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Oklahoma City Thunder WTLC Q&A: Which Thunder player will improve most next season?

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On a young and talented roster, which Thunder will most improve next season?

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s Thunder mailbag focuses on which Oklahoma City Thunder prospect will make the biggest leap forward next season.

Being WTLC, we'll slant this question toward an Oklahoma City Thunder angle.

The answer: Alex Abrines

Following subtle-yet-defined improvement throughout a hopeful rookie campaign, expect marked growth in 17-18’ from Euroleague Rising Star Award winner Alex Abrines.

Flanked by capable and young OKC teammates Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Jerami Grant, and Doug McDermott, citing Abrines, 23, as the team's likely breakthrough performer for the season ahead entails no small vote of confidence.

Though, with a fluid perimeter release and growing understanding of fundamental NBA nuances, Abrines has earned such esteem.

Rookie Strengths

In addition to establishing a new Thunder rookie record for three-pointers made, throughout his opening 68 stateside contests, Abrines often brought vital spacing and reserve-offensive value to a unit dead-last in three-point accuracy.

While averaging 14 PPG per-36, the spindly 6’6 import connected on an OKC best 38% from range. Further, Abrines showed catch-and-shoot proficiency in tight spaces with an ultra quick-release.

Consider that during his inaugural season as a Thunder, Abrines converted 40.9% of three-pointers attempted within 2 seconds of receiving a pass —Abrines also proved accurate on the break, burying 47% of looks with 18+ seconds remaining on the shotclock.

In today’s fast-paced game, these numbers stand out.

Improvements

And though not yet a plus defender or playmaker, Oklahoma City’s main perimeter marksman finished his final 15 regular-season contests with a +7 NetRTG while exhibiting infused defensive vigor, as evidenced by a greatly improved 101.9 DefRtg.

Already established as an outside threat, while flashing signs that his mixture of tenacity and length can translate to capable NBA defender status, Abrines’ next step is to avail his above-average ball handling and agility to place further pressure upon scrambling defenses via occasional drives, mid-range attempts, and assist opportunities.

Moving forward, blessed with the tools, and fresh playoff experience, anticipate substantial improvement from Alex Abrines as he expands upon first-year promise and becomes an even greater component of the Thunder gameplan.

Alex Abrines 16-17 season stats/highlights

  • 68 Games Played
  • 94 three-pointers made: Oklahoma City Thunder rookie record
  • 15.5 MPG/6 PPG/39/38/89 shooting split
  • Finished 3rd among all rookies in 3PM
  • Finished 6th among all rookies in 3P%
  • Named to BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge World Team