Start time - 7:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
Oklahoma City come into this game off the back of a string of really strong performances in Salt Lake City. Oklahoma City went 2-1 with the only loss coming against the Sixers. In the Philadelphia game, Coach Woods did not have Chet Holmgren and mixed up his rotations. Tre Mann came back into the rotation and Aaron Wiggins received a longer run than he did in the first two games.
On the whole, Oklahoma City played excellent basketball and blew teams away with their precise, unselfish play. Josh Giddey led the offense and his passing was outrageous at times. He pulled off jaw-dropping passing with stunning regularity and made difficult thread-the-needle passes look very simple.
Jalen Williams followed Giddey’s lead by taking smart shots and picking his spots perfectly. I enjoyed Williams’ selectiveness; it was refreshing to see a young guard focus on his sweet spots instead of trying to do too much. It was also a ton of fun seeing J-Dub cut and get buckets off his movement.
Nice cut and slam from Jalen Williams. His off-ball skills should pair well with the Thunder's lead guards. Think he has looked good in OKC's opener.— Brandon Simberg (@BrandonSimberg) July 6, 2022
Oh and Josh Giddey doing Josh Giddey things pic.twitter.com/Ds8zb6pvdn
It is a simple baseline cut but he executes the play so well. J-Dub sidles behind the defense and put himself out of the defender’s sightline. Jalen’s positioning makes the cut much easier and provides Giddey with an easy dump pass into the dunker’s spot. If he can consistently cut at the NBA level, I think his chemistry with Josh will come along quickly.
Tonight, the Thunder play an old foe in the form of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are the closest thing that Oklahoma City have to a natural rivalry. There is a lot of bad blood between the two franchises. Whether that be Patrick Beverley’s lunge at Russ’s knees or the toxic MVP discussions in 2017, it is fair to say that neither fanbase likes each other.
It should be a tasty game to watch and a renewal of an old rivalry. The Thunder and Rockets are two young teams coming up at the same time who are fighting for playoff berths in the same conference. Summer League will be taster of what is to come in the next four or five years.
The roster-building philosophies between both organisations contrast dramatically. Houston have focused on taking high-potential young players who lack a feel for team basketball. The likes of Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr and Josh Christopher can get their own but they are still learning how to be a cohesive team unit.
The game against the Orlando Magic highlighted those weaknesses. Jabari Smith Jr, the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, had limited touches and did not have the opportunity to impact the game with his jump-shot. Smith Jr needs a table-setter to set up his looks and nobody on the Rockets’ roster took on that responsibility the other night.
On the other hand, Oklahoma City have focused on taking players who are unselfish and fit seamlessly into Coach Daigneault’s offense. Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams are all players who are willing to sacrifice their own for the benefit of the team.
The Thunder’s challenge is evolving the team’s chemistry and developing an offense that is decisive in important moments. We often see teams be almost too unselfish and it can paralyse an offense. You need players who can put the ball in the basket and make smart, reasoned decisions.
Oklahoma City vs Houston Part III. Chet vs Jabari. Tonight’s game should be a barn-burner between two top level rookies.