NBA: The exponential growth of the Thunder, the unexpected contender for the ring: “too young”, draft rounds and Shai’s star | NBA 2023

NBA: The exponential growth of the Thunder, the unexpected contender for the ring: “too young”, draft rounds and Shai’s star |  NBA 2023

Updated Thursday, April 25, 2024 – 09:30

Not even the most optimistic predictions. The Thunder did not enter any pool for the ring and even now, starting from the ‘pole’ of the West to the playoffs – they already dominate the Pelicans 2-0 in the first round -, many do not give them much distance. It’s hard to believe them because not long ago they were in the catacombs of the NBA, accumulating nostalgia, defeats and draft rounds (15 first and 22 second from now to 2030…) that seemed to make no sense. However, the long-term plan of its architect, the General Manager Sam Prestithis time it worked.

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And the leader already knew the failure when all the spotlights were pointing to that franchise that had settled in Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008 (the legendary and long-awaited Supersonics) and that brought together in three seasons Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook y James Harden (y Serge Ibaka). What seemed like an insurmountable trio turned out to be unable to win the NBA. The closest it came was in the 2012 Finals and everything disintegrated. Until now.

Now, youth amazes. The Thunder that he directs from the bench Mark Daigneault (39 years old), who, in his fourth season will be unanimously named coach of the year, have an average age of less than 24 years. You can only compare them to the Spurs, but some have been last in the West and the others first. “I’ve heard that we’re too young all year. It’s not going to change. We’ll probably be young for another four or five years. We don’t worry about that. We focus on what happens between these four walls,” challenges its star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the most ‘veteran’ holder at 25 years old.

The Oklahoma team has won 57 games, 16 more than last season (play in) and 16 more than the previous one. A brutal exponential growth. Even with the Nuggets, they have achieved the crown of the Wild West. And no one did it younger (not even the 2005 Suns). In fact, in the history of the NBA no one won the ring with such precocity in their players. The closest thing would be the ’77 Blazers and the ’56 Warriors.

Mark Daigneault, on the Thunder bench.Kyle PhillipsAP

“We are not here because of an accident. There was a lot of work along the way,” he claimed. Chet Holmgren after achieving the award on the last day of the regular season. The giant is one of the secrets of success. His emergence after not being able to debut in his rookie season due to an injury has been fundamental with 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game and an unsuspected competitiveness, to the point of discussing at times the award of rookie of the year himself Victor Wembanyama. Complete a quintet with the promising Jalen Williamsthe Australian Josh Giddey and the off-roader Luguentz there. The star, without discussion, is Shai.

The Canadian is a reinvention in himself, a clear example of exceeding expectations. The transfer arrived to the Thunder, in the package for Paul George in 2019. And it grew until it sneaked into the very same discussion for the MVP, in which he was only surpassed Nikola Jokic y Luka Doncic. “He is an old school NBA point guard. He doesn’t shoot triples and triples, he plays a little slow, he changes pace a lot. He is probably the player he enjoys the most,” he said. Derek Fisherformerly of the Thunder, in an interview with EL MUNDO.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, during a recent Thunder game.JOSHUA GATELEYGetty Images via AFP

Shai is the son of Charmaine Gilgeous, former sprinter who ran the 400 meters in Barcelona ’92 for Antigua and Barbuda and who was a single mother who injected discipline into her children in the suburb of Hamilton (Ontario). The base has been growing step by step. During the pandemic he totally transformed his physique and took advantage of the influence of Chris Paul as a partner (almost an older brother) to evolve his game. This season, after a summer in which he led Canada to World Cup bronze, he has grown in all statistical aspects. He is the league’s third-highest scorer (30.1 points) and best thief (2). And he became the third player in history to average more than 30 points, two steals per game and 50% shooting in a season, joining Stephen Curry y Michael Jordan.

“It’s like I’m addicted to the feeling of getting better. I’ve come this far. I’ve worked so hard. And I can only do it for 10 more years, if I’m lucky. So why not, for the next 10 years, give it my all? me and see what I can be?”, claims Shai, who eats a red apple before each game. “There is not a night in which I do not feel that we have the best player on the field. Our attack and our defense are among the top five in the League. He contributes to both,” Daigneault highlights. “I think his consistency, his poise and his confidence have had an incredible contagious effect on one of the youngest teams in the league, one of the youngest teams in history to achieve what this team achieved,” concludes the technical

2024-04-25 07:30:54
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