Head Coach Mark Daigneault has to give Thunder Identity for Success
My take on the upcoming Oklahoma City Thunder season will not focus on the loss of Chet Holmgren or the fans nightmares that the team will go into a “tank” mode like the two previous years. No. My focal point wants to center on the on-court relationship of two players, Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Josh Giddey. That is, how will head coach Mark Daigneault and his assistants game plan these two with regard to team offensive style, offensive sets, roster management, and finally, who runs the offense when both are on the floor at the same time. These coaching decisions have everything to do with how successful the Thunder will be on offense and if this new 2022-2023 team will set the blue-print for future teams as the rebuild goes into a more realistic “win now” mentality.
Past history of OKC was allowing the star scorer dictate the offense. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were dominating ball hogs for the most part, and as of their supreme abilities to get open, make shots, and drive the ball, the team was one of the best in the Association. Paul George kept the team proficient as he replaced Durant, scoring and being Westbrook’s Batman to his Robin. Offensive big men like Steven Adams were not shooters and were more into setting picks and screens to let the stars score. The fact that “all” players on the court at any given time have a green light to jack up a three has not been a success. The Thunder had the lowest point shooting percentage in the league last year and individually only a select few actually were good consistent long range gunners.
With a world class passer Josh Giddey, he must be the one to set up others, either on the break or in set pieces. With Giddey as the major point guard, the offense will flow and get the better shooters to take the shots. Giddey is not at this stage of his career a good floor shooter, but that can chance with the addition of shooting coach Chip Engelland from San Antonio. Engelland is not yet listed on the Thunder website as a assistant coach for whatever reason but he should make a difference in team shooting percentages.
Will the coaching staff insist on SGA, the best scorer on the team, to be the point guard or will that PG position turn to Giddey. SGA’s ability to get to the hoop, either on an intake pass and drive, or a step-back, is outstanding. He also has one-on-one abilities to drive his man and beat him with regularity. The OKC offense must benefit both players and the rest of the very young but athletic team, including wing and paint players. A slower paced team seems to have more issues in scoring with a lack of shooting, so OKC might turn to a faster paced game plan. Yes, knowing that a running team usually turns it over more, but that is a trade off that might be good as the team goes from year to year. But Giddy is still a teenager and his continued development can, in time, make him a top five point guard in the league, and the best passing guard too. SGA is close to All-Star selection and even if that does not happen, opponents have to work to stop his scoring. He, like Giddey, should continue to get better as he is also not reached his prime years in the league.
OKC has decisions to make and Coach Daigneault must have the coaching chops to turn the team into one that can move the ball, move it fast, break down the defense, and ensure that the young legs of the Thunder are utilized to their fullest. If he cannot do that, GM Sam Presti must find a coach that can coach that style of basketball. OKC will continue to be held back by poor offensive shot selection, a lack of speed, and a waste of some very talented young NBA players if the style that has been used the previous two years continues. This team has to get an identity. Right now, it does not have one. That is why you hire a head coach.
Feature Photo: Yahoo.com