It’s time for the annual tradition where Daily Thunder puts its reputation on the line with our prediction of things that will almost certainly happen this season. In honor of the 2022 NBA season, here are 22 statements made with extreme confidence.
Hopes are high for Josh Giddey.
1. Giddey will be the second-leading scorer on the team. Is this a soft prediction? Probably. As the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, expectations should be high for Giddey, who’s on a team lacking proven scoring (aside from Shai-Gilgeous Alexander). But, let’s be real, expectations don’t always translate to production. Once the real games begin, Giddey has to actually go out and put the ball in the basket to make me look good on this one. (John Napier)
2. Giddey will be a World Team starter in the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Game. Following in the footsteps of the Thunder’s international greats (SGA, Luguentz Dort, Theo Maledon, Domantas Sabonis, Steven Adams, and Serge Ibaka), Josh Giddey will represent the Thunder and Australia on the 2022 Rising Stars World Team. Jonathan Kuminga? Never heard of him. Deni Avdija. Who? In fact, I’m so confident in the Thunder’s combination of young superstar talent and international scouting prowess that I’m predicting Giddey, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Maledon will all play for the World Team. (Oliva Panchal)
3. Giddey will make NBA All Rookie First Team. He will have the role and the minutes on a rebuilding squad to put up the raw numbers needed. He will have plenty of eye-popping passes that get retweeted thousands of times on Bleacher Report and ESPN’s Twitter accounts, giving him the required amount of spotlight and hype. And most importantly… he has the talent. (Brandon Rahbar)
4. Giddey will finish top three for Rookie of the Year. Giddey was quite impressive in the preseason, demonstrating a truly cerebral approach to the game, masterful passing acumen, good size for his position, and a better than expected scoring ability. Add in the fact that he has already entrenched himself into the starting five, it’s hard not to picture an exciting year for Giddey. He will be given ample time to fully showcase his game and develop this season, which should allow him to put up some gaudy numbers. While the lack of nationally televised games may hurt him in the media race for awards, folks who pay attention to his stat lines will come away impressed. (Logan Meyer)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will have a huge year.
5. Gilgeous-Alexander will be an All Star. I know, the Western Conference is absolutely loaded in the backcourt—Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden, and Donovan Mitchell to name a few. But SGA is going to be the guy for the Thunder, and if OKC exceeds expectations by even the slimmest of margins, SGA’s stock is going to skyrocket. Gaudy stats, a better record than expected, and some breaks where more well-established players are unable to participate, lead to SGA’s first All Star selection. (Napier)
6. SGA will join the 50-40-90 Club. Shai was having an incredibly efficient season last year before he was sidelined with his foot injury. His final averages last year were 50.8% from the field, 41.8% from three, and 80.8% from the free throw line. While a nearly ten percent jump in free throw percentage would be a massive leap, it doesn’t feel outrageous to me. He has improved every year that he has been in the league, and I predict him to continue his ascent to superstar status. With him likely taking more free throws this year as his status has grown, and his game has adjusted to draw contact, he’ll likely have more opportunities to shoot free throws than ever before, which should help his overall percentage from the line as well. (Meyer)
We like Luguentz Dort, but what’s his future?
7. Dort will be traded at the deadline. Dort has one year remaining left on his contract after this season for $1.9 million. It would be completely reasonable for OKC to keep him and try to extend him next offseason. However, the Thunder could also look to maximize Dort as a trade asset this season while his salary is low, and his value is high. Do the Thunder want to pay him upwards of $15 million annually on his next deal? Maybe they do. But if this team is still multiple years away from contending (which they are barring a run of unexpected trades), it might be time to cash in on Dort as an asset. (Spenser Davis)
8. Dort will shoot over 38% from three. Lu Dort’s rookie year saw us audibly groan at the sight of him attempting a three, so it’s safe to say that the undrafted rookie’s pleasantly surprising season can’t be attributed to his shooting. But when his sophomore year rolled around, we were no longer screaming at our TV’s whenever he let it fly from beyond the arc. His shooting efficiency was extremely inconsistent throughout the year, but it was a good sign. Throughout the preseason, Dort was stepping into threes with confidence, even knocking down some deep ones. All in all he shot 10/16 from behind the arc in three preseason games, so naturally we’re excited to see his improvements over the course of a regular season. (Jayden Rule)
9. Dort makes the All-Defensive Second Team. Last season, Dort finished 13th in All-Defensive team (to which there are 10 spots on the first and second All Defensive Team). With his reputation growing, including his evolving offensive game which will enamor him to more voters, Dort breaks through and entrenches himself as one of the league’s elite defensive players. (Napier)
There is no consensus on Darius Bazley.
10. The Bazley experiment will come to an end. In theory, an agile and young 6’8″ wing would be a dream prospect for many teams. But in reality, Darius Bazley has never been consistently playable in his first two seasons since being taken with the 23rd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In his rookie year, Bazley started just 9 games, and a bigger role in his second year (55 starts), saw an uptick in production. His numbers may have improved, but he remained a negative on both ends of the floor. At just 49.1%TS he was not able to score efficiently and was just a black hole on offense. The Thunder will be desperate to finally see improvement out of the third-year player this season, and it’s crucial for Bazley’s career that he performs well. Will he be on the roster next year? It’s still too early to tell, but Bazley has 82 games to prove he deserves to stick around. (Rule)
11. Bazley will be better than expected. I’m not going to throw out any guesses on stats or minutes or anything like that for Baze. And I’m not even saying he’s going to be good. But the overwhelming consensus is that he’s going to be bad. Like Ricky Roma once said, “If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.” (Rahbar)
12. Bazley will not show much and his team option for next year will not get picked up. I’m out on Bazley. We’ve seen this movie before; his name was Perry Jones. Potential is a great word — it lets you punt expectations. I think that ship has sailed. (David Brandon)
13. Kenrich Williams takes Bazley’s spot in the starting lineup. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see Williams during preseason due to his toe injury, but I am willing to die on the KRich hill, nonetheless. He’s a more consistent three-point shooter (career high 44% last season) than Bazley, and he’s one of the best defenders on the team. Last season, Williams ranked as the NBA’s 24th most versatile defender according to BBall-Index.com’s versatility metric. He’s stronger than any of OKC’s other power forwards and “hustle” is literally in his name. Coach Mark Daigneault will be trying a lot of different lineups this season, and there are 3-4 guys fighting for that power forward position. My money is on Kenrich Williams to come out on top. (Panchal)
There’s excitement about OKC’s other rookies, Tre Mann and Aaron Wiggins.
