The 2019-20 Oklahoma City Thunder in Review

November 13th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s logo.
(Photo:
Oklahoma City Thunder/Sports Logo History)

When the Thunder traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook away to the Clippers and the Rockets collectively, it was thought that they were back to the drawing board to rebuild their team once again.  Instead, the Thunder kept trucking along, and they received some solid players in their trades, as they acquired Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander from the Clippers, and they also received Chris Paul in a trade from the Rockets. 

This season, the Thunder had a solid season under then-head coach, Billy Donovan, who took their team to a 5th seed, and they battled with the Houston Rockets in the playoffs before losing to them in a tough, 7-game series in the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs.  In the aftermath, Billy Donovan left the Thunder, and decided to join the Chicago Bulls to be their head coach instead, and it is assumed that the Thunder are now looking to rebuild, as they are rumored to be looking for trade partners to take on Chris Paul via trade.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s superstar point guard, Chris Paul had a very good season in 2020, and though he’s on a hefty contract, that has not stopped NBA teams from pursuing the idea of acquiring him via trade with his team.
(Photo: Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press, via Bleacher Report)

G Chris Paul – A-

2020 (OKC): 70 GP, 17.6 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 49 FG%, 37 3PT%, 91 FT%, 31.5 MPG, 21.7 PER, 8.9 WS

Chris Paul had a rejuvenation year with the Thunder, and he excelled as a shooter, facilitator, and leader to help his new team get to the playoffs.  The Western Conference rewarded his strong play by naming him to his 10th career All-Star team in 2020.  However, after his team got ousted by his former team, the Rockets in the first round, there are rumblings about the Thunder wanting to go to a rebuild, and trade rumors involving Paul have been circulating in the offseason.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting point guard on an NBA team somewhere
Projected 2021 Rating: 3.5 stars

Oklahoma City Thunder’s rising star guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played very well for his team in 2020, and he could be the best player on his team for the upcoming season if they decide to trade Chris Paul.
(Photo:
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images, via Thunderous Intentions)

G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – A-

2020 (OKC): 70 GP, 19 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 47 FG%, 35 3PT%, 81 FT%, 34.7 MPG, 17.7 PER, 6.1 WS

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a tall, athletic combo guard that showed off a solid all-around game, and he excelled as a scorer, facilitator, and defender for the Thunder.  He had a very good second season in the NBA.  He will need to make outside shots more consistently, but the rising star will likely be the Thunder’s most important player in the long-term.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars (3.5 star potential)

Oklahoma City Thunder’s rookie guard, Lu Dort (pictured wearing #5, defending James Harden) surpassed expectations in 2020, and his tenacious defense earned him significant playing time in the NBA playoffs.
(Photo:
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via House of Sparky)

G Luguentz Dort – A-

2020 (OKC): 36 GP, 6.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 39 FG%, 30 3PT%, 79 FT%, 22.8 MPG, 7.6 PER, 0.8 WS

He is an athletic, physical combo guard that excelled as a defensive specialist for the Thunder in his rookie season.  Dort took on the tough assignments, and excelled at guarding his opponents, but he will need to improve his offensive skills in the meantime.  He will likely excel in an expanded role for the Thunder in 2021, as he could be like the new age, Tony Allen for them in the future.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (3 star potential)

Danilo Gallinari’s strong shooting abilities and versatility enabled him to thrive as a role player for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2020.
(Photo:
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images, via Eurohoops.net)

F Danilo Gallinari – B+

2020 (OKC): 62 GP, 18.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44 FG%, 41 3PT%, 89 FT%, 29.6 MPG, 19.5 PER, 6.3 WS

Gallinari is a tall, versatile sharpshooting forward that excels at shooting and scoring the basketball.  He is a skilled player that can really put the ball in the hoop and create mismatches that can swing in his team’s favor, but he will need to improve his rebounding and defense.  He had a solid season with the Thunder, and he will likely earn plenty of playing time for an NBA team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

