After two mediocre seasons, which ended in two first-round exits, OKC pressed the reset button. Paul George requested a trade to the Clippers, which meant OKC needed to move the last player from their big three – Russel Westbrook. While Westbrook is finding his luck in Rocket City in the opposite direction came Chris Paul and a couple of first-round picks. From the Paul George trade, they got Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five first-round picks. Pair them with Steven Adams and Denish Schroader; you get a well rounded international starting five. Interestingly the only American in the starting 5 for OKC is Chris Paul. This team is only half a game away from Utah Jazz and two and a half from Houston Rockets.
After the CP3 trade, many believed his tenure in OKC would be short, but his and the team’s play is showing us that we were wrong. After earning his 10th All-Star appearance, the 15-year veteran is having a quiet season statistically averaging: 17.5 PPG, 5 RPG, and 6.7 APG. His experience and leadership are pushing OKC to 6th place in the West. After being marked as a bad teammate, CP is showing that he can function within the team and mentor younger players. He is running with the less talented team then what he is accustomed to, but he is making the most out of it.
OKC is utilizing a little bit of unorthodox style as they are playing Paul and Shcroader at the same time, but the result seems to be positive. They are a well-rounded team as four players are averaging almost 20 points per game. This style of play is the reason why OKC has proved the doubters wrong.
Team’s best scorer is Italian veteran Danilo Gallinari, who is having one of the best seasons in his career, averaging: 19.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 2.2 APG. Galo is best known as a scorer, but he is showing progress on the defensive side. The biggest surprise is the play of the sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who almost doubled his PPG and RPG from his rookie season.
In his first game for OKC, Gilgeous-Alexander had a career-high 26 points, and then he followed that up with 28 points in the next game. Paul took the mentoring role pretty seriously because they are in constant communication together. They talk about his past experiences, Paul’s take on guarding the best opposing guards through the years. This approach is excellent for Shai, as he has risen to the occasion and is considered the next face of the OKC franchise.
Besides the three above mentioned players is Dennis Schroader, who is a great complementary piece coming off the bench. He is one of the top candidates for the sixth men of the year award, which is a pretty big stride in the career of this young PG who is averaging: 18.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4 APG.
Oklahoma’s front office is realistic, and they know that as a small-town market, they need to utilize the draft to become a contender. GM Sam Presti is open about that and knows that to build and sustain a great team, the best practice is to draft and develop young players and use some parts of the existing team. To contend for a championship, OKC needs All-NBA talent, Shai has shown the flashes of it, and now they’ll need to use the draft or trades to go back to the NBA finals. They have significant capital in draft picks, and the franchise has a proven track record in drafting and developing All-Nba players. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy their style of basketball this season and hope for an OKC-Houston matchup so Chris Paul can try to get his vengeance against his former team.