NBA

The Thunder Young Core has Shown Great Promise

Mar 31, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5), guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and forward Darius Bazley (7) watch their team play against the Toronto Raptors from the bench during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder have fully embraced their rebuild. They have 34 draft picks overall in the next seven years. Their GM Sam Presti has picked future MVPs like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant in the past. However, their current young core has also shown lots of potential. Today, we’ll take a look at some of these promising young players and the impressive numbers they’re putting up this season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Feb 22, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) reacts after a shot against the Miami Heat during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Gilgeous-Alexander is Oklahoma City’s brightest young talent and face of the franchise. He is playing at an all-star level this season. For instance, he’s averaging 23.7/5.9/4.7 on 62.3 TS% this season. He has made giant leaps every year of his career since being drafted by the Clippers in 2018. At just 22 years of age, he will likely only continue to get better.

Additionally, Gilgeous-Alexander has had some great games this season. He put up an impressive 42/8/4 against the Spurs and 33/10/5 versus the Bulls. In his last 12 games before getting injured, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 26.5/4.9/3.6 on a stellar 65.3 TS%.

With the keys to the franchise, Shai will be a threat in the NBA for years to come. As long as Gilgeous-Alexander stays healthy, the Thunders’ young core will be a dominant force in the West.

Luguentz Dort

Mar 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Already an elite perimeter defender at the age of 21, undrafted Lu Dort broke out in the bubble last playoffs. Dort was James Harden’s primary defender in the first round of the 2020 playoffs.

Dort played excellent defense against Harden in the first round, making him work for every shot.

Luguentz Dort also had a great game in game seven of the series. Dort would record 30 points, four rebounds, and a block on an efficient 65.57 TS%. Also, he would become the youngest Thunder player to score 30+ in a playoff game.

Per 100 possessions this season, Lu Dort is averaging 20.5/5.4/2.5/1.4. Additionally, just two months ago, Dort was even top 5 on the DPOY ladder. A premier defender and fantastic young player, Dort will only continue to grow more consistent and efficient in the years to come.

Aleksej Pokusevski

Apr 7, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels (6) defends during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Aleksej Pokusevski, better known as Poku, has been a pleasant surprise for Oklahoma City this season. The undrafted seven-footer out of Serbia is currently the youngest player in the NBA.

In his last five games, Pokusevski is averaging 18.6/ 5.2/2.8 on 45.5% from the field and 46.2% from three. On Wednesday against Charlotte, Poku also set the Thunder franchise record for most threes made by a rookie in a game, with 7.

19-year-old Aleksej Pokusevski has a skill set that is rare among seven-footers. He is a solid shooter, and he can handle the ball exceptionally well. Poku has a huge upside and may very well be a vital contributor to the Thunder throughout his career.

Theo Maledon

Mar 29, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Theo Maledon (11) goes up for a shot as Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) defends him during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

At just 19 years old, 2020 second-round pick Theo Maledon is one of the younger members of the Thunder core. Maledon is a 6’5 point guard with an incredibly smooth offensive game.

In his last five games, Maledon is averaging 18/5/3.2 on about 50 TS%. With Gilgeous-Alexander injured, Maledon has had more of an opportunity to flourish and further develop his game.

Theo Maledon is also the third-youngest Thunder player to score 25 or more points in a game, behind Kevin Durant and Pokusevski. He has already done it twice in his young career, against the Hornets and the Suns.

Theo Maledon is a guard with a lot of potential on the offensive end and is a fantastic backcourt complement to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. It will be interesting to see how he develops and improves in the Oklahoma City system.

Darius Bazley

Nov 2, 2019; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) shoots the ball as New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) defends the shot during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 115-104. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
 Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted 23rd overall in the 2019 draft, 20-year-old Darius Bazley is another promising young player on the Thunder team. The 6’8 forward has a solid all-around game.

Bazley has doubled his production from his rookie year, averaging 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds a game this season. Bazley has proven to be a steal in the 2019 draft, with his defensive versatility and decent shooting ability. He leads all players in the 2019 draft class in rebounds this season.

Since the all-star break, Bazley has upped his game. He is averaging 13.0/6.3 and nearly a block a game on 55.39 TS% and 46.3% from downtown since then.

While Bazley is still somewhat of a project, he is still young and will continue to develop into a better player as his career progresses forward.

Additionally, there are many other notable Thunder players in their young core. Moses Brown, their 21-year-old undrafted center, recently became the youngest Thunder player with a 20/20 game. 23-year-old forward Isaiah Roby has also shown promise in his young career.

The Thunder have lots of young picks and young prospects who are promising. They will likely be a powerhouse in the Western Conference in the future. It will be interesting to see how their young core grows and develops throughout the years.

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4 responses to “The Thunder Young Core has Shown Great Promise”

  1. […] put up The Thunder Younger Core has Proven Nice Promise appeared first on Sideline […]

  2. […] Thunder are currently rebuilding their franchise. Not only do they have an excellent young core headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but they have a boatload of draft picks. Maledon is playing […]

  3. […] Thunder are presently rebuilding their franchise. Not solely have they got an glorious younger core headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, however they’ve a boatload of draft picks. Maledon is […]

  4. […] rebuilding phase. They genuinely have the pieces to contend for a championship in a few years, with lots of talent and draft picks. Dort will most definitely be a crucial part of this franchise for the years to […]

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