The Oklahoma City Thunder went west to start a mini-west coast road trip on Friday by taking on the Phoenix Suns. In this game, the Suns showed exactly why they are a top team in the Western Conference. Chris Paul led this team in the first frame to a 22-5 start, the Suns did not allow the Thunder to crack double-digit points until under a minute to go in the first quarter. OKC could not get anything going, even seeing the eventual player of the game, start 0-for-4.
The shorthanded Thunder, without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot), Darius Bazley (shoulder), Mike Muscala (Ankle, Lu Dort (Concussion), had no chance in this contest when the ball was tipped and they fell behind early. Devin Booker poured in 32 points on 55-percent from the floor, while Thunder legend CP3 went 8-for-8 on his way to 17 points.
The story of this game for the Thunder came via their two rookies. First-round pick Aleksej Pokusevski, and second-round pick Theo Maledon.
Theo Maledon was phenomenal in this game, after the 0-for-4 first frame, he missed just four more shots the rest of the way shooting an effective 55-percent to get to his career-high 33 points, a point shy of the Thunder single-game rookie record for points. Maledon also dished out three assists, grabbed five rebounds, and blitzed in five triples.
The 19-year-old played more aggressively in this game, and it was rewarded with 10 free throw attempts as he converts eight of them. Maledon showed off his versatility in this contest, as he was able to create for others, and himself, while already proving throughout this season he can play off-ball as a secondary option. The young guard, who was mentored by Tony Parker, showed those Parker flashes with his craftiness in this game.
Kenrich Williams, and Mark Daigneault, praised Maledon by saying he looks like a veteran point guard despite just being 19. That is true! Maledon’s ability to make the right play, be under control and look simply mature leaps off the screen at you. However, do not let that cloud his upside. It is easier to see Aleksej Pokusevski’s upside because he still looks rough around the edges. While it is good Theo Maledon looks polished now, this is not the finished product. That is a scary thing…For the rest of the NBA.
Aleksej Pokusevski looked great in this game and made history. Poku and Maledon become the only pair of teammates in NBA history to score 20 points while each being under 20 years old.
Aleksej Pokusevski scored 20 points, dished out four assists, hauled in five rebounds, and poured in four 3-pointers.
Poku showed flashes of why Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder took the home run swing in the 2020 NBA Draft. The big skillset that was on display for the youngest player in the NBA, was the fact that he created shots for himself.
In his last four games, Aleksej Pokusevski is averaging 15-points per game, five rebounds per game, three assists per game, and a block per contest. Poku really struggled with effectively shooting the ball early on, and in this stretch, the rookie is stroking the trey ball at a 35-percent clip, while making 45-percent of his shots from the floor.
As the entire focus turns to the 2021 NBA Draft, and the NBA Draft Lottery, the young pieces on this team make it more and more important to hit on this draft to pair one of the franchise changing players with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Theo Maledon, and Aleksej Pokusevski.
For more on Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski, tune into Locked on Thunder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to bounce back against the Portland Trailblazers tonight, on the second night of a back-to-back.