The Oklahoma City Thunder are a couple of weeks away from starting their 2023-24 regular season when it matches up against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 25.
After finishing a win short of a playoff appearance, the Thunder are expected to contend for a playoff spot this year. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to superstardom has helped make that the case.
An offer for Thunder fans
The Thunder’s other young pieces Chet Holmgren, Jalen Williams and Josh Giddey will also play vital roles in how this season turns out.
As the new season approaches, it’s time to review all 18 main roster players and figure out one key question for each. The three two-way players are not included in this exercise.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Can he keep it up?
Last season was Gilgeous-Alexander’s breakout party. The 25-year-old averaged a career-high 31.4 points on 51% shooting and made his first All-Star and All-NBA appearance. He also finished 5th in MVP voting. He established himself as one of the best players in the league last season, now it’s about continuing to produce at that high level to show he belongs.
Chet Holmgren: Can he stay healthy?
If you ask Holmgren about his surgically repaired foot, he’ll quickly dismiss any concerns or jitters he might experience playing on it. But coming off of a major foot injury as a seven-footer, health will be a big goal for Holmgren. If he can stay healthy and play the majority of games this season, then that’ll be a reassuring sign that he’s truly past any lingering foot concerns.
Jalen Williams: Can he take the next step?
Williams slowly worked his way up on the Thunder last season and finished the year as arguably the second-best player on the roster. Entering his season season with added weight, he should continue to improve. If Williams can increase his offensive usage, then he should have a solid season as an above-average wing.
Josh Giddey: Can he get a friendlier whistle?
During media day, Giddey talked a lot about increasing his free-throw rate. He’s averaged just 1.7 attempts in two seasons thus far. During his time with Australia over the summer, that number increased. He’ll need to carry that into the NBA if he wants to evolve as a scorer. Getting to the free-throw line can consolidate his streaky outside shooting.
Lu Dort: Can he take a lesser offensive role?
Since arriving, Dort has shown he’s not afraid to let it fly when the ball reaches his hands. But considering how deep this team is with young offensive talent, he might need to rein it in a bit for the first time in his five-year career. If Dort can serve a similar role to the one he had for Canada during the FIBA World Cup, then that’s probably the best-case scenario for both parties.
Jaylin Williams: Can he lead the league in charges again?
After leading college in drawn charges at Arkansas, Williams did the same thing his rookie season at an incredible pace. His 43 drawn charges were 10 more than second-place Kevin Loves despite playing 13 fewer games. If OKC stays healthy, he’ll likely be a bench frontcourt player for his second season but that shouldn’t stop him from leading the league in charges again considering how frequently he did it last season.
Cason Wallace: Can he make an All-Rookie team?
Lost in the Holmgren hype, the Thunder have another top-10 rookie in Wallace. He’ll likely get a chance to establish himself as a rotation player as the season progresses. When those opportunities arise, he’ll need to show why he should be a lead guard off the bench. If he can do that, he’ll have a strong case for an All-Rookie team.
Ousmane Dieng: Can he finish through contact?
Last season, one of the biggest critiques about Dieng was his hesitancy to drive to the basket and finish through contact. At 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, he has the build to be able to absorb contact and finish off drives with authority. He showed signs of that last season and over summer league, it’s now about doing it consistently.
Kenrich Williams: Can he play small-ball 5?
Outside of Holmgren, the Thunder don’t roster a traditional center. This means that OKC will likely play plenty of small-ball lineups. Williams showed last season that he can substitute as a center if needed. In lineups where OKC tries to push the pace, he can provide value as the pseudo-center who can spread the floor a bit and defend against bigs decently.
Isaiah Joe: Can he enter the All-Star 3-point contest?
Isaiah Joe vouched to no avail last season to be invited to the All-Star 3-point shooting contest. If he has a similar season to what he had last year where he shot over 40% on five-plus 3-point attempts, then he’ll have a better shot this year considering how many more national TV games the Thunder play in this season.
Aleksej Pokusevski: Can he regain his momentum from last year?
Before he suffered a fractured leg in late December, Pokusevski was a mainstay in OKC’s rotation. After two years of development and wild play, it looked like he finally found a role best suited for him. It’ll be vital for him to regain that form this season as he enters the last year of his rookie deal.
Vasilije Micic: How long until he gets comfortable?
There will be an adjustment period for Micic. Both on and off the court. The 29-year-old is living in the United States for the first time in his life after being one of the most successful international players. Now, he joins a young Thunder team where he’s not guaranteed a rotation spot. Once he gets comfortable with his situation, the talented guard will get a chance to climb the rankings.
Tre Mann: Can he bring back his 3-point shot?
It was a bad sophomore season for Mann last year as he was phased out of the rotation by the end of it. His 3-point shot disappearing played a huge role in that. He shot 31.5% from 3 on 3.8 attempts. He’s certainly shown to be a better outside shooter than that and he’ll need to return to that level if he wants to prolong his NBA career.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: Can he stay healthy?
Health has been a problem for Robinson-Earl so far in his career. He was limited to 43 games last season after an ankle sprain cost him two months of action. He simply can’t afford to miss that much time this season as he fights for his roster spot.
Aaron Wiggins: Can he keep his rotation spot?
Over the last two seasons, Wiggins has been a pleasant surprise as a rotation wing who can contribute off of the bench. A surprising development considering he was a late second-round pick in 2021. But with more talent added, he’ll have to continue to show his worth to maintain consistent minutes.
Davis Bertans: Will he reach the 75% threshold?
One of the more interesting storylines to follow this season is if Bertans reaches the 75% threshold of regular season games. This equates to roughly 62 games. If he passes it, then his 2024-25 early termination option will be $16 million instead of $5 million, which he’ll easily pick up if that’s the case. This could limit OKC’s financial flexibility this upcoming season.
Jack White: Can he make the roster?
When roster cuts are made before the start of the season, White will be fighting an uphill battle. Examining the roster, he’s likely one of the easier moves to make. It’ll be important for him to have a strong preseason campaign to show otherwise.
Victor Oladipo: Can he return this season?
Speaking of roster cuts, it looks like one of those decisions has already been made as Oladipo won’t be on the Thunder for long. He’s an expiring $9.5 million salary who can get waived. If that happens, he’ll get a chance to sign with a contender once he recovers from his torn patellar tendon.