Chet Holmgren

Thunder GM Presti: I “Missed” On Hayward Trade

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he made a mistake by trading for Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, according to ESPN.

Hayward was supposed to provide a veteran presence to the rotation but barely played in the postseason. Oklahoma City gave up three players and two second-round picks for Hayward.

“I missed on that,” Presti said Tuesday during his end-of-season press conference. “That’s on me. But I’m learning, I’m trying to learn this team, I’m trying to learn the pace of the team a little bit. And trying to be a great observer of the team as it’s going through its paces, knowing that it’s really going to change on its own in and of itself.”

Hayward, who is headed to free agency, expressed frustration over his role after the team was eliminated.

“Obviously disappointing with kind of how it all worked out. This is not what I thought it would be. Certainly frustrating. … We have a great team here with great young players, a great coach. So the future is bright,” Hayward said, adding, “I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer. I just wasn’t given much of an opportunity to do that.”

As Presti pointed out, the move at least created some cap flexibility going forward for the Thunder, since all three of the players they sent to Charlotte in the deal are owed guaranteed money for 2024/25, whereas Hayward’s $33MM+ salary will come off OKC’s books this summer.

Here’s more from Presti’s press conference, per Justin Martinez of The Oklahoman:

  • Presti is happy with the team and coaching staff in place. “It’s not a matter of knowing what you need,” he said. “It’s a matter of knowing what you have. … I think one of the things that we learned is we have a really good base to work with.” As usual, Presti is armed with plenty of draft capital and approximately $35MM in cap space. And once again, he doesn’t feel the need to get a star player to complement what he already has on the roster. “I think we learned that we do have some guys in (Chet Holmgren) and (Jalen Williams) who are certainly not there yet, but I wouldn’t bet against them,” Presti said. “We didn’t mortgage our future to get that result. We didn’t do anything performative to accelerate that process. … But I’m glad we took the path that we did. Ultimately, we trusted the team.”
  • Presti wouldn’t tip his hand regarding Josh Giddey, who is extension-eligible this offseason but was removed from the starting lineup in the second round of the playoffs. “He is tough, and he is clutch,” Presti said. “He has been asked to change some things and adjust to different things, and he hasn’t flinched one time. He’s trying to figure out how to best help the team. … We’ll sit down and have those conversations relative to his contract when those are appropriate. But we also don’t have to do anything right now either because he has another year. I’m super open-minded about all of our players and where I think they can get to.”
  • With the No. 12 pick in the draft, Presti is wide open about the type of player he’ll pick. “We’re not looking for something specific, like an on-court need,” he said.

NBA Announces 2023/24 All-Rookie Teams

The NBA officially unveiled the two All-Rookie teams for the 2023/24 season on Monday (Twitter links). The teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Wembanyama and Holmgren were unanimous selections to the first team (Twitter link). Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Wembanyama was also the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, with Holmgren receiving all but one second-place vote for that award.

The entire first team mirrored the Rookie of the Year balloting, with Miller, Jaquez and Podziemski coming in third through fifth. Lively received the most points for the second team, followed by Thompson, George, Wallace and Jackson.

Jackson is the only All-Rookie member who wasn’t drafted in the first round; he was selected 45th overall in 2023 and initially signed a two-way contract. He was converted to a standard contract in February.

The current youngest player in the NBA, Jackson didn’t start receiving regular minutes until mid-January. The 19-year-old put up some big numbers down the stretch though, including 31 points and 44 points in the final two games of the season.

Jackson beat out Warriors big man Trayce Jackson-Davis for the final spot on the second team by a single point. Jackson actually received fewer overall votes (38 vs. 42 for Jackson-Davis), but earned the nod by receiving five first-team votes, which were worth two points apiece (second-team votes were worth one point each).

A total of 22 rookies received at least one vote. Aside from Jackson-Davis, the other top finishers who didn’t make the cut were Pistons forward Ausar Thompson (35 points), Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson (33), and Wizards wing Bilal Coulibaly (14). Ausar is Amen’s identical twin brother.

