Gilgeous-Alexander and the young Oklahoma City Thunder are filled with optimism following their second-round playoff exit

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander takes the ball forward

The Oklahoma City Thunder might just be starting to show their true potential. Oklahoma City’s season they ended Saturday night with a loss to Dallas in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. But the fact that the Thunder even reached that stage should be a warning to the rest of the league.

After missing the playoffs last year, they became the youngest team in NBA history to clinch a No. 1 seed and the youngest to win a playoff series this season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was an MVP finalist, proving his worth by averaging 30 points per game in the playoffs.

Chet Holmgren was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year and established himself as one of the league’s top shot blockers. Jalen Williams, who was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year last season, was the steady No. 2 scorer this season. Lu Dort was one of the league’s top perimeter defenders.

That core, with no starters older than 25, was a key reason why Mark Daigneault was named NBA Coach of the Year and why he is excited about the future.

Mark Diagneault instructs the team

“This is a young team that is evolving, and we have runway because of the age of the team and the experience level of the team,” Daigneault said. “A lot of people talked about our experience negatively this year, like, ‘You guys don’t have experience.’ But part of that is it gives you an incredible runway moving forward, and it gives us a lot of optimism as we continue to go.”

Gilgeous-Alexander has become a superstar over the past two years. Last season, he was a first-team All-NBA selection.

This season, he was an All-Star again and ranked third in the NBA in scoring. He also finished second in the league in steals and seventh in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.

Daigneault said Gilgeous-Alexander improved on the little things this season.

“I think it’s easy to get awestruck by his talent and what he’s accomplishing and how efficiently he does it and the place that he’s carved out in the league,” Daigneault said. “But the secret behind that is very consistent work, very targeted work, and incremental improvement.”

Holmgren was the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft, but the 7-foot-1 forward missed last season with a foot injury.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shoots the ball to the basket

He came back and played every game this season, creating problems on both ends of the floor with his versatility. He was the missing piece for a defense that lacked a rim protector last season.

“Right now this is, in my opinion, the lowest level of Chet Holmgren we’re going to see, which is pretty exciting,” Daigneault said. “And the reason I’m so confident saying that is because of his appetite for improvement. He’s a guy that is incredibly focused. Basketball is his number one priority. He sleeps in his sneakers. He will have a great summer physically and skill-wise.”

The Thunder also got major contributions from Josh Giddey, Isaiah Joe, Aaron Wiggins, Jaylin Williams, and rookie Cason Wallace. Wiggins, at 25, is the oldest player in that group.

Besides their talent, the Thunder had great chemistry both on and off the court. The players often barked and joked around during each other’s postgame interviews.

Jalen Willimas works for the basket

“I think above all it was just very fun,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I think that’s where it all starts. Like every day you come to work where it doesn’t feel like work. You come to work, and you try to excel individually and as a group. When you have so much fun, it makes everything else easier. It kind of clouds all the bad stuff because you’re having so much fun.”

Oklahoma City’s confidence grew as they kept winning.

“We proved in the regular season with the season we had that there’s no one we couldn’t beat, literally,” Daigneault said. “It’s just never my mentality to look left and right. Looking right in front of me, we had everything we needed. We had a special group of guys. Part of what made them special is how they operated collectively.”

Gilgeous-Alexander believes the series loss to Dallas will speed up the team’s growth.

“I think this is a bump in the road,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We learn from it. We get better. And hopefully get to our goal in the end.”


By Christopher Kamila

I am an experienced content writer with a specialization in WordPress. I have written engaging articles for various websites that have achieved a total of 5,500 monthly views. In addition, I have played a key role in boosting their organic traffic by 30% and achieving top Google rankings through SEO. My passion lies in creating user-friendly content.

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