NBA Fantasy Tiers: Oklahoma City Thunder Players
Oklahoma City Thunder, 10-4, 2nd in Northwest Division
Nov 21-Nov 28 games: vs. Chicago Bulls, vs. Philadelphia 76ers, @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Per game stats 2023: 119.6 PPG, 41.2 REB, 25.6 AST, 8.6 STL, 5.8 BLK, 50.3 FG%, 41.0 3PT%
Players to watch: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PF Chet Holmgren, F Jalen Williams
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a good basketball team despite not having a single player that averages a double-double. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a scoring machine (29.6 PPG) but just alright in boards (6.2) and assists (5.8). Chet Holmgren is active all over the court (17.0 PPG, 7.8 REB, 2.6 AST, 2.1 BLK); he’s not the star and doesn’t need to be. Jalen Williams chips-in 17.5 points of his own per game while shooting 52% from field goal range.
The Thunder are great three point shooters (41%) and there’s no drop off when bench players come in; SG Isaiah Joe (5.6 three point attempts per game with 50% made) is of particular note. The Thunder are also good from the foul line, averaging 86.7% as a team from the charity stripe. Gilgeous-Alexander, Holmgren and Williams are the strongest defensive trio statistically, with 4.2 STL, 3.1 BLK and a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio between them per game.
This week’s schedule appears to start with a bit of a trap game for the Thunder as the sketchy Chicago Bulls (5-9, 4th in the Central Division) visit OKC. That’s a trap game because: a) OKC beat the Bulls handily in Chicago in the season opener 124-104 and, b) next to arrive are the very dangerous 10-3 Philadelphia 76ers (2nd in the Atlantic Division). The Oklahoma City Thunder will wrap their week by hopping on a plane for Minnesota to visit the division rival Timberwolves (9-3, 1st in Northwest Division). The T-Wolves have won eight of their last nine games and four in a row at home.
So how will the Thunder and their individual players fare this week? Let’s get into with a look at every matchup and spotlight one player with a chance for a standout performance in each game.
vs. Chicago Bulls, November 22nd
On November 22, the Chicago Bulls will bring their brand of ball to OKC to challenge the Thunder at home. The Bulls have dropped four of their last six games, and have won only one road game this year. The Bulls average 12 fewer points scored per game than the Thunder. The Bulls shoot 34.4% from three point range (compared to 41.0 3PT% for the Thunder) and average just under 80% as a team shooting free throws. In short, the Chicago Bulls are struggling in 2023 and there have been few bright spots, their early road win over Indianapolis notwithstanding.
One Bulls player that’s particularly vulnerable in his individual matchup vs. OKC is PG Coby White, who will go head-to-head with Gilegous-Alexander when the two are on the court. Shai G-A is both the better player and in a superior position to be weaponized as a scoring threat on the night. For that reason, I am picking PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to score above his average, grab a couple extra boards, and lead OKC to a home victory against the Chicago Bulls on the night..
vs. Philadelphia 76ers, November 25th
On November 25, the 76ers, winners of four on the road and their last two away tilts in a row, come to town to face the Thunder in OKC. As a team, Philadelphia averages 120.5 PPG, 45.8 REB, 25.8 AST and a healthy 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The 76ers are good, not great shooters (48.3 FG%, 37.8 3PT%, 86.7% FT%), with a comparable number of steals and blocks per game as the Thunder. Philly PG Tyrese Maxey has a free hand from behind the arc and is capable of going-off (7.8 3PA, 44.6 3P% per game) but he’s still not really the guy that the Thunder need to worry about.
C Joel Embiid is the man in Philadelphia. He averages 31.9 PPG, 11.2 REB, 6.2 AST and 1.5 BLK while shooting 50.2% from the field and 88.5% from the free throw line. Chet Holmgren and OKC have the beef to body-up with Embiid and the 76ers in this one. To that end, I think they’ll lose the battle for points-in-the-paint and rebounds, but that won’t matter if OKC gets hot from beyond the arc. F Jalen Williams may be the guy that needs to pop a little in this game for the Thunder to win. Williams has a good matchup and is coming off a week where he shot better from three point land. If he can keep it up against the 76ers, the Thunder have a chance to win this one at home.
@ Minnesota Timberwolves, November 28th
Finally, on November 28, the Oklahoma City Thunder head to the balmy climes of Minnesota to challenge the Timberwolves at home, where they have yet to lose this season. The T-Wolves average 112.9 PPG, 45.3 REB, 24.7 AST, 7.8 STL, 6.0 BLK, 48.7 FG%, and 36.4 3PT%, but just 77.5 FT%. Minnesota has talented big men, including Karl-Anthony Towns (21.7 PPG, 9.0 REB) and Rudy Gobert (11.7 PPG, 12.3 REB). It will be a tough assignment, but one guy in particular will need to step-up his game for OKC to get a win on the night.
F Chet Holmgren is being called out. The 7’1” #2 overall from Gonzaga is shooting pretty well in 2023 (56.5 FG%, 46.0 3PT%) but at a generous 195 lbs. he is far from a dominant force in the paint (7.8 REB per game). If OKC is to win this contest, Holmgren must up his game on the glass and find a way to use his slender frame to create leverage against the bigger T-Wolves. This is not to say that the Thunder will alter their whole strategy for this game -- OKC is what it is: a team that wins from range. But in order to have a shot in this one, Holmgren and the rest of the Thunder will need to elevate their rebound totals, or shoot the lights out.
With just three games over a seven day window and two of those at home, the Oklahoma City Thunder look to be in pretty good shape heading into this week’s action, though check Jalen Williams’ status in the early part of the week as he is day-to-day with a sore hip as of this writing.
On November 22, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may well have a big game at home against the struggling Chicago Bulls. On November 25, a healthy Jalen Williams will need to step-up and over perform to his season average from behind the arc for OKC to come out on top. Finally, on November 28, Chet Holmgren and the Thunder may be in for a rough night on the road facing a very tough Minnesota Timberwolves squad.
All-in-all, I like OKC to go 2-1 this week, with Shai Gilgeaous-Alexander to average 30+ PPG, Jalen Williams to have more attempts and makes than average from three point land, and Chet Holmgren to continue to struggle with rebounding.
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