All-Rookie was one of the awards that didn’t require players to meet the newly instituted 65-game minimum. Jackson, Lively, Thompson, and Wallace didn’t meet that criteria, but they were still eligible for All-Rookie honors.

Thunder Notes: Giddey, Offense, SGA, Williams, Holmgren

The Thunder‘s decision to move Josh Giddey to the bench came at an odd time, in the view of Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who notes that the guard’s fit in the starting lineup has been a concern for much of the season, and certainly for the entire series vs. Dallas. Head coach Mark Daigneault explained on Wednesday why he decided to wait until after Oklahoma City’s Game 4 win to make a change.

“Considering all the information before every single game and treating every game as its own life, I just wasn’t comfortable doing it up until now,” Daigneault said. “At the end of the day I’m making a lot of different decisions. They’re not all gonna be right or wrong.”

Benching Giddey didn’t do a whole lot for the Thunder’s offense, which was limited to 92 points in a Game 5 loss, Mussatto writes. Still, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic relays, Daigneault came away from Wednesday’s loss feeling good about the way the offense functioned, even if the results weren’t there. The NBA’s best three-point shooting team during the regular season (38.9%) made just 10-of-40 attempts from beyond the arc in Game 5.

“I’m careful to say I loved a 92-point night,” Daigneault said. “But I did feel like we were bumping up against some hurdles on the offensive end of the floor the (previous) three games. I did feel like (in Game 5) we were able to find some cracks. We made them a little bit more uncomfortable. We had them in rotation a little bit more.”

Here’s more on the Thunder ahead of a must-win Game 6 on Saturday:

  • Regardless of what happens in Game 6, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander passed an important test this spring, Mussatto writes for The Oklahoman. After having established himself as a No. 1 option, a multi-time All-Star, and a true MVP candidate, Gilgeous-Alexander has shown during this postseason that he’s capable of maintaining his level in the playoffs and being the best player on a legitimate contender. That bodes well going forward for a Thunder team still on the rise, Mussatto observes.
  • After scoring 19 or more points in each of the Thunder’s four games vs. New Orleans in round one, Jalen Williams has only topped 18 points once in five games vs. Dallas. The second-year forward, who is playing in the postseason for the first time, is still working out just how aggressive he should – or needs to – be on offense, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. “I think sometimes I should probably force a little more. But I’m big on playing within the team, like we’ve been doing all year,” Williams said. “I think (I’m) sometimes getting caught up in trying to create for others the whole game. It’s a balance that I’m still trying to figure out.”
  • In a series of feature stories, Slater of The Athletic takes a look at Gilgeous-Alexander’s evolution as a team leader in Oklahoma City, Marc J. Spears of Andscape examines how Williams’ self-confidence permeates through a young OKC roster, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN explores Chet Holmgren‘s perfect fit in the Thunder’s frontcourt.

Thunder Notes: Playoff Adversity, Giddey, Big Lineup, Williams

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault isn’t worried about his team bouncing back from its 119-110 loss to Dallas on Thursday, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City is now facing some adversity for the first time in these playoffs after losing home court advantage in its second-round series.

“Curious, but confident,” Daigneault said. “I’m not sitting here wondering. This is a team that’s made a habit of getting back up. We keep a pretty steady temperament through the ups and downs of the season, and this is just part of the deal. This is just part of the deal. This is the playoffs. Playing against really good teams. These are deep waters. You’re gonna throw some punches, you’re gonna take some punches, and now we’ve gotta eat one, get back to zero tomorrow and be a better team in Game 3.”

