Season Preview

Hype is Real: Chet Holmgren's injury a blow to rebuilding Thunder

Published October 17, 2022, 4:00 PMMiguel Flores

With their top rookie out for the season, the Thunder will focus on player development and laying a foundation for the future.

Overview of their 2021-2022 season

Here's a challenge for you: name the five players that started the most games for the Thunder last season. If you had to Google it, don't worry. Even Sam Presti might have had to look that one up.

They finished last season with a 24-58 record, the fourth-worst in the league. They were a middling defensive team, but had the offense of a G League team, which was in spirit with how much roster churn they experienced.

Which is to say the OKC Thunder weren’t interested in last season, nor are they piqued by the spoils of this season. The Thunder are the r/wallstreetbets of the NBA – they’re only interested in making the most bank in the future. They certainly have diamond hands with the number of draft picks they are holding.

They got what they wanted out of last season – another haul of interesting rookies. It doesn’t even matter that their biggest prize and probably best prospect since Kevin Durant won’t be playing this season. They’re going to hold.

What’s new this season?

Pre-Wembanyama, the only rail-thin seven-footer getting NBA hype was Chet Holmgren. OKC picked Holmgren second in the 2022 Draft out of Gonzaga and he promptly broke the internet in his first Summer League game.


Kenny Lofton aside, there was no one stopping the Holmgren hype train in the Summer League. He did everything scouts expected from him, showing off his silky smooth jumper and elite rim protection.

Which is why his getting a season-ending foot injury months before the season started was such a bummer. He was going to be the reason to watch Thunder games, regardless of score. Now, we have to wait a year for him to make his NBA debut.

That shouldn’t be too bad of a prospect for Thunder fans. First, there’s still Jalen and Jaylin Williams. Jalen is the stocky, supremely confident guard the Thunder picked 12th overall. Jaylin is the six-foot-ten second round pick that the Thunder are hoping they can develop into a multi-tool big man.

The Thunder also could have five picks in the first round next season. It’s certainly not new, but getting some renewed optimism should help any OKC fans, especially after watching Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.

THE guy

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the Thunder’s best player since he came over from the Paul George trade. SGA has also been the bane of fantasy basketball managers due to his sporadic playing schedule.

He was arguably the most talented Canadian in the NBA last season, averaging 24.9 ppg, on 45.3% shooting with 5.0 rpg, 5.9 apg, and 1.3 spg. He also only played 56 games. He wasn’t fragile. The Thunder just did not have any incentive to play their sure-thing superstar and risk further injury.

One day, SGA will play 70 games in a season. It’s probably not this season.

Sneaky fun guy

Between Shawn Mendes look-a-like Josh Giddey and the prophesied unicorn Aleksej Pokusevski, there was a lot of sly pleasure to be had in the Thunder last season.

But there’s no more fun player to watch on the Thunder than Lu Dort. While most players cook, Dort slices. He’s a defensive beast that the Thunder plucked from obscurity after going undrafted in 2019. In the offseason, he signed a five year extension worth $82 million.

Dort plays defense how Twista raps. His hands and feet are quick and he delivers precise blows to harsh an offensive player's vibes. He’s a certified hater with how many highlights he ruins.

Vibe check

There is no now with the OKC Thunder – only tomorrow. They’re doing the Don Draper approach with dealing with trauma. They’re moving forward and never looking back.

The Thunder will continue to be young and exciting. Poku will get as many chances as he wants to play point guard. Josh Giddey has all the space to roam and explore the outer limits of his game.

When the Thunder score another top 2 pick in the 2023 Draft, we’ll know that this season was worth it. It wasn’t about winning. It was about sending a message.