Side note: Gallinari will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

C Steven Adams – B

2020 (OKC): 63 GP, 10.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 BPG, 59 FG%, 26.7 MPG, 20.5 PER, 6.5 WS

Adams is a strong, physical center that has been the defensive anchor of the Thunder’s team for many years now.  Adams excels as a finisher, rebounder, and interior defender, but he will need to extend his shooting range and improve his ability to defend in space out on the perimeter.  He’s been a solid player for the Thunder, and he will likely be their starting center for the upcoming season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting center on the Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

Oklahoma City Thunder’s guard, Dennis Schroder was one of the best sixth men in the NBA this past season.
(Photo:
Omar Rawlings/Getty Images, via Forbes)

G Dennis Schroder – B+

2020 (OKC): 65 GP, 18.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.6 RPG, 47 FG%, 38 3PT%, 84 FT%, 30.8 MPG, 16.7 PER, 3.6 WS

He is a speedy scoring point guard that excels at attacking the rim to score the basketball, and Schroder has provided a scoring punch for the Thunder off the bench over the past couple of years.  He has excelled in this role for them, but he will need to improve his defense in the meantime.  With the Thunder rumored to be looking to rebuild, Schroder might be a significant trade option that could help them recoup draft picks and other assets that the Thunder may covet in return, and Schroder could provide scoring punch to a contender for the upcoming season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

11/15/20 Update: The Thunder have agreed to trade Schroder to the Lakers for Danny Green and the 28th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

F Darius Bazley – B-

2020 (OKC): 61 GP, 5.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 39 FG%, 35 3PT%, 69 FT%, 18.5 MPG, 9.6 PER, 1.0 WS

Bazley is an athletic, skilled combo forward that projects into a 3 and D role for the Thunder in the NBA.  He played better than expected, and he had a decent rookie season, as he showed that he can knock down threes and defend on the court.  He will need to improve his scoring and playmaking skills, and he will need to be more assertive on offense, but Bazley is a skilled player that may have considerable upside, and he could be an effective rotation player on the Thunder next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (2.5 star potential)

F Andre Roberson – D

2020 (OKC): 7 GP, 2.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 28 FG%, 21 3PT%, 50 FT%, 12.4 MPG, 5.4 PER, 0 WS

Andre Roberson is an athletic, energetic forward that possesses very good defensive skills, but he missed most of this season due to a knee injury, and he struggled to make shots when he was on the floor.  Next season, he could see a lot more minutes, though it’s not certain it will be with the Thunder, as his team may decide to go towards a rebuilding mode for next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

C Nerlens Noel – B

2020 (OKC): 61 GP, 7.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 68 FG%, 18.5 MPG, 20.4 PER, 4.9 WS

Noel is an athletic, shot-blocking big man that excels at playing interior defense to help shore up the paint.  He made shots efficiently within limited touches, and he also is a good rebounder and shot blocker, but he will need to improve his perimeter skills and decision-making on offense.  Right now, he projects to be a rotation player for an NBA team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G-F Abdel Nader – B-

2020 (OKC): 55 GP, 6.3 PPG, 47 FG%, 38 3PT%, 77 FT%, 15.8 MPG, 11.3 PER, 1.3 WS

Abdel Nader had a fairly solid third year in the NBA, and he excelled as a floor spacer for the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season.  He also played above average defense, but he will need to improve his scoring, rebounding, and playmaking skills, and he also did not shoot the ball well at all in the playoffs.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Hamidou Diallo – C

2020 (OKC): 46 GP, 6.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 45 FG%, 28 3PT%, 60 FT%, 19.5 MPG, 9.3 PER, 0.4 WS

He is a very athletic, energetic swingman that was the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk contest champion.  Diallo is a solid rebounder and defender, and he also will look to attack the basket to score the basketball.  However, he will need to improve his shooting, scoring, and rebounding skills.  He’s also been injury prone over the years, so he will need to stay healthy.  Right now, he may project to be a rotation player for the Thunder next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

