26 players suited up for the Thunder last season. It is a huge number of players but that sort of roster fluidity is typical of rebuilds. Front office are incredibly cautious with players returning from injury which means that there are a lot of available minutes to be had. I will attempt to go through and grade every single player who wore Thunder Blue.
#26 - Rob Edwards
Rob Edwards has been a key part of the OKC Blue’s roster over the last two seasons and eventually earned a call up to the main roster in late December. The Thunder were ravaged by injuries and COVID which meant that Edwards was signed to a 10-day deal.
For reference, Paul Watson Jr and Isaiah Roby started the game in which Edwards made his debut. He did not play many minutes at all and we did see some of his weaknesses. Edwards’ lack of athleticism made it tough for him to get separation on his jumpers and score at the NBA level.
Rob was a quality pro for the Thunder and hopefully he earns a spot in the league. I do think that Edwards could be a useful scorer in the right situation for an NBA team,
#25 - Scotty Hopson
Hopson was another one of the G League call-ups who made the roster in late December. Scotty was pretty solid in his one game with the main roster. While he did not do anything remarkable, Hopson was smart and consistent with his play.
#24 - Gabriel Deck
Gabriel Deck joined the Thunder towards the back end of the 2020-21 season and his role on the roster was a little unclear. Deck was 27 years old and was an experienced pro in European basketball. Deck came from a winning situation with Real Madrid and joined a tanking team with no plans of winning basketball.
I quite liked Deck and thought he was an enjoyable player to watch. Gabriel going in the post and backing people down was anachronistic but it was hilarious to see the shock on the opposing team’s faces.
That being said, the Thunder’s focus on player development meant that Deck received significantly less playing time and he did not want to continue his NBA career. In January 2022, Oklahoma City waived Deck and he went back to Spain.
#23 - Melvin Frazier
Melvin Frazier was called up by the Thunder from the G League in early April as part of the team’s tanking efforts. Frazier was not set up to succeed in any real way. He played a ton of minutes in a lineup that had little chemistry or cohesiveness.
Frazier did not play well but given the context, it is understandable. Melvin is still young to improve and I will be interested in seeing how he progresses with the Blue. His scoring was vastly inefficient in his three Thunder games but the underlining G League numbers provide hope for the future.
#22 - Paul Watson Jr
Watson signed for the Thunder on a two-way contract at the start of the season and ended up completely out of the rotation. Watson was solid defensively but struggled to contribute on the offensive end of the floor. He shot 34% from the field during his tenure with the Thunder which made it difficult for Coach Daigneault to play him.
Watson was waived in February so that the Thunder could sign Lindy Waters III to a two-way deal. Watson may still earn his spot in the NBA as a grinding, tough forward but I do not think that will happen in Thunder colours.
#21 - Georgios Kalaitzakis
Kalaitzakis was signed on a hardship exception in April by the Thunder after Georgios was waived by the Bucks earlier in the year. Kalaitzakis was the last pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and I did not expect much from him.
Georgios’ play was pleasantly surprising. He was quite capable from deep and he showed flashes of fine playmaking. Kalaitzakis filled up the boxscore for the Thunder when there was a complete vacuum on the offensive end of the floor.
That being said, I would like to see Georgios refine his game and take care of the ball better. His ball-handling was a little sloppy and it often led to high turnover nights. Kalaitzakis should play next season in the G League and try to earn his way back into Coach Daigneault’s rotation.
G League minutes were a huge benefit to Aleksej Pokusevski and I think that these minutes will have a similar sort of effect on Kalaitzakis’ play.
#20 - Zavier Simpson
Zavier Simpson came in for the last few games of the season and immediately caught the attention of Thunder fans. Simpson grabbed the spotlight because he was a 6’0 guard with a hook shot.
The hook shot is typically a tool used by bigs to shoot over the top of the defense. We do not ever see guards use hook shots as a reliable, scoring option.
