Storylines We're Missing From the Oklahoma City Thunder if the NBA Doesn't Return
If the NBA doesn't come back this season, we are going to be robbed of some of the best storylines we've seen in years. I'm not talking about Bucks, Lakers, or Vince Carter.
Right here in Oklahoma City, we have our own yarns being spun by some very unlikely protagonist. While the rest of the NBA might be more enamored with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, we'll keep our eye on Danilo Gallinari and Lou Dort.
Here is a list of the most important stories we'll miss if the Thunder season is over.
Chris Paul's Clutch Performances
Paul leads the NBA in clutch points with 144 while being tied for first in clutch steals with 10. Paul is also shooting 53.5 percent from the field in clutch time and 93.5 percent from the line.
Paul is helping lead the Thunder to a 25-5 clutch time record since November 25th. However, for as impressive as he has been on the offensive end when Oklahoma City needs him to close games, Paul can also come up big defensively.
In the Thunder's last game against the Celtics, Paul and Dennis Schroder traped Kemba Walker on an inbound pass. Oklahoma City was trailing 104-103, with 8.5 seconds left. Schroder was able to swipe the ball, forcing a Walker turnover and drive to the hoop putting Oklahoma City in front for good.
The Celtics last gasp came when Jayson Tatum missed an 18-foot jumper as time expired with Paul guarding him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's Development:
Gilgeous-Alexander came to Oklahoma City being billed as the new face of the Thunder. Replacing Russell Westbrook is a tough task for anyone, let alone a second-year player, but Gilgeous-Alexander is handling things like a ten-year veteran.
Moving from point guard to shooting guard is allowing Gilgeous-Alexander to improve in every significant offensive category. For the second straight year, he's been selected for the rising-stars game, and he's trusted enough by Billy Donovan to be on the floor for closing time.
Gilgeous-Alexander (like Paul) has 10 clutch steals. The lineup that features him, Paul and Dennis Schroder, is outscoring teams by 28.6 points per 100 possessions.
Doc Rivers has pretty much said he didn't want to see Gilgeous-Alexander shipped off in the Paul Geroge trade. Sorry, Doc, but Sam Presti may have got the better end of that deal, especially as Gilgeous-Alexander continues to grow.
On his return home to play the Raptors Gilgeous-Alexander lit up Toronto for 32, helping the Thunder to a 98-97 shorthanded win. The most important of those 32 came with 36 seconds left when Gilgeous-Alexander went to the rim and hit a layup, giving the Thunder a one-point lead that would stick.
I might have been wrong when I said, Gilgeous-Alexnder was going to be an all-star this year. But in true radio host fashion, I am doubling down and calling my shot for next season and the year after that.
Lou Dort's Contract:
When the Thunder singed Luguentz Dort to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent from Arizona State, it felt like they may have gotten a deal if he could develop. Billy Donovan says he knew Dort could defend at an NBA level "right away."
It also didn't hurt Dort's cause that he was coached in college by one of Donovan's former assistants. Donovan was able to reach out to Rashon Bruno (at Arizona State) and talk with him about Dort, good for Donovan and Dort that as a Sun Devil, the coaching staff thought highly of him.
Before Terrance Ferguson took a leave of absence for personal reasons, Dort had only appeared in seven games. Since Ferguson's break, Dort has started 29 games and showed in spurts he can be just as good on offense as he is on defense.
Dort has scored in double digits four times in those 29 starts, including a 23-point outing vs. the Kings, where he went 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Dort only gets 45 days in the NBA, which includes practice time, so he works out with the Blue. As of now, he is not on a full NBA deal, and if Sam Presti chooses to keep him as a two-way player, Dort would not be eligible for the playoffs.
Dort says the Thunder knows what they are doing, and he's not worried about getting a deal done.
What Did We, Miss?
Tell us what other storylines you want us to talk about as we wait for the season to crank back up. Just click the comment box below.