Side note: Has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Terrance Ferguson – D

2020 (OKC): 56 GP, 3.9 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 35 FG%, 29 3PT%, 75 FT%, 22.4 MPG, 3.7 PER, 0.6 WS

Having once made 6 threes in the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit and having once won the 2016 Ballislife All-American Game dunk contest, Ferguson is an athletic, skilled swingman that projected to be an athletic shooter for the NBA.  However, he’s really struggled to find his shooting touch over the years, with the exception of having shot the ball relatively well in his second season, and Ferguson has just been a very tentative player on offense in general, as he rarely ever shoots the basketball.  He has taken on some tough defensive assignments and has played fairly solid defense for the Thunder, but his play has generally been disappointing during his time with the Thunder. 

Once considered a high-upside prospect, Ferguson now projects to be a fringe rotation player in the NBA who needs to work on his jump shot to get consistent playing time for the upcoming season.  In a favorable scenario for him, Ferguson could provide decent spot-up shooting and solid defensive skills as a situational use role player similar to former Golden State Warriors’ forward, Brandon Rush in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

C Mike Muscala – C

2020 (OKC): 47 GP, 4.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 41 FG%, 38 3PT%, 82 FT%, 12.2 MPG, 12.5 PER, 1.3 WS

Muscala is a skilled big man that can knock down outside shots to space the floor for the Thunder.  He also passes the ball fairly well for his size.  On the downside, he’s not really much of a scorer, rebounder, or interior defender, and he’s only an average athlete at best.  He is a situational use big man, but his ability to make threes and score in the post will allow him to contend for a spot in the rotation next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

G Deonte Burton – D+

2020 (OKC): 39 GP, 2.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 34 FG%, 19 3PT%, 57 FT%, 9.1 MPG, 4.3 PER, -0.5 WS
2020 (NBA G-League): 11 GP, 14.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.9 BPG, 44 FG%, 29 3PT%, 71 FT%, 33.5 MPG, 12.1 PER, 0.6 WS

Burton is a tough, physical swingman that received some playing time for the Thunder this past season.  He may project to be a defensive specialist in the NBA, and Burton excelled as a rebounder and shot blocker on the floor this past season.  Still, he will need to improve his shooting, scoring, and on-ball defense.  If so, he could end up earning more minutes than anticipated in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Has a team option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Devon Hall (Two-Way) – D-

2020 (OKC): 11 GP, 1.8 PPG, 1.2 APG, 20 FG%, 24 3PT%, 50 FT%, 7.4 MPG, 3.1 PER, -0.2 WS
2020 (NBA G-League): 30 GP, 15.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.1 APG, 45 FG%, 36 3PT%, 86 FT%, 31.4 MPG, 14.8 PER, 2 WS

A former 2018 second-round pick drafted by Oklahoma City, Hall played sparingly for the Thunder this past season as a rookie.  He projected to be a shooting specialist coming out of college, as he played four years at Virginia, but Hall didn’t shoot the ball very well as a rookie.  He did show off better distribution skills than anticipated, but he didn’t play much in general.  He’s not expected to play much if he makes their team in 2021, but if he does, he would likely be an end of the roster sort of player on the Thunder.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth guard, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star (2 star potential)

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Kevin Hervey (Two-Way)

2020 (OKC): 10 GP, 1.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 26 FG%, 15 3PT%, 5.2 MPG, 5 PER, -0.1 WS
2020 (NBA G-League): 27 GP, 12 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 38 FG%, 27 3PT%, 59 FT%, 25.6 MPG, 13.2 PER, 0.3 WS

Hervey was a 2018 second round draft pick selected by Oklahoma City, and he played sparingly for the Thunder this past season as a rookie.  He projected to be a floor spacing, power forward for the Thunder, but he didn’t shoot the ball very well as a rookie.  Hervey did show some rebounding skills, but didn’t do much else in limited minutes in the NBA.  He’s not expected to play much if he makes their team in 2021, but if he does, he would likely be an end of the roster sort of player on the Thunder.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star (2 star potential)