It is a funky shot choice but it works for Simpson in the same sort of way that a floater does. Simpson’s hook shot forces the defense to guard the threat of his drive and not completely sag off.
#19 - Mamadi Diakite
Diakite was signed by the Thunder to be the third string center on the roster. Mamadi was the first Guinean to play for Oklahoma City and Diakite was generally solid in his time on the court. He took smart shots and hustled hard on the defensive end of the floor.
#18 - Jaylen Hoard
Hoard played for the Thunder in the 2020-21 season and was not brought back in the offseason by Sam Presti. Despite that, Hoard remained on the Thunder’s radar and eventually earned himself a roster spot for the last month of the season.
Hoard played a huge number of minutes and filled up the stat sheet for the Thunder as OKC proceeded towards the offseason. Jaylen Hoard ended up averaging 14.7 points and 12 rebounds per game for the season.
His numbers were pretty good but there is a whiff of empty stats about Hoard’s numbers. His true shooting percentage was just 53.6% and the Thunder had a plus-minus of -17.7 per 100 possessions when he was on the court.
Jaylen is a grinder and I hope he gets a job in the NBA but I do not think it will happen in Oklahoma City. The Thunder currently have Poku, Roby, Kenrich Williams and will likely add another forward in the 2022 NBA Draft. There is not enough minutes to develop Hoard correctly.
#17 - Olivier Sarr
Olivier Sarr was signed up from the G League in late January and he was a really solid backup big men for the Thunder. Olivier’s shot selection was very good and he was a decent interior defender. Sarr has a lot of promise but unfortunately that promise will not be realised in Oklahoma City.
Olivier was waived by OKC in early April because he was playing too well. Sarr had an excellent few weeks in March and Oklahoma City ended up winning four games that the team did not need to win.
By that point in the season, the Thunder were in full tank and racing towards the bottom of the league standings. Winning against teams like Portland and Orlando hindered the Thunder’s position in the long run.
#16 - Lindy Waters III
Waters’ story is nothing short of a fairytale but even that fails to quantify the impact of his play for the Thunder. Oklahoma City have lacked a flamethrower off the bench for years. The last true sharpshooter to wear Thunder Blue was Alex Abrines.
Waters was brought into the team to shoot and space the floor effectively. He achieved that goal by shooting 36.3% on 5.8 3PA per game. His volume and efficiency were very decent but it was the type of shots that Lindy drained that was exciting.
Waters frequently knocked down threes off the move and showed a real proficiency for hitting shots coming off screens. He was able to reliably make difficult shots and be an off-ball threat.
His skill-set is scalable and I am excited to see what Lindy looks like next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Josh Giddey. From the film I have seen, I think that Waters could be a valuable piece for the Thunder going forward in a similar sort of way that Max Strus is for the Miami Heat.
#15 - Mike Muscala
It was another solid, quietly impressive season for Mike Muscala. Muscala’s efficiency improved across the board; he shot 43% from deep and brought regular outside shooting whenever he entered the game.
Moreover, Muscala has grown into being a reliable veteran that the team’s younger players learn from. It is notable that Sam Presti opted to keep Mike at the trade deadline when Presti could have got a strong package.
#14 - Derrick Favors
Favors came to Oklahoma City in the last offseason and nobody expected Derrick to stay in OKC for the whole season. Personally, I believed that Derrick would be gone by the trade deadline. However, Favors ended up spending the entire season with the Thunder and he seemed rejuvenated by the whole experience.
Like Muscala, Favors brought leadership to the team and was valuable in terms of mentoring young players. While his play did not mean his usual standards, I was pretty happy with how Derrick impacted the Thunder.
It is now evident that Favors is no longer a starting quality center. He started the season as a starter before his spot was taken by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. It will be interesting to see how Favors’ future progresses. He has indicated that he will pick up his player option for 2022-23 but whether his future lies in OKC is a different story.
Favors wants to be on a contender at this stage in his career and I do not know if he will be wiling to spend another season on a rebuilding team. It is more likely that Sam Presti finds a trade for Favors in the offseason and sends him to his preferred destination as he has done with Chris Paul before.
