating his competition and making a solid push to be in the NBA MVP conversation.