Side note: Will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Isaiah Roby – D-

2020 (OKC): 3 GP, 0 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 3.7 MPG, -7.7 PER, 0 WS

He’s an athletic defensive-minded, combo forward that barely played this past season due to a lingering foot injury.  He’s not expected to play much in 2021, but in college, he projected to be a defensive specialist type of role player to similar to current Thunder forward, Andre Roberson.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, backend roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1 star (2 star potential)

Side note: His contract for the 2020-21 season is not guaranteed.

Head Coach:
Mark Daigneault
2020 (OKC): 0-0
Head Coaching Career: 0-0

Just days ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder promoted from within, as they hired assistant coach, Mark Daigneault to be their head coach for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (3 stars potential)

Former head coach:
Billy Donovan, 2020 season grade: A-
2020 (OKC): 44-28, 3-4 with the playoffs
Career: 243-157, 18-23 in his playoff career

Billy Donovan had a solid season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which he helped his team surpass expectations, and took them further than anyone could have imagined prior to the start of the 2019-20 season.  The Thunder were a cohesive unit that defended well, and while they came up short in a seven-game series against the Houston Rockets, Donovan managed to come away as the NBCA Coach of the Year award co-winner along with Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach, Mike Budenholzer.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head Coach of the Chicago Bulls
Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars

Side note: For more of Billy Donovan’s review, also see the Chicago Bulls’ writeup I wrote.

2020 Oklahoma City Thunder, season grade: B+

The Oklahoma City Thunder surpassed expectations by snagging the 5th seed out in the West, but they lost in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in their first round series of the 2020 NBA playoffs.

The Thunder have agreed to trade Dennis Schroder to the Lakers for Danny Green and the 28th overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.
(Source:
Twitter/Sportscenter)

11/15/20 Update: The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Dennis Schroder to the Los Angeles Lakers for Danny Green and the 28th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Steven Adams
F Danny Green
F Luguentz Dort
G Terrance Ferguson
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Key Reserves:
F Darius Bazley
C Nerlens Noel* (UFA)
G-F Abdel Nader
G-F Hamidou Diallo

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 25th Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft
The 28th Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft
C Mike Muscala
G Deonte Burton
The 53rd Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
Isaiah Roby

Players that will be Restricted Free Agents:
Kevin Hervey

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
Danilo Gallinari
Andre Roberson
Nerlens Noel
Devon Hall

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

Projected Players To Be Traded from the Roster:
Chris Paul

Already Traded:
Dennis Schroder

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
#25, #28, #53

Projected Offseason Plan for the Thunder:

As the Oklahoma City Thunder are likely opting for a rebuild after letting head coach Billy Donovan go to the Chicago Bulls, they are no longer looking to tread water as a mid-tier playoff team, but will likely start back up from the ground up. 

Most likely, they will build their team around Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and Luguentz Dort, with SGA being their talented playmaker that can score and facilitate, and with Dort being able to lock down just about anyone defensively.  In the draft, they will likely be looking to accumulate talented players, and don’t be surprised if they trade to get more draft picks in this draft or in future drafts.  The Thunder doesn’t have much cap space to work with, so they will probably look to cut their luxury tax bill, and they won’t have much money to spend on free agents.

Expected Win Total in 2021: 32-40, 13th in the Western Conference

Expected 2021 Season Outcome: With signs pointing to the Thunder opting for a rebuilding mode, this likely means that they will miss the 2021 playoffs.

(* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72 game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Thunder was for them to get 37 wins in an 82-game season.  Also, the projected record does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Thank you for reading my grades and review of the 2019-20 Oklahoma City Thunder. There will be two important dates to keep track of. The 2020 NBA Draft will take place on November 18th, and free agency will begin on November 20th. Thanks for reading.

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