The Oklahoma City Thunder have defied expectations in almost every way since the beginning of the 2023-2024 NBA season, almost rewriting the script for NBA success stories. 

Led by a core group of incredibly young superstars, OKC has achieved the unthinkable –  not only securing the #1 seed in the Western Conference but rolling over the New Orleans Pelicans in round one of the playoffs 4-0.

In this article, we will dive into what makes OKC so great, exploring the key players and the coaching mastermind behind their success.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – The Offensive Focal Point

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, SGA, has been the primary driving force behind the Thunder’s success. At just 25 years old, he has become one of the best point guards in the NBA – on par with the likes of Kyrie Irving, Ja Morant, and even Stephen Curry.

The shifty guard has been making a fool out of the league all season, dropping players, shooting from deep, and scoring easy floaters night after night. The only issue in his game is that, due to his size, he leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end of the court.

Nonetheless, his scoring ability is undeniable, while his leadership on the court has been crucial for the young squad and really helped young guys like Chet Holmgren.

SGA may not be the most experienced player in the NBA, especially with no deep playoff runs, but his cool demeanour goes a long way.

Chet Holmgren – The Anchor in the Middle

Chet Holmgren, the 7-footer drafted second overall in the 2023 NBA draft, embodies the “young” in the Thunder’s core. Despite missing his rookie season due to injury, Holmgren’s impact has been undeniable all year long. 

Holmgren’s ability to spread the court while also dropping into the low post for quick dump passes has been huge all season. The spacing, in particular, has impacted SGA’s game, giving him way more space as his gravity pulls the opposing center away from the key.

On the defensive side of the ball, he is still a nightmare matchup for opposing teams, throwing a wrench into most offensive schemes. Holmgren’s shot-blocking, combined with some surprisingly quick lateral movement, has made him a fantastic shot-blocker and overall defender as soon as he stepped into the league.

With how good the guy is already, he is surely a potential championship piece one of these days. Let’s just hope OKC doesn’t fumble him like they have with so many aspiring young stars.

Josh Giddey – Swiss Army Knife

Josh Giddey, the 6-foot-8 point guard drafted sixth overall in 2023, has slotted more into a shooting guard role where he has been thriving thus far. His defence is strong, his offensive game is decent, and his effort is a 10/10 every single night.

On top of that, his exceptional court vision and passing ability make him a maestro on the court, doing dimes and making defenders look honestly stupid. And while his scoring output could use some work, watching Giddey orchestrate the offence is as exciting as it is effective, confusing opposing defences with his unorthodox style.

Jalen Williams – The Quiet Assassin

Jalen Williams has been overshadowed by the flashier playmaking of Giddey and the scoring prowess of SGA, throughout the NBA season, but still should not be underestimated. The 23-year-old forward brings a quiet confidence and well-rounded skillset to the OKC Thunder lineup. 

His smooth shooting stroke, both from mid-range and beyond the arc, makes him a constant threat on offence. And it’s not just volume he’s shooting – his shooting slits have been fantastic all year long.

On defence, he’s also quite flexible, not only guarding multiple positions but also easily disrupting passing lanes and contesting shots with his long wingspan.

William’s name may not have been thrown around as much as SGA, Holmgren, or even Giddey, but he is a driving force behind OKC’s success.

Coaching Mastermind

While the Thunders young guys deserve a ton of credit, the coaching staff still deserves some respect for getting the most out of OKC’s roster.

Coach Mark Daigneault deserves ample praise, and the NBA seems to agree, recognizing him as Coach of the Year. His leadership and strategic acumen have been instrumental in maximizing the potential of OKC’s raw talent.

Without somebody to orchestrate all of the moving pieces, you get a disaster, –  just take a look at the Milwaukee Bucks; all that talent only to flop in the first round.

A Historical Feat 

The Thunder’s accomplishment is truly historic, no matter which way you look at it – with a weighted age of 23.9, they became the youngest team ever to secure a #1 seed. 

However, their youth could also present some challenges, especially considering the NBA Finals are a gruelling test of experience and composure. 

Furthermore, the 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers, with a weighted age of 24.2, are the only roster even close to OKC in terms of performance and age and remain the youngest team to win the championship, a feat achieved in a bygone era.

Can the Thunder Overcome History?

With how young OKC really is, it seems like the odds may be stacked against them, especially considering how poorly most young guys perform in the playoffs.  For reference, the only NBA team to win a championship with an average age under 27 was the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors.

However, it seems like the Thunder are in the business of defying expectations. Their journey so far this season has been a blast to watch and we really aren’t even seeing them at their peak yet – their potential is immense. 

As they continue their playoff run, the entire basketball world will be watching, eager to see if this young Oklahoma City team can rewrite NBA history once again.

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