Thunder Notes: SGA, Giddey, Hayward, Wiggins, Joe

The young Thunder may not quite be ready to win a tough playoff series, but there’s little doubt that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. SGA was at his best in Saturday’s Game 6, scoring a series-high 36 points and hitting numerous clutch shots down the stretch. He also handed out eight assists, the biggest of which was an alley-oop that Chet Holmgren slammed home to give OKC a one-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

But Gilgeous-Alexander made a critical mistake, committing a foul that sent P.J. Washington to the line for three free throws to decide the series. Washington made his first two shots to give Dallas the lead, then missed the third on purpose to take time off the clock and force Oklahoma City into a long heave on its final possession.

“We talk about it all year, the little things that go into winning games. And being disciplined. It sucks,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of his foul on Washington. “Obviously if I had the moment back I wouldn’t have fouled him and just let him make or miss the shot.” 

At the post-game press conference, Gilgeous-Alexander told reporters that he isn’t interested in watching a replay of the foul. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault challenged the play, which cost him his final timeout, but officials determined that SGA’s contact warranted a foul.

Even if it’s part of the learning process for a team that appears to have an incredibly bright future, the loss was painful in the moment as the players feel like they let an opportunity slip away.

“It’s hard to tell what you remember more, the wins or the losses, but this definitely stings,” Holmgren said. “It doesn’t feel great. Nobody wins 12 straight championships, so the chances I’m gonna feel this at some point again is definitely there. But I’m gonna do everything in my power to avoid this feeling again.”

There’s more on the Thunder:

  • The series highlighted the decision that OKC will eventually have to make about Josh Giddey‘s fit with the rest of the team, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to an MVP candidate and the addition of Jalen Williams have significantly cut into Giddey’s usage rate, and he doesn’t shoot well enough from long distance to be an effective complementary player. Slater notes that Giddey was replaced in the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6 and didn’t start the second half in Games 2 and 4. Giddey will make $8.3MM next season in the final year of his rookie contract, but he’s extension-eligible this summer and Slater suggests he may be a trade candidate if the Thunder go shopping for veteran help.
  • There may not be a future in Oklahoma City for Gordon Hayward, whose $33.3MM salary will come off the books this summer, Slater adds. The team sent unwanted contracts to Charlotte to acquire Hayward at the trade deadline, but he wasn’t a factor in the playoffs, going scoreless in 46 total minutes.
  • The Thunder have a two-year window to upgrade their roster before future extensions start to kick in for their stars, Bobby Marks of ESPN states in his offseason overview of the team. Marks suggests that general manager Sam Presti might decline modest team options for Aaron Wiggins and Isaiah Joe and try to reach long-term deals with both players.
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