Oklahoma City Thunder are a team in the midst of a rebuild and they will head into the new season with the aim of improving their younger players.
This is the first period in the team's history since the SuperSonics relocated from Seattle and became the Thunder that they have had to go through a rebuild. Previously, OKC have been a team who have been postseason contenders but the days of star players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are behind them, for now at least.
The Thunder have missed out on the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and after finishing 14th in the Western Conference last year with a 24-58 overall record their postseason hopes for the coming campaign look slim, but that doesn't mean the season needs to be a complete write off either.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||18th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +700, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +650, BKN Nets +700|
Oklahoma City had the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and they opted to bring in talented Gonzaga product Chet Holmgren, a 7'1" center/forward who opted to declare for the draft after his freshman year.
The aim for OKC was to give Holmgren as much game time as possible in the season ahead and he was essentially locked in to be a regular starter - but disaster struck for the youngster in the offseason.
The 20-year-old sustained a Lisfranc fracture [metatarsal bone displacement] in his foot during a Pro-am game in August and was subsequently ruled out for the entirety of his rookie season.
The early signs for Holmgren at OKC were incredibly promising as he scored 23 points with seven rebounds, four assists and a steal in his Summer League debut. He also set a new record for the most blocks in a single Summer League game with six, suggesting he was ready to make an impact in the NBA.
Losing Holmgren for the season is clearly a setback, but the Thunder should be able to pick up where they left off with the former Gonzaga star and they have other players who will be looking to improve and gain further experience in the coming campaign.
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The capture of Holmgren understandably dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder headlines on draft day but the arrival of shooting guard Jalen Williams also looks an interesting move for the team.
OKC used the 12th overall pick to bring in the guard and he should be able to feature next season, although he may be restricted to appearances from the bench.
Second-year guard Josh Giddey could also be in line for a big season after making 54 appearances last term and, although the Thunder have lost Holmgren, there are plenty of other youngsters they have the luxury of playing regularly without any real expectations on their shoulders this season.
The focus may be on OKC's youngsters, but in point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander they have a player who made the step up from talented prospect to genuine star last season.
The 24-year-old is preparing for his fifth season in the NBA and fourth with the Thunder and is coming off his best campaign. Gilgeous-Alexander had a career-high 24.5 points-per-game last season with 5.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds. If he continues to improve, he could potentially force his way into the All-Star conversation in the season ahead and he will be key for OKC as they look to improve on last season's record.
Forward Luguentz Dort is another player who will be looking to kick on as he gears up for his fourth season in the league and he is also coming off the back of his best season, so there are reasons for optimism at OKC.
Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and Dort should be regular starters for the Thunder. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Darius Bazley will compete for the other forward spot but center does look an issue without Holmgren. The Thunder appear to have a choice between veteran Mike Muscala, who has started just 30 games in a nine-year NBA career, and second-round draft pick Jaylin Williams, or possibly either Robinson-Earl or Bazley.
OKC have a tough start to the season as they face four conference rivals who will all feel they have genuine championship chances. The Thunder open the season at Minnesota Timberwolves before games against Denver Nuggets (a), Minnesota (h), Los Angeles Clippers (h & a) and then Dallas Mavericks (a). Their first winnable game looks to be a home game against Orlando Magic at the start of November.
Oklahoma City Thunder's goal will be improving on last season's dismal win total of 24 and that would be the case even if Holmgren were available. If they can help their younger players improve and get the best out of Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort then that will have to be considered a successful campaign and that is reflected in their odds, with OKC available at +1400 to reach the playoffs.
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