Oklahoma City is the envy of every rebuilding team. While it’s true they haven’t been a title contender since the infamous departure of Kevin Durant back in the summer of 2016, general manager Sam Presti has worked tirelessly to get the Thunder back to where they are now. Where that is, currently, is flush with assets, including draft picks, young talent, cap space. They also have their own version of the 1-2 punch that the best of NBA champions always seem to have in guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and do-it-all big man Chet Holmgren, and while SGA was acquired from the Clippers in the trade that sent Paul George there, he and most of their guys have all been developed in-house. At 29-14 they sit near the top of the Western Conference, a lot sooner than most people probably expected.
This is certainly where the San Antonio Spurs hope to be at some point in Victor Wembanyama’s (hopefully near) future. Indeed, Wembanyama is getting better with every game that he plays and the Spurs have certainly played better as a group recently. Whether or not the current pieces on the roster are able to grow with him at a similar rate remains to be seen, but San Antonio can look to OKC as an example of what could be after more than a few down seasons.
San Antonio Spurs (8-35) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-13)
January 24 2024 | 8:30 PM CT
Watch: ESPN, CW35 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Tre Jones, ankle (questionable), Sidy Cissoko, ankle (OUT), Charles Bassey, out for the year
Thunder Injuries: Olivier Sarr, back (questionable)
What to watch for
- Wemby goes straight from a matchup against the reigning MVP Monday night to one against his only truly serious competition for Rookie of the Year. The Chet Holmgren-Victor Wembanyama discussion has raged on social media since the season began, with Wembanyama being perceived as having the stats and Holmgren as having the wins/greater impact on said wins this year. Both are having fantastic debut seasons, but the context is entirely different for each of them. Hear what the, “Inside the NBA,” crew had to say about that ROY race:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander certainly makes things easier on Mr. Holmgren. In his 6th season, SGA is 4th in the league in scoring with 31 points a night, a mark that would give him his second consecutive season averaging at least 30. He can basically do whatever he wants on the offensive side of the ball and does so with the patience of Job. His biggest area of struggle is 3 point shooting, where’s he’s making just 32% of his limited outside looks this season. Gilgeous-Alexander is also a willing defender and leads the league in steals per game (2.2).
- OKC is top 10 in offensive rating (4th), defensive rating (7th), and net rating (+8, 3rd).
- Big Body Keldon Johnson left Monday’s game before halftime after requiring 4 stitches for a facial laceration before coming back into the game in the 2nd half, but didn’t look like himself much of the game. Hopefully he’s a bit more comfortable tonight a couple days removed from the injury.
- Much has been made this season about the Spurs need for a point guard in their starting lineup, a point that seemed to be taken by the coaching staff with the recent insertion of Tre Jones into the starting line-up after the Jeremy Sochan experiment. The Spurs could be back to square one though after Jones injured his left ankle near the end of the 76ers loss. He’s questionable for tonight’s game.
- The, “third guy,” for the Thunder has been 2nd year shooting guard Jalen Williams. Williams is averaging 18-4-4 while shooting 55% from the field, including a 45% clip from 3, albeit on a minimalist number of attempts (3.0).
For the Thunder fan’s perspective, please visit Welcome to Loud City.
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