3 Areas the Oklahoma City Thunder Must Address to Win an NBA Championship

The 2023-2024 is officially over as the Boston Celtics are your 2024 NBA Champions.

The Thunder have work to do if they plan on winning an NBA Championship.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have arrived. They are ahead of schedule and are one of the youngest teams in the NBA. The Thunder became the youngest team in history to finish with the best record in the Western Conference during the regular season and win a playoff series. Their young talent is blossoming and all the metrics point to the Thunder being a serious contender for the next decade.

This iteration of the Thunder gained valuable playoff experience as they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the Second Round. Their biggest flaws and weaknesses were exposed and now General Manager Sam Presti now has the data to make necessary changes.

The Thunder have the assets and the blueprint to become true contenders but need to address their biggest issues if they plan on winning a championship. It won’t be easy and General Manager Sam Presti will need to make the right moves and upgrades. Here are three things that OKC will need to address and bank on in order to win a championship.

Areas the OKC Thunder Must Address

Size in the Front-Court

The Thunder’s main issue throughout the entire season was their lack of size and physicality on the front court. The data matched the eye test as the Thunder were in the bottom third percentile on the glass. Their lack of size ended up being the biggest reason why the Thunder weren’t true contenders and didn’t win a championship.

Chet Holmgren is the Thunder center and should be the five going forward due to the versatility and matchup advantages he creates at the five. However, he will take time to develop physically and fill out.

Besides Holmgren, the Thunder lack height and physicality and do not have a true power forward nor another legit big to put alongside or backup Holmgren on the front court. The only other true front-court options that were in the Thunder rotation were Jaylin Williams and Kenrich Williams. Beyond that, the Thunder plays small with Jalen Williams or Josh Giddey (who was just traded away to the Bulls) as Holmgren’s front-court partner.

The Thunder will need to add a forward with size and physicality and upgrade the backup five position. However, the Thunder need to add the right front-court players — that fit their 5-Out system into their pass, dribble, and shoot philosophy.

Improvements from the “Big Three”

With the Thunder taking their lumps and experiencing the intensity + the ups and downs of the playoffs. This iteration of the Thunder now understands the difference between the regular season and the playoffs — how difficult it is to win in the playoffs. If the Thunder eventually win a championship, it will come down to the play and improvements from the “Big Three” of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has cemented himself as a superstar in this league. His first playoffs as the No.1 guy showed that there were no issues with his game translating in the playoffs. SGA has improved every year and has officially put himself in the top five players in the league conversations. The next step for SGA is to improve as a playmaker and become more consistent from three.

Jalen Williams’ ascension in his second season is a very encouraging sign for the Thunder. In his first playoffs and as their No.2 option, he had an up-and-down playoff. He was fantastic in the first round against the New Orleans Pelicans. However, his flaws were heightened in the second round against the Dallas Mavericks. The next step for Jalen Williams will be to continue to improve as a scorer + playmaker and become a legit co-star to SGA.

Chet Holmgren’s impact on both ends during his rookie season played a huge factor in the Thunder’s ascension. In his first run in the playoffs, his defense went under the radar as he was great. Offensively, he was inconsistent as his shot became really flat during the playoffs. Going forward, the Thunder’s primary ball-handlers (SGA and Jalen Williams) have to do a better job of incorporating and integrating Holmgren into the offense more. The next step for Chet Holmgren is to insert himself more offensively, continue to improve as a creator, and continue to fill out, in order to become a legit co-star to SGA.

How the Thunder “Big Three” continues to improve and grow together will be crucial and make them serious contenders over the next decade which will hopefully lead them to a championship.

Self-Creation Off the Bench

During the regular season, the Thunder were third in offensive rating at 119.5 and third in points per game at 120.1. However, the Thunder were only 16th in bench points per game (per Stat Muse). A glaring issue during this recent postseason was a lack of self-creation off the bench.

Outside of SGA and Jalen Williams, self-creation was an issue throughout the playoffs, especially during the Dallas series as the Thunder lacks a dynamic scorer and a third self-creator.

The Thunder bench does not have an explosive or dynamic scorer and is currently filled with a lot of specialists. Cason Wallace who has upside is currently a 3-and-D player, Isaiah Joe is more of a three-point specialist, Aaron Wiggins is more of a jack-of-all-trades type of player, and Ousmane Dieng wasn’t part of their rotation this season and is still a ways away from being a real contributor for this Thunder team.

Whether Cason Wallace, Aaron Wiggins, or Ousmane Dieng develops into that or whomever the Thunder drafts in this upcoming draft develops into that or if the Thunder decides to trade for that player. This is an issue that the Thunder needs to address in order to win a championship.

Main Image:  Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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