#13 - Vit Krejci
I did not know what to expect from Krejci. He entered the season as a complete unknown. Vit spent his first year in America rehabilitating an injury and acclimatising to Thunder basketball. The last time we saw Krejci play basketball was for Zaragoza in Spain.
Vit did not crack Coach Daigneault’s rotation until February and we finally started to see why Sam Presti took him in the Draft. Krejci is a 6’8 point forward and fits into the ‘jumbo orchestrator’ archetype that Presti seems to look for.
Pokusevski’s game is defined by his length and passing feel. Giddey’s play is defined by his ability to pull off wondrous, breath-taking passes. Krejci’s game is not so easily defined. There is not one trait you can point to and identify as being the exceptional skill in Vit’s game.
Krejci is simply a well-rounded, intelligent player who makes good decisions on the court. I am very interested to see how his play develops over the course of the next 12 months. I would expect his shooting to come around given his proficiency from the stripe (86.4%) which will change how he is guarded by opposing defenses.
#12 - Ty Jerome
In short, Jerome’s season was underwhelming and was a huge regression from a player who showed promise in his first in Oklahoma City. Jerome’s shooting and shot selection significantly worsened. There were a few too many times this season in which Jerome dribbled the air out of the ball and then chucked up a contested jumper.
I enjoyed Jerome’s play in his first season and wish him all the best but this was certainly a season to forget for the guard out of Virginia.
#11 - Theo Maledon
As stories go, the resurgence of Theo Maledon is not something I expected. Maledon struggled hard early in the year, went down to the G League while his competition had impressive showings on the main roster. Josh Giddey and Tre Mann were both turning in excellent performances while Maledon was in relative obscurity.
Moreover, Maledon is a bit of forgotten man among many Thunder fans. He played a lot of minute in his rookie season but did not leave much of an impression. Theo had a few moments of real quality but those moments were mixed with too many poor passes and careless turnovers.
It was difficult to see where he could find minutes as a playmaker on a roster where there is an abundance of players who can create for others. Maledon was undeterred by his task and finished the season strong.
Since the All-Star break, Maledon averaged 11.4 points and 3.8 assists per game on 53.4% TS. Those are impressive numbers for a player who struggled so hard in his first season.
The statistics only tell part of the story in Maledon’s case. On a game by game basis, you could see his decision-making get sharper and the number of errors fall. His playmaking was controlled and he was walking his teammates into baskets towards the end of the season.
I really enjoyed what I saw from Theo and believe that his play warrants another season with the Thunder.
#10 - Isaiah Roby
Like Maledon, Roby started the season as an afterthought for many Thunder fans. He featured infrequently for a good portion of the season and his minutes were absorbed by Giddey and JRE.
However, he finished the season strongly and made tangible improvements on his game. Isaiah stretched out the range on his jumper and became a confident 3-point shooter. While the volume of attempts per game was low, his efficiency (44.4%) was quite encouraging.
His development as a shooter should mean that Coach Daigneault can use him as a floor-spacer in pick and pop actions. His ability as a passer already means that he is effective rolling to the rim and dishing the ball to open teammates on the perimeter.
Offensively, Roby is well-rounded and is a very solid option in the front-court. I still have my concerns about his fit defensively but the case for leaving him on the floor when the game matters most has changed. You can live with subpar defense if the player is a positive, reliable contributor on the offensive end of the floor.
#9 - Kenrich Williams
Kenrich Williams had another solid season in Oklahoma City and another season where his advanced statistics jumped off the page. His on-off rating per 100 possessions was +13.1 and I think these numbers accurately quantify Williams’ impact on the team.
Kenny is versatile and influences nearly every Thunder possession. His intense, focused defense slows the opposing team down and buys time for his teammates to set up in correct positioning. His anticipation of danger allows him to cover off weaknesses in the Thunder’s coverage and prevent breakdowns.
