Brady Trantham

Pending questions for the OKC Thunder if we miss out on a postseason

Pending questions for the OKC Thunder if we miss out on a postseason

You know what sucks — this whole “no sports” plane of existence we now occupy. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Will it help the common good? Refer to the first answer!

Sports and more importantly, life as we once knew it, will return. We will perceiver.

——–

As we trudge along into the foreseeable future of no basketball, the possibility that the NBA may have to scrap this season is a possibility. Commissioner Adam Silver was on SportsCenter last night with Rachel Nichols discussing all the avenues the league is trying to pursue. However as the man himself said, trying to predict the future typically leads you down the path of being wrong. 

What if the NBA season ended for good last Wednesday night in OKC? What ramifications could befall the Oklahoma City Thunder? What about the reigning Most Valuable Player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Let us worry about our local professional basketball collective for now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder

  • No postseason burn for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Lu Dort or Hamidou Diallo
    • Postseason experience is important. Not just for the player but for the front office in their evaluation and prognostication of players — be it right or wrong (you can almost smell James Harden’s South Beach sweat from 2012 in this sentence).
    • Great individual performances can be a great springboard into an offseason while no-shows can either be a red flag or just a sign that the lights were too bright at the time — remember Victor Oladipo in the 2016-17 playoffs?
    • Danilo Gallinari’s future is more than likely the same — sign-and-trade — with or without a postseason.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

    • Despite not playing in the Thunder’s as-of-right-now final game of the season, SGA still remains OKC’s leading scorer at 19.3 points per game — Gallinari just behind him at 19.2.
    • The Thunder and Chris Paul have been consistent in that they are better when SGA is the guy leading the scoring charge. His versatility, ability to get into the paint and shooting ability give him and his teammates that confidence.
    • As it stands today, Gilgeous-Alexander is still the “face of the franchise” moving forward.
    • But what if SGA got bottled up by the opponent in a playoff series?
      • What if the opponent exploited SGA’s catch-and-shoot abilities, i.e., “Go ahead and shoot it!”
        • SGA’s C&S numbers are far from terrible, but they’re not as pristine as you might think. He’s shooting 39 percent from the floor which ranks last among Thunder players who log 27 minutes a game. His 3-point C&S percentage is also the lowest amongst that tier at 41%.
        • A scenario where perimeter defenders basically let SGA shoot the Thunder out of meaningful possessions could take place.
        • But a poor shooting performance in a series would do little to derail SGA’s trajectory. Scratch this.
      • What if SGA throws out a bunch of stinkers?
        • Let’s bring up Oladipo again. He was bad. Andre Roberson averaged more points than him.
          • Sure Russell Westbrook took 30 shots a game in that five-game series against the Houston Rockets — a lot of that was because Oladipo didn’t step up in his first postseason run.
        • While SGA is the leading scorer for the Thunder, he isn’t the leader of the team… yet.
        • Chris Paul would sense quickly if SGA didn’t have it as a number one scoring option.
          • In last season’s postseason, the LA Clippers had SGA as a luxury. Less responsibility — relative to his role with OKC now — leads to less pressure.
        • If the Thunder were beaten in five or six games and SGA had four bad games, does the Thunder’s view of him moving forward adjust?

 

  • Okay, he may not be ready to be “the guy” so let’s try and identify someone in the draft or through a trade who can be

 

  • What if SGA dominates in his role — his scoring increases, shooting numbers increase and the Thunder win a first round or lose a tightly-contested seven game series?
    • Everything is going according to plan.

Chris Paul

  • This one matters for the short term and the long term.
    • Short term — Paul does Chris Paul things consistently during a playoff series.
      • OKC wins that series
    • Short term — Paul is held in check or God forbid he is hurt.
      • OKC loses
    • Long term — Good Paul performances:
      • Front offices now have a full season of tape on a healthy Chris Paul who led the league in clutch-time scoring and helped lead a franchise from the brink of Cleveland Cavalier irrelevance into the playoffs.
      • This is good for a potential offseason trade that could yield more assets moving forward.
    • Long term — Bad Paul performances:
      • OKC may be “stuck” with Paul for a bit longer.
      • Not a bad thing at all, but it would keep OKC from being draft lottery bad and potentially hamper future development of younger players who need to take the next step.

Other Guys

  • Terrance Ferguson
    • A great performance in a playoff series either as a starter or off the bench would go a long way in the Thunder’s (probable) investment of him moving forward.
    • A bad performance — or specifically more of the same — would lead to the Thunder perhaps pivoting on Ferguson as a member of their young core moving forward.
  • Lu Dort
    • This guy is playing with house money (haha, what does this suspended season do for his two-way/full-time status?).
  • Darius Bazley
    • The Thunder’s defensive numbers began to slip as Bazley rehabbed from an injury a month ago. 
    • Was Bazley the sole reason? No, but he was a large part of it.
    • Amongst rookies who log over 17 minutes a game, Bazely posts the best defensive rating at 101.6. 
      • He leads the Thunder in that same category with 17+ minutes a game.
    • Potentially missing out on a rookie postseason experience isn’t detrimental, but we are being robbed of seeing how far Bazley’s high-IQ could take him in his first playoffs.
  • Hamidou Diallo
    • He’s made improvement but since returning from injury, he hasn’t been the same guy on either side of the floor consistently.
    • Diallo is on the fringe of OKC’s future — is he a member of the young core moving forward or is he simply too raw and flawed a player to fully invest in?

Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12. He also hosts the “Locked on Thunder” podcast, part of the Locked On Podcast Network Monday through Friday. Brady is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma class of 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports

Brady Trantham
@BradyDoesSports

Brady has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2016. University of Oklahoma alum class of 2014. He has worked for the Franchise since April 2018. Brady co-hosts the OKC-82 Podcast and the Inside OU podcast, part of the Franchise Podcast Network. He also hosts the Locked On Thunder Podcast, part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You can hear Brady on Saturdays after football season from 10am-12 on the Franchise Thunder Insider's Show with Jerry Ramsey, Jon Hamm and Madysson Morris.

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