We have more on the Thunder:

  • Josh Giddey may need to be replaced in the lineup after two poor outings in the series, Anthony Slater of The Athletic notes. Giddey only played 11 minutes in Game 2 and 17 minutes in Game 1. The team is a minus-27 with him on the court. Aaron Wiggins started the second half of Game 2 in place of Giddey. “It’s basically an in-game substitution,” Daigneault said. “So, I don’t view it any different than checking someone into the game with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. We’re going to keep it fluid.”
  • Chet Holmgren and Jaylin Williams have been used in two-big lineups with some success, Slater adds in the same story. After playing only 92 minutes together the entire regular season, the duo has played a combined six minutes in the series and the Thunder have outscored the Mavericks by nine points during that span. “In both games, it’s given us a nice rim presence, a nice rebounding presence,” Daigneault said.
  • Jalen Williams‘ ascent is detailed in a feature by The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. The second-year forward hit 42.7% of his three-point tries this season and became a reliable go-to option late in games, with Vorkunov pointing out that only 11 players scored more fourth-quarter points this season than Williams. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game during the postseason.

Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama Named Rookie Of Year

Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama has unanimously been named the league’s Rookie of the Year, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

The top pick of the 2023 draft lived up to his billing, averaging 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, a league-high 3.6 blocks and 1.2 steals in 71 games. Wembanyama received all 99 first-place votes for 495 points (Twitter link).

Wembanyama is the first player to have at least 1,500 points, 700 rebounds, 250 assists, 250 blocks and 100 3-pointers made in a season. He is the second rookie to lead all NBA players in blocks per game in a season, joining Manute Bol (1985/86).

Chet Holmgren, who boosted the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference, finished second in the voting with Hornets forward Brandon Miller winding up a distant third. Holmgren received all but one of the second-place votes with Miller getting the other. Miller was picked third on 83 ballots.

The Heat’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished fourth in the voting and the Warriors’ Brandin Podziemski wound up fifth.

Holmgren, the No. 2 pick of the 2022 draft who missed last season due to a foot injury, appeared in all 82 games. He averaged 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 blocks during the regular season.

Miller, the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, averaged 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 74 games, including 68 starts.

Western Notes: Thunder, Pelicans, Loucks, Christie, Kings

The Thunder demolished the Pelicans by 32 points on Wednesday, led by 80 combined points from Rookie of the Year finalist Chet Holmgren (26), MVP finalist Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (33) and rising second-year forward Jalen Williams (21), per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. The trio was extremely efficient, going 32-of-49 from the field (.653%).

After Pels center Jonas Valanciunas opened by scoring the first 11 points for New Orleans, Oklahoma City countered by giving Holmgren looks from the perimeter, Lopez writes. The 2022 No. 2 overall pick responded with 15 points in the opening frame en route to a double-digit lead.

He was great to start,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Holmgren. “He was aggressive, he was assertive, made quick decisions and obviously was a big reason why we got out to that lead. He just played to his strengths and didn’t try to stray from them. We all know when he does that, he’s really good.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Perhaps more concerning than the loss itself was the way the Pelicans lost. As William Guillory of The Athletic details, New Orleans came away from Game 1’s two-point loss somewhat encouraged and responded with an absolute dud of a performance in Game 2. The Pelicans allowed OKC to score 124 points on a shooting line of .590/.483/.900. They had 18 turnovers, including eight offensive fouls. And they only finished with 92 points for the second straight game. Yes, the Pelicans are playing without Zion Williamson, but an ugly early exit could lead to major changes in the offseason, Guillory writes.
  • Kings head coach Mike Brown told reporters, including Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link), that assistant coach Luke Loucks will move to a front-of-bench role after Jordi Fernandez‘s departure to Brooklyn. Brown added that assistant Doug Christie will likely coach Sacramento’s Summer League team, though that isn’t set in stone.
  • After winning a tiebreaker with Golden State, there’s now a 92.9% chance the Kings will end up with the No. 13 overall pick in June’s draft. GM Monte McNair said Sacramento is “excited” about the prospects who could be available at that spot, but the team will explore its options with the lottery pick, including potentially trading it, tweets James Ham of ESPN 1320 and TheKingsBeat.com.

Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic Named MVP Finalists

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic were revealed on Sunday as the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Doncic led the league in scoring (33.9 points per game) and finished second in assists (9.8) while also grabbing 9.2 rebounds per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference by averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jokic, who is widely considered the favorite to win his third MVP trophy, averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per night.

