Giddey shines in first preseason game
Thunder rookie Josh Giddey whipped a cross-court pass to Theo Maledon. Maledon bricked the 3-pointer, but Giddey fought through Hornets center Mason Plumlee to collect the miss.
Giddey put the ball back up and in, absorbing a foul for the and-1.
Giddey’s combination of skill and size flashed in the short sequence. He had the look of a power forward and the eyes of a point guard in the Thunder’s first preseason game Monday night, a 113-97 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
A small sample, but so far so good for the Thunder’s No. 6 pick.
Thunder fans, in the building for the first time since March 11, 2020, certainly liked what they saw. They gave Giddey a hearty ovation when he checked out midway through the fourth quarter.
Giddey, 6-foot-8 and still six days shy of 19, seemed to get more comfortable as the game wore on.
He scored a team-high 18 points on 8of-12 shooting. Giddey tallied seven rebounds and three assists with two turnovers.
“I didn’t really have any expectations coming in,” Giddey said. “The stats are nice and everything, but a win would’ve been nicer.”
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault tried to temper the early buzz about Giddey.
“It’s game zero,” Daigneault said. “We have four game zeros before we even start.”
Daigneault’s first starting five of the preseason: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, Giddey, Darius Bazley and Isaiah Roby.
A few things on that. Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort were locks.
Roby was the logical option at center with Derrick Favors (knee soreness) out. Roby might keep the spot even when Favors returns.
“The center spot could be a little more fluid,” Daigneault said. “We’ll probably change that up half-to-half in the preseason. We’re gonna look at a lot of things there.”
Giddey and Bazley in the first five might be telling of how Daigneault fills out the starting lineup.
Aleksej Pokusevski was the odd man out. Pokusevski could have started in place of either Giddey or Bazley, but Daigneault wanted Pokusevski to lead the second unit.
“We definitely considered it,” Daigneault said of starting Pokusevski. “I do think that you have a better opportunity to kind of play through him in the second unit because of the presence of Shai.”
Pokusevski will likely stay in a bench role once the regular season starts. He struggled offensively Monday night. He shot 4-of-12 with three turnovers.
“Whatever coach asks me,” Pokusevski said, “I’m gonna do it. Playing in the starting five or in the second unit doesn’t matter to me. I just wanna play and help the team win.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played his first competitive game in almost seven months.
A plantar fascia tear limited SGA to 35 games last season.
Gilgeous-Alexander showed no physical limitations in his 17 minutes. He was 3-of-8 from the field for nine points. He had four assists and four turnovers.
“Great having him back out there,” Daigneault said. “That was obviously awesome to see.”
SGA was back in, but a few of his teammates were out. In addition to Favors, Kenrich Williams (toe) and Vit Krejci (visa complications) were unavailable.
There’s no clarification on Krejci’s status, but the visa issues came as a surprise. He’s been in Oklahoma City the last year rehabbing an ACL tear.
Tre Mann was 0-of-6 from 3-point range in two Summer League games, and he was 0-of-2 Monday night from behind the arc. Mann was 1-of-7 from the field.
The rookie guard is known for his shot and shiftiness. Only the latter has shown up so far.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, picked 32nd in the draft, was the first man off the bench. Robinson-Earl checked in for Roby at center.
Aaron Wiggins, the Thunder’s pick at No. 55, didn’t check in until the fourth quarter. Wiggins went on a scoring spree with 12 points in seven minutes. He was 3-of-3 from deep.