Williams reads the game at such a high level and his decisiveness with the basketball steers the Thunder through sticky situations. When a play breaks down, Kenrich is first on the scene to clean up the possession and provide some stability with his passing or shooting.
#8 - Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Robinson-Earl was taken in the second round by the Thunder in the 2021 NBA Draft and it seemed likely that he would spend his rookie season coming off the bench behind Derrick Favors.
JRE did not come with the same sort of excitement that Tre Mann promised but he was a great pick by Sam Presti. The former Villanova big came with the reputation of being a smart, savvy interior defender who could knock down jumpers at a serviceable rate.
Robinson-Earl earned a starting spot at center and never looked back. Despite the fact that he is under-sized, Robinson-Earl performed really well. He drained open looks and hunted down rebounds.
The defensive end of the floor is where JRE really stood out. He had the versatility to switch onto smaller players without being at a disadvantage in that particular match-up. I always go back to that first game in Summer League against Detroit. There were two possessions which deeply impressed me.
The first possession involved JRE being switched onto a driving Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is a lengthy, high-IQ point forward who is very good at finishing around the rim. It is not a match-up where you expect a rookie big to do well in. Jeremiah matched Cade stride for stride before forcing a missed shot.
The second possession involved the Pistons going down into the post with Luke Garza. Garza, a skilled post player, is a completely different challenge to a playmaker like Cunningham. JRE had the mental agility to switch on and make life very difficult for the taller, stronger player.
Robinson-Earl did not back down and allow Garza deep post position. He forced Luke into throwing up a hopeful shot which rimmed out. JRE flashed his versatility early in the season and has only built on it.
He has been a willing communicator and leader on defense. His communication is one of the reasons were a top-10 defense in the early part of the season.
#7 - Aaron Wiggins
Aaron Wiggins was one of the season’s surprise stories. All of the pre-draft reports on Wiggins said that he was a mature, seasoned player who just did not have enough skill to be a valuable NBA player. Despite the concerns, Oklahoma City signed him to a two-way deal and added Wiggins to the main roster.
Aaron started the season excellently and shot the lights out. Eventually, his efficiency regressed to the mean but I was still really pleased by his level of play. Wiggins’ interpreted space well and was a willing cutter. His threat off the ball made it much harder for defenses to load up on Giddey or Gilgeous-Alexander.
Wiggins’ strong play has earned him a contract with the Thunder for the foreseeable future. In February, he signed a four year deal worth $6.4m. The contract agreed is similar to what the Thunder have done in the past with Luguentz Dort and Moses Brown.
His game is not perfect by any means; I think that Wiggins’ confidence drops whenever the ball is not going in the basket. When his confidence falls. he does become more tentative and impacts the game less effectively. He will need to learn how to be productive consistently.
#6 - Aleksej Pokusevski
Pokusevski did not play all that well at the start of the season. His play was still littered with puzzling turnovers and even odder shot selection. Then Pokusevski was sent down to the G League and he did not perform to expectations. Aleksej struggled in the G League and the mood among the fanbase shifted.
The creeping doubt of Pokusevski being a bust started to emerge and for the first time in a long while, there was pressure on him to perform and play well. From February onwards, he settled into a role where he contributed with his passing, inside scoring and defense.
The game suddenly seemed to make sense for Pokusevski and he was more controlled in his play. Aleksej stopped turning the ball over so often and was more selective with the passes he attempted. For the first time in his Thunder career, Pokusevski looked like a real NBA player.
His scoring also started to make sense. Pokusevski stopped launching outside jumpers and started to attack the basket. Pokusevski’s size, speed and delicate touch means that he is very difficult to stop inside of three feet. He has the length to take unblockable shots in this shooting zone.
Aleksej finished the season strong and I hope that he can carry that growth forward into next season.
#5 - Tre Mann
Mann grew into his role and established himself as a microwave scorer who could put up points quickly. Tre was excellent after a rocky few months of basketball. His first 20 games were a rough acclimatisation period for Mann. He struggled to balance his individual shot creation with the team’s offensive rhythm.