14. Wiggins will prove to be a steal. Fifty-fifth overall picks don’t typically come with much expectation. Most often, they’re given a brief opportunity to contribute and if they can’t, then that’s it for them. But Wiggins finds himself in a different situation than most late second-rounders. He will get consistent playing time on a young Thunder team with no aspirations other than development. Wiggins impressed in his junior year at Maryland, averaging 14.5 points on 44.6% from the field and 35.6% from three. He’s an athletic and skilled scorer who can play in the backcourt and on the wing. He projects as a guy who will fit in as a “3-and-D” player on a team where he will have every opportunity to contribute. Showing promising signs in Summer League and preseason instills hope in Thunder fans that he’ll be able to surpass the expectations of an ordinary 55th pick. (Rule)
15. Mann will become OKC’s best bench combo guard. The Thunder have a logjam at backup combo guard. Maledon is the incumbent backup point guard, Ty Jerome is fantastic as a shooting threat and secondary playmaker off the bench, and Sam Presti thought enough of Mann to punt Alperen Sengun to Houston. Now a caveat: I really like Jerome and think he’ll put up efficient scoring numbers and hit a hundred 3s from Ty Land, but as far as dynamic, exciting future core keeper material goes, Tre will be the Mann. (Rahbar)
Let’s talk about Alekesj Pokusevski.
16. This won’t be Poku’s breakout year. Expectations are high for Aleksej Pokusevski entering year 2, but I think we’ll still need to exercise some patience this season. He’s still one of the youngest players in the NBA, and I think it’s too early to expect him to take a major leap. Year 3 will be the make-or-break season for him as a potential NBA star, in my opinion. (Davis)
17. Poku will not be appreciably improved and fans will get impatient. Look, this dude was playing Greek minor league ball a year ago, and he has very little pro experience. He’s a project for sure, and I think it’ll take till his third year for him to really show anything concrete. Don’t lose hope yet. (Brandon)
18. Poku still will not tell us what’s in the fanny pack. The mystery will not be revealed in Season 2 of The Poku Experience. Hey, we’re in like Season 15 or something of The Walking Dead and we still have no idea how everyone became zombies, but people are still watching that show apparently. (Rahbar)
A Derrick Favors spotting in the predictions.
19. Favors won’t be traded before the deadline. In my limited experience interacting with Favors, he seems like a chill dude, and I think he might actually really like it in Oklahoma. He fits well with SGA and Dort and adds much needed direction to an otherwise disorganized offense. I know we’re trying to be bad and all that (trust me, keeping Favors isn’t going to change that), but if he helps with the development of young players then it’s net good for OKC. More importantly, few Oklahoma residents are even able to watch Thunder games (thanks, Sinclair), so I guarantee you no other team will be paying enough attention to OKC games to seek out Favors before the deadline. (Panchal)
Meyer and Rule predict the Thunder will be better than everyone thinks.
20. Much has been made about how young the roster is, and how that inexperience will lead to a large amount of losses this season. While it is true that they are incredibly young, they also have SGA, who is a budding superstar talent. It’s incredibly rare for a team with that level of player to be as bad as some folks are predicting (some have thrown out fewer than 20 wins). While I don’t predict them to make the Play-In Game or the Playoffs, I do think that the team has too much talent to win so few games. (Meyer)
21. I’m a little shaky on this one. Giddey looks good already, and with Favors and Mike Muscala stabilizing the frontcourt I think they’d have to intentionally play terrible lineups to lose. So, I could see them win more games than expected, especially because we already got screwed on the lottery, and the odds are flat now. Why not let them cook? (Rule)
And one more to get us to 22.
22. OKC will have just two sellouts all year. The last time Thunder fans attended a regular season home game was March 11, 2020. The day the sports landscape stood still as the Thunder-Jazz game was called off right before the tip. So, when fans file into the now-renamed Paycom Center, it will have been 592 days since regular season basketball was played in front of the Thunder faithful. Prior to that (including games played prior to the Bubble), the Thunder had sold out every game for 9 straight years. But that streak ends this year, with just two sellouts, both of those sellouts happening when the Westbrook-led Lakers travel to OKC. A confluence of events—a rebuilding team projected to win fewer than 30 games, some of the strictest COVID protocols in the league (which I wholeheartedly support, for the record), and the lack of a marquee top 3 draft pick—lead to Thunder fans to staying home more than any year since 2008-09, when the team averaged 18,003 fans. And it’s going to be a dadgum shame. During the incredible sustained run of success, the ending was mostly written. The Thunder were going to make the playoffs, and the only unknown was whether it would end with disappointment or with a trophy. With the league’s youngest roster, the Thunder’s future is a tabula rasa. But instead of watching the plot literally get written before their eyes, the Thunder’s previously raucous fans will stay home in larger numbers than at any point in OKC’s NBA history. Now, prove me wrong, Thunder fans.