The NBA also announced the finalists for six other postseason awards. Here are the finalists for all of those awards:

Most Valuable Player

Sixth Man

Defensive Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

Note: Sengun appeared in just 63 games but was eligible for award consideration based on the season-ending injury exception described in our glossary entry on the 65-game rule.

Coach of the Year

  • Mark Daigneault, Thunder
  • Chris Finch, Timberwolves
  • Jamahl Mosley, Magic

Rookie of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

Northwest Notes: Lofton, Thunder, Porter, Holiday, Billups

The Jazz used a portion of their room exception to sign Kenneth Lofton Jr. to a three-year contract that includes a $500K rest-of-season salary, Hoops Rumors has learned. Lofton’s deal is worth approximately $4.9MM in total, with minimum salaries in the second and third seasons.

However, the agreement doesn’t currently include any guaranteed money beyond this season. If Lofton remains under contract through July 25, he’d be assured of a $400K partial guarantee for 2024/25, and that partial guarantee would increase to $600K on the first day of the regular season, but if he’s waived on or before July 25, the Jazz won’t be on the hook for any ’24/25 salary.

If Lofton plays out the first two years of the contract, the Jazz would face a team option decision for the 2025/26 season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The fact that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a legitimate MVP candidate while Chet Holmgren is in the running for Rookie of the Year is emblematic of how unique the young, contending Thunder are, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who notes that an NBA club hasn’t had a top-two finish in both MVP and Rookie of the Year voting since the 2001/02 Nets. Before that, the last time it happened was in 1979/80, when Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won MVP while Magic Johnson finished second in ROY voting.
  • Monday’s game between the Nuggets and Raptors marked the first time that brothers Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter shared an NBA court for meaningful minutes, writes Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. In honor of the occasion, Benedetto looks back at the role that Michael played in convincing Jontay not to give up on his NBA dream despite recurring injury issues.
  • Jrue Holiday was only a member of the Trail Blazers for a few days last fall between stints in Milwaukee and Boston, but he tells Jay King of The Athletic that a discussion he had with Chauncey Billups during that time “meant a lot” to him. Billups gave Holiday advice on how to handle the transition period and assured the veteran guard that the team wanted him to end up in a favorable landing spot.“I love Jrue, man. I love Jrue,” Billups said. “And we got him very briefly obviously. And I had a conversation — a long, good conversation with him — just about I know it was a little tough spot for him, being traded, kind of being blindsided by that. I’ve been there before. So just being able to rap with him like that because I know him. And it was important for me that a good person like him, who’s been great on every team and every community that he’s lived in, for him to be treated properly and be put in a great position and a great spot.”

Community Shootaround: Rookie Of The Year Race

The NBA’s 2023/24 Rookie of the Year race has arguably been the best in recent memory, with Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama and Thunder center Chet Holmgren both enjoying incredible debut seasons.

It was Wembanyama who got the upper hand in the latest chapter of the budding rivalry between the two young bigs on Thursday night. The No. 1 overall pick, who led the Spurs to an upset win over the Thunder, became the first player in NBA history to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and five 3-pointers in a game, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

Wembanyama helped seal San Antonio’s victory by making a highlight block on a Holmgren shot attempt in a late-game possession (Twitter video link).

Asked after Thursday’s game whether the performance locked up the Rookie of the Year race for his star teammate, Spurs wing Devin Vassell said he believed Wembanyama had already earned that award.

“I feel like it’s been over, but I mean, night in, night out, the stuff that he does, the impact that he has on both ends of the floor, big shot after big block, after whatever the case may be, I mean he doesn’t even look like a rookie,” Vassell said, per Lopez. “The shots that he shoots, the confidence that he has in his game is second to none, truthfully.”

In their recaps of Thursday’s game, Mike Monroe of The Athletic and Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News each also declared the Rookie of the Year race all but over, contending that Wembanyama has it in hand. The 20-year-old has increased his season-long averages to 20.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals in just 28.7 minutes per game across 54 appearances, with a shooting line of .467/.327/.814.

