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The Oklahoma City Thunder Potential Starting Lineup: Are They The Worst Team In The Western Conference?

The Oklahoma City Thunder Potential Starting Lineup: Are They The Worst Team In The Western Conference?

The Oklahoma City Thunder posted their worst record in the 2020-21 NBA season since their name change in 2008. Several superstars, including Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Chris Paul, have featured for the franchise at one point or the other in the last 13 years, leading them to ten playoff appearances, and went as far as the NBA Finals in 2012.

Unfortunately, their glory days are well behind them as they finished with the 4th-worst record in the league last season. As a result, they won the sixth pick in the 2021 draft lottery and selected Josh Giddey. While the Thunder have exciting prospects, not many expect them to finish in the top ten.


Point Guard - Josh Giddey

Josh Giddey

Josh Giddey was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft and is eager to start his NBA campaign. He had the opportunity to put his skills on display during the OKC first preseason fixture and took maximum advantage. It was his first real feature for the Thunder seeing as an ankle injury sidelined him throughout the Summer League.

Giddey gave the Thunder fans something to cheer about despite their 113-97 loss against the Charlotte Hornets. In his official debut, he registered 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, and three assists. His partnership with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the backcourt is also something for the Thunder fans to be excited about. Regardless, the depth and quality of players from the 2021 NBA draft class do not put Giddey in the 2022 Rookie of the Year conversation.


Shooting Guard - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the most lethal shooting guards under 25 on their roster and will be hoping to get career-high performances from the Canadian. Shai featured in only 35 games last season due to an injury. In those games, he recorded 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.

The 23-year-old will undoubtedly be looked to for scoring as he is the team's best scorer. While that is a lot of pressure, he is talented enough to lead the team to occasional wins. Shai will put together All-Star caliber performances, but his efforts alone will not be enough to guarantee wins for the Thunder.


Small Forward - Luguentz Dort

Luguentz Dort

After playing his first year as a small forward, Luguentz Dort was given the shooting guard role last season, acting as Shai's partner on the backcourt. But with the acquisition of Giddey, Dort will be moved out to the wing yet again for the 2021-22 NBA season.

With more playtime, the 22-year-old has flourished into a dependable player, establishing himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He draws a striking resemblance to Jrue Holiday as a defender because of their frame. His ability to quickly move his hands and feet is also an added advantage. Given how impressive he has been as a youngster, it will be exciting to see how he has developed during the offseason.


Power Forward - Darius Bazley

Darius Bazley

The OKC Thunder is expected to be at the bottom of the win/loss projection in the West, but that will not be as a result of a lack of effort from Darius Bazley. The 22-year-old is on course to have a breakout season following his impressive sophomore performance.

Bazley recorded career-high numbers in four of the NBA's five major stat lines. He ended the 2020-21 season with 13.7 compared to 5.6 of the previous season, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks.

The Ohio native undoubtedly needs to improve in several areas, especially shooting. He shot 39.6% from the field while attempting 12.5 shots per game. Bazley has been vocal about his offseason training, which means we might see some improvements in that regard.


Center - Isaiah Roby

Isaiah Roby

Isaiah Roby had his unofficial rookie run in the 2020-21 season after he was sidelined due to a nagging foot injury in 2019. He featured in only three games off the bench and did not record any points in the 3.7 minutes he played.

The 23-year-old had somewhat of a bounce-back season last year, averaging 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 34 starts. While Roby will have another average season, he will better his last year's performance.


Bench

Theo Maledon, Ty Jerome, Paul Watson, Tre Mann, Vit Krejci, Aaron Wiggins, Gabriel Deck, Aleksej Pokusevski, Kenrich Williams, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Mamadi Diakite, Derrick Favors, Mike Muscala

Derrick Favors and Mike Muscala are the closest players the Oklahoma City Thunder has to veterans. While it is understandable to focus on your young core, a team that is looking to compete regardless needs to have more experienced players on their roster.

Outside of Favors, the Oklahoma City Thunder bench is unproven. That means it is difficult to explicitly state what is to be expected from such an inexperienced team. Head coach Mark Daigneault has his work cutout even though expectations as regards winning will be ridiculously low considering the roster he will be working with.

Given what the Thunder front office is looking to achieve, their youngsters will get enough playtime in the 2021-22 season. It will be exciting to see what these players would achieve, seeing as the message from the coach will be more along the lines of enjoying themselves on the court rather than pursuing victories every other night.


Are They The Worst Team In The Western Conference?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are still undergoing a rebuild, which means winning is not their top priority as things stand. They are more interested in bringing together young talents that can compete a few years from now. The sheer ridiculous number of draft picks they own over the next six years is a testament to their commitment to rebuilding. Before the 2021 NBA draft, they had 36 picks, 18 for each round.

In comparison with other teams in the Western Conference, the Thunder are the worst team in the 2021-22 NBA season. Although the Houston Rockets finished dead last in the conference last season, it was more because of injuries that ravaged the team and not for the lack of elite talents.

Making it into the NBA is proof that you are good enough as a basketball player and can compete at the highest level. Nonetheless, the OKC Thunder will field a lineup that can be dominated by every other team in most of the positions.

So far, the Thunder are 1-10 in their last ten NBA games, excluding the Summer League. A different outcome during the season is unlikely, as a run of losing streaks is expected.

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