With many expecting this year to be a rebuilding season, with a clear goal of player development and earning a High Lottery Draft Pick, the Thunder have started off with an impressive 5-4 record. This surprising start can be attributed to a couple of things: 1) The Thunder are a better team than expected. 2) The strength of the schedule so far has been light. Starting this week, the Thunder are about to embark on an obscenely difficult stretch of games, a true Gauntlet that will shape the course of the season. Here are OKC’s next twenty games – Spurs, Lakers, Bulls, 76ers, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Trailblazers, Suns, Nets, Rockets, Rockets, Timberwolves, Timberwolves, Lakers, Lakers, Nuggets, Bucks, Trailblazers, and the Bucks. For the tanking enthusiasts worrying that the Thunder are in danger of missing out on a top 3-5 Pick in the Draft, this stretch of games should assuage those fears. This is a truly brutal twenty game schedule, so unless the Thunder finish it .500 or above, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, and other tantalizing prospects still remain in play for OKC. If the Thunder make it through the Gauntlet with a .500 or winning record, then it is seriously time to reassess the goals for the season.
Coach Daigneault Buy In
As a coach, having a close relationship with your players, and getting them to buy in, is key to success. Throughout the season, players have praised Coach Daigneault, noting that he’s a “player’s coach”, is approachable to talk to about anything, and brings the energy, among other things. After the win against Brooklyn, SGA said he “loved playing for Coach.” Having complete buy-in from a schematics standpoint, (offensive and defensive schemes), to go along with the full backing of the players, is a ringing endorsement for Coach Daigneault.
The small things are important in relationships and definitely matter in building basketball chemistry, as well. For example, in the Brooklyn game, Darius Bazley was called for a foul on a KD three-pointer and was adamant that he did not foul him. He, alongside SGA, plead the case for Coach Daigneault to use his challenge on the call, to try and overturn the foul. Coach trusted his players and used his challenge on the call. After review, the call was overturned, and the Thunder were awarded a Jump Ball. Coach demonstrated good leadership by trusting in his players, which in turn will build rapport among the team.
Isaiah Roby has made the most of his opportunity when given the chance. He is playing sound defense, demonstrating good footwork and touch around the basket, and a smooth three-point shot. While his minutes fluctuate depending on who’s available to play, (Horford or Muscala resting), Roby has been a welcome surprise this season. His emergence further bolsters the bench and offers a fun look at what the future might hold. A Roby, Maledon, Diallo, and Poku bench mob might become a staple for years to come.