30 Teams in 30 Days

2021-22 Oklahoma City Thunder season preview: Roster changes, depth chart, key storylines and games to watch

The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Up next is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

2020-21 season record

22-50, 14th in the Eastern Conference

Notable additions

Josh Giddey, No. 6 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Tre Mann, No. 18 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, No. 32 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Aaron Wiggins, No. 55 pick in 2021 NBA Draft

Derrick Favors, trade

Notable departures

Moses Brown, trade

Al Horford, trade

Tony Bradley, free agency

Svi Mykhailiuk, free agency

Depth chart

Oklahoma City Thunder depth chart (2021-22)
Starters Second Third Fourth Fifth
PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Theo Maledon Tre Mann Vit Krejci
SG Luguentz Dort Ty Jerome Aaron Wiggins Paul Watson Rob Edwards
SF Josh Giