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What Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s Latest Injury Means for the Thunder

How much time will the Thunder's star guard miss? How will the Thunder handle this and who will benefit?

Thunder fans never want to hear ‘Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’ and ‘MCL’ in the same sentence, even if it does increase our odds of landing the number one pick in next year’s draft and getting 7-foot-5 international sensation Victor Wembanyama. Yet, that’s exactly what was reported today by Nick Crain of Inside The Thunder.

The fanbase breathed a sigh of relief as the injury appears to be just a sprain. Although a full tear would likely not affect the star guard’s career trajectory, it is never beneficial to lose a player of his caliber for a year. After all, he’s the most valuable asset the franchise has in their cupboard.

According to InStreetClothes’ database, which tracks sports-based injuries, the average time it takes a player to return from a Grade 2 MCL sprain is approximately 41 days. Assuming that it will indeed take just 41 days for Gilgeous-Alexander to return, the Thunder guard would make his 2022-23 debut on November 1st at home versus the Orlando Magic.

The silver lining here is that due to Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence, playing time will open up for the rest of the roster in training camp, preseason, and beyond as the Thunder are likely to approach his return to the court with great caution. While this probably doesn’t seriously affect the frontcourt situation, this likely means that guards and wings alike will have more of an opportunity to leave an impression on Head Coach Mark Daigneault and the rest of the staff.

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And then there is the matter of who should fill the temporary hole that is now in the starting lineup. Second-year guard Tre Mann certainly left an impression towards the end of last season and might be an excellent fit alongside Josh Giddey in the backcourt. Rookie guard Jalen Williams can certainly handle the ball and left fans buzzing after Summer League play. Coaches may want to take this time to explore the depths of Ousmane Dieng’s ball-handling ability. Or will they use this opportunity to get a better look at third and fourth-year guys like Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski?

The answers to these questions can only be answered over time, but it will certainly be interesting to observe exactly how Oklahoma City handles this situation and who will stand to benefit. Opportunities are at a premium for a franchise that will seemingly bring in more and more talent over the coming years. Players would be wise to make the most of this one.

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