Mann likes to cook and use his full arsenal of dribbles moves to embarrass the opposing team. It is aesthetically pleasing and wonderful to watch when he gets it right. It is a little more difficult to watch when Mann wastes so much energy setting up a shot without even considering the finish.
His play picked up in February and Tre did not look back. Mann simplified his game, played faster and started to put together strong scoring nights. Those performances fed his confidence and Tre only kept on getting better.
#4 - Luguentz Dort
Luguentz Dort’s third year in the league was a successful one. He improved as a scoring option and his efficiency finally got closer to league average. I was deeply impressed by Dort’s refined inside scoring game.
In the past, Dort would simply barrel into defensive players and pray for open looks. He has the physicality to make this style of basketball work but it does not always work against elite interior defenders. Last season, we saw Dort tighten up his footwork and find more success. He went from shooting 56% on looks inside 3ft to 61.5%.
It is a huge improvement and it changes how defenses guard him. They cannot just run him off the 3-point line and live with the consequences. Opposing defenses now have to play Dort honestly as he can finish inside effectively while also being able to knock down outside jumpers.
However, I feel that his defense slipped slightly last season. Occasionally, Dort was too willing to jump out and make the high-risk play on the defense. I like to see aggression on the less glamorous end of the floor but that desire has to be calculated and assessed. Dort was guilty of being reckless on defense.
#3 - Josh Giddey
Josh Giddey was hugely impressive in his debut season and totally beat all expectations. Giddey’s transition to the NBA was seamless and he effortlessly stepped into the lead playmaker role for the Thunder. He won Rookie of the Month four times and was the best rookie in the Western Conference for a large portion of the season.
His passing temporised the game and organised the Thunder’s offensive possessions. A lot of people have compared Giddey to Chris Paul and Jason Kidd but I do not know if those comparisons are entirely correct. His production is somewhat similar but his style of play is different.
Although it is a different sport, Josh Giddey reminds me of Thiago Alcantara. Like Alcantara, Giddey knows when to slow the game down and when to push the pace. They weaponise pace as a way of creating space for their teammates. Giddey’s control of pace is most notable in the pick and roll.
Josh is always quick to get the defender on his back but then slows his movements to allow the play to develop. His patience allows Jeremiah Robinson-Earl or Derrick Favors to roll into a good finishing position down low.
#2 - Darius Bazley
Let me be clear, I had thought this could be Bazley’s final season in Oklahoma City. He did not play at at well in the 2020-21 season and there were real doubts about how Bazley fits with the current roster.
Bazley had a tendency to force ill-advised shots and take the team out of rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. Moreover, his inability to consistently knock down outside jumpers reduced the space available to the team’s shot creators.
For the first half of the season, he was still afflicted by the same problems. Darius just did not look like he fitted with the other members of the starting lineup. Coach Daigneault took the decision to move Bazley to the bench and that decision was crucial in reviving Darius’ season.
Bazley played with more fire and was smarter with the ball. There were no lengthy, pointless dribbles on the perimeter. When he received the ball, Bazley would be on the move and slashing to the basket.
From January onwards, Bazley’s play was inspired and he has made a real case for a contract extension. Bazley’s tireless, relentless perimeter defense takes pressure off SGA’s shoulders. His improvements as a scorer finally means that he is no longer a negative on offense.
#1 - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
It was a difficult season for Shai and he struggled initially with the change in offensive system. Gilgeous-Alexander thrives in isolation but the Thunder ran significantly less isolation actions to accommodate Josh Giddey early in the season. Coach Daigneault sought to establish a pass-happy, motion-based offense.
Eventually, Shai worked it out but then Josh Giddey was ruled out for the rest of the season. Giddey’s absence meant that the Thunder went back to a style of basketball which favoured SGA.
Gilgeous-Alexander then played some of the best basketball of his career and looked every bit of an All-NBA talent. Shai was simply excellent and I was immensely happy with his level of play.