At the end of the rookie season, Théo Maledon made a strong choice: to refuse an invitation from the France team to compete in the Olympic Games. The goal was to spend the whole summer in Oklahoma City to work on his game and his body to confirm the promises of his good rookie season.
Obviously this work pays off if we are to believe those who have seen it closely in recent weeks, especially at the Summer League in Las Vegas.
“I think overall he’s improved,” says Jaylen Hoard. “He made the decision to stay at OKC all summer just to work on his game, on his body and he has become much stronger compared to last season. That’s one of the things everyone noticed, I think. ”
“First of all Theo is a hard worker, so all he achieves is the result of being a very hard worker,” says Kameron Woods, Thunder coach in the Summer League. “He worked tirelessly on his shoot and that opens up a lot not only for him, but also for our offense. Opponents have to respect his shot and when the ball is in his hands in certain situations it will attract more and more attention, and he is a very good passer and has excellent IQ, so the better he shoots, the more it will get. an impact on his game, but also on all the players around him with his ability to create games. He is an altruistic player and he will create games for others. ”
He too already feels that this is bearing fruit. He is more comfortable:
“I really took advantage of it and I worked as much as possible in order to give myself every chance of succeeding on the floor,” said Théo Maledon. “When I have the ball it helps me play faster and get to my spots faster.”
Without breaking the house on the side of Las Vegas, he had good matches, despite an address that was not always there: 9.8 points at 33% including 35.7% from far, 4.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists. What was important in this Summer League was the role he was given, much more important than in his rookie season, even if he played a lot. The responsibilities and his place in the hierarchy of the team were very different.
“I think the Summer League has helped me a lot,” says Theo Maledon. “I led the team, and having this important role I feel like I have learned a lot of things and I will try to transfer them to the new NBA season.”
The Thunder wanted to see him in a leadership role, he who, in the field as in life, is quite reserved. The coaching staff wanted to see him win, call the systems, give voice, be the leader of the young Summer League team.
“That’s one of the things we talked about about him, being more vocal, taking the lead when he’s on the pitch,” says Kameron Woods. “Often he didn’t even call the systems on the floor. We kind of gave him that responsibility and I find he has progressed over the week. It gave him a bigger role, gave him the confidence to lead a team and it was good for us to see that. He really earned our trust by doing it. ”
This experience has been positive.
“I think that’s one of the areas where I could improve for my second season,” says Théo Maledon. “Take advantage of the fact that there are new players. New guys who don’t know the system and what happened last season. So I really took on this leadership role, I communicate with them and I help them to be as comfortable as possible. ”
In an OKC team that will still be very young next season, Theo Maledon could have an even more important role despite the return from injury of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. One can imagine an association in the backcourt, and perhaps greater responsibilities. It is up to him to rise to the occasion and prove that this decision to skip the France team was the right one.