The OKC Thunder went undefeated in the three scrimmage games that took place in Orlando. While it’s hard to takeaway a lot from a scrimmage, the Thunder as a team played really well.
Some however, outperformed expectations while others fell short of them.
For your consideration I present: Player Grades.
(To help choosing the players to grade I narrowed down to a 9 man rotation. Apologies to Abdel Nader, Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, Mike Muscala, Kevin Hervey, and Devon Hall.
Chris Paul: A+
Ok, so I might be grading on a curve here. CP3 is a grizzled veteran in the NBA, and his leadership is a big reason why the Thunder is in the position they are today. Averaging a meager 3.5 points to go along with 3.5 assists it’s clear that Chris’s effort hasn’t been the best. But again, these games are scrimmages. Veterans like Paul, and Gallo (more on him later) shouldn’t be expected to go all out. But the fact that as the President of the NBPA, Chris Paul has been instrumental in NBA basketball being back vaults him to valedictorian status in my grading system.
Danilo Gallinari: B-
If there was ever a guy that looked disinterested in the court it was Gallo in the Thunders second scrimmage against the Philadelphia 76ers. It could’ve been the earlier start time, but dude just looked sluggish. The thing that saves his grade is his shooting. While he only averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds in 3 games, Gallo showed that he could still shoot from downtown. If you take out the Sixers game (where he was obviously day dreaming of a nap) he shot 50% from the arch.
Steven Adams: A+
For the past few years Thunder fans have watch Steve surge in the regular season, only to get to the playoffs and then he seems to have run out of gas, or his body won’t hold up. Well this hiatus has proven to be advantageous for the Kiwi, as he not only looks healthy but he looks leaner. He has been dominant in the paint averaging about 12 points and 6 rebound in basically 2 quarters each game. If he can keep this up, it will be a huge advantage for the Thunder come playoff time.
Luguentz Dort: A+
Lu had quickly become a fan favorite with his defensive ability, and hustle. But now, in the bubble Lu Dort looks to have added a reliable 3 point shot (and also a ridiculous reverse layup package) to his offensive repertoire. In the 3 scrimmages he has hit 6 out of 13 shots beyond the arch. Which is far better than his season average of 30%. Oh, and he is still a beast defensively. That helps too.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+
We got pretty spoiled with over the years with a guy who can finish around the rim with ease in Russell Westbrook. We remain spoiled with Shai. He does it differently then Russ, as opposed to straight line drives ending in ferocious tomahawks, Shai carves his way to the cup and uses a variety of angles to finish. A new wrinkle however is his finishing through contact, and playmaking. Billy Donovan and Sam Presti have both said Shai took this break as an opportunity to get stronger, and also have said that Shai’s future on this team is to be the lead guard. He showed that throughout the scrimmages, finishing with ease and in the Blazers scrimmage running the show with comfort and control. The future is bright.
Dennis Schröder: C+
Dennis came into the bubble being a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate. While that hasn’t changed, a lot of what got him there to begin with has seemingly abandoned him in Orlando. Shooting 38% from 3 for the regular season, Dennis is shooting an abysmal 1/10 10% (!!) from 3 in the bubble. While his first step remains deadly and his defense seemingly intact, hopefully he can work that out once he returns to the bubble once his wife gives birth. We need this guy to show up and show out.
Nerlens Noel: B-
Offensively Nerlens left a bit to be desired, going 1/4 shooting for 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Defensively in his lone game however, he was a game changer. He had 3 blocks, but contested/changed countless other shots at the rim. He would’ve been a B+ but he missed his COVID testing prior to the Blazers game, meaning he couldn’t participate. Someone get this man an alarm clock!
Darius Bazley: A
There has been a considerable amount of hype for Lu Dort, both within Thunder channels and nationally. But the work that Baze has put in inside this bubble should not go unnoticed. He averaged 14 points (including a 20 point explosion) and 5 rebounds while shooting an impressive 50% from the field. His confidence in driving and taking shots has been a breath of fresh air, and proves to be something to watch going forward.
Andre Roberson: A+
You couldn’t have written a more perfect story if you tried to. After being out for injury for 2.5 years, Dre returned to play and showed a few things. First, he is moving well; which is a huge plus considering his knee injury. Second, he still has his athleticism in tact; rising up and pinning a shot on the backboard. Finally, he is a knockdown 3 point shooter, knocking down 4/6 from deep. As I said you couldn’t script a better return scenario for Dre. Carry that momentum in the real games now Dre!