Still, Wembanyama, who has stated that winning Rookie of the Year is important to him, wasn’t as eager as Vassell or those local reporters to declare the race over, according to Lopez.

“No, because there’s still 22 games left,” Wembanyama said. “So no, it’s not over.”

While the Spurs’ young star has repeatedly showed signs this season that he’s on his way to becoming a generational talent, Holmgren has made a compelling case of his own for Rookie of the Year honors by anchoring the defense of one of the NBA’s best teams while scoring effectively and efficiently on the other end of the floor. In 59 games (30.2 MPG) for the Thunder, he has put up 17.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.6 BPG on .544/.398/.784 shooting.

Even after Thursday’s loss to San Antonio, the Thunder are 29.5 games ahead of the Spurs in the standings, which may be a factor voters weigh when they make their Rookie of the Year choice. Holmgren’s .617 effective field goal percentage is also substantially stronger than Wembanyama’s .518 mark.

In the latest episode of The Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested that Holmgren might be having the best rookie season of any non-Wembanyama player of the past decade besides Luka Doncic in 2018/19. Tim Bontemps argued that Holmgren has been even better this season than Doncic was as a rookie.

However, both ESPN reporters, along with colleague Brian Windhorst, agreed that Wembanyama is the obvious frontrunner for this season’s award.

For what it’s worth, while an injury to either player would obviously impact the race, the NBA’s new 65-game minimum for end-of-season awards doesn’t apply to Rookie of the Year, so there’s no risk of either Wembanyama or Holmgren becoming ineligible.

We want to know what you think. Is Wembanyama your Rookie of the Year pick? If so, what would it take for Holmgren to overtake him in the season’s final six weeks? If not, why do you feel as if Holmgren’s case is stronger?

Head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Thunder Notes: Holmgren, Pokusevski, SGA, Sefolosha

The presence of 7’1″ rookie Chet Holmgren has added a lob threat to the Thunder‘s offense, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. By December, the team had already thrown more lobs than it did all of last season, when Holmgren was sidelined with a foot injury. The ability to target Holmgren around the rim gives opposing defenses one more weapon to worry about.

“It’s something we’ve definitely tried to highlight, especially against switches,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “If they’re gonna put a smaller guy on him and switch him, we have to throw the ball up to him.” 

Holmgren had to learn how to establish position in the post before the lob game became effective, Lorenzi adds. He’s grown more comfortable as the season has worn on, and his teammates have figured out the best ways to get the ball to him.

“Just trusting the process of things,” Holmgren said. “Knowing that not everything is gonna be perfect from Day 1. … We have a lot to work on outside of being better at throwing lobs, catching lobs, playing out of actions that lead to lobs. We just got to continue to work at everything.”

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Even though the Thunder decided to waive Aleksej Pokusevski this week, Daigneault is proud of how the forward developed his skills during his time with the organization, Lorenzi tweets. “(When he was drafted) I didn’t think he really had a great understanding of his own game as a professional player,” Daigneault said. “… Three and a half years later, I think he’s improved in all those things. And that’s what we want to be about.” 
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN looks back at the 2019 trade that sent Paul George to the Clippers in exchange for a package that included Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. McMahon states that general manager Sam Presti‘s insistence that SGA be included may have set up the next NBA dynasty. “I didn’t see it coming,” Gilgeous-Alexander recalled. “I’m not like, ‘Why would you do that?’ It made sense. I think Paul just came off like an MVP-caliber year. … I used it a little bit as motivation just to get better and really turn myself into that caliber of player.”
  • Thabo Sefolosha, who was part of the greatest seasons in Thunder history, sees similarities between his teams and the current roster, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “I see a lot of what we had, people not expecting them to be this good,” said Sefolosha, who was a guest at Friday’s game as part of Thunder Legacy Weekend. “Super-competitive team. Extremely talented. Credit to Sam. He finds a way. You cannot doubt the man.”