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Oklahoma City Thunder’s future is bright despite missing NBA Playoffs

The Oklahoma City Thunder saw their dream season come to an end Friday night in Minneapolis. After disposing of the New Orleans Pelicans to open the NBA Play-In Tournament, the young duo of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey just couldn’t get it done against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

SGA and Giddey combined to shoot a mere 7-of-32 from the field with 28 points. In particular, Gilgeous-Alexander just couldn’t find his rhythm after a dominating second half performance against New Orleans. He shot just 5-of-19 from the field.

The end result was an ugly 120-95 loss and the end of Oklahoma City’s 2022-23 season. While missing out on the NBA Playoffs is a disappointment, this season was a major success for NBA Head Coach of the Year finalist Mark Daigneault and Co.

After starting 11-18, Oklahoma City finished the regular season by going 29-24 over the final 53 outings. In addition to Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey looking like a star tandem, rookie Jalen Williams played at a star level throughout the final two months of the season.

The Thunder have talent up and down the roster. Meanwhile, general manager Sam Presti still has a whole plethora of draft capital to call his own as this team looks to improve this summer. Here’s why this is not the last we have heard from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey can be dominant

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

We saw this against New Orleans in OKC’s first Play-In game. These two youngsters combined for 63 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists while shooting 22-of-44 from the field in the 123-118 win over the Pelicans.

With SGA at 24 and Giddey a mere 20 years old, they became the youngest pair of teammates to drop 30-plus points in an elimination game in NBA history.

“It would have been easy for him to come out of halftime pressing, trying to get his game going, but he let it come to him naturally,” Josh Giddey on SGA after the win over New Orleans. “He finished with [32] after a tough first half. That just speaks to how good of a player he is.”

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We saw consistent improvement from the two throughout the 2022-23 season. In fact, Gilgeous-Alexander found himself as an under-the-radar NBA MVP candidate and a finalist for the league’s most improved player.

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stats (2022-23): 31.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, 51% shooting

All Giddey did as a sophomore was average 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists en route to looking like a more complete player than a prime Ben Simmons.

Related: Oklahoma City Thunder picks in Sportsnaut’s NBA mock draft

Oklahoma City Thunder have a true rising star in Jalen Williams

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The presence of Luguentz Dort, Kenrich Williams, Isaiah Joe and 2022 first-round pick Ousmane Dieng can’t be lost in the shuffle when it comes to Oklahoma City’s future. However, Williams separated himself as a rising star as his rookie season came to a conclusion.

The No. 12 overall pick out of Santa Clara averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals on 46% shooting from the field over the final 18 regular season games.

Cemented in as a starter out on the wing next to SGA and Giddey, the 22-year-old Williams has himself a bright future. It really does create a big three for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s draft assets

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder-Press Conference
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Presti made sure to acquire a whole boat load of picks in trading the likes of Paul George and Russell Westbrook, among others, over the past several years. The Thunder will continue to reap the rewards moving forward. It’s pretty stunning.

  • 1st-round pick in 2023 (from Los Angeles Clippers)
  • 1st-round pick in 2024 (from Utah Jazz)
  • 1st-round pick in 2024 (from Los Angeles Clippers)
  • 1st-round pick in 2024 (from Houston Rockets)
  • 1st-round pick in 2025 (from either Clippers or Rockets)
  • 1st-round pick in 2025 (from Miami Heat)
  • 1st-round pick in 2025 (from Philadelphia 76ers)

This is in addition to the Oklahoma City Thunder boasting their own first-round picks during that three-year span.

Presti has a ton of options available to him. That could include moving off some of these first-round picks and other assets to find yet another star.

Needless to say, these Thunder are disappointed by Friday’s results. However, the team is just beginning to make its mark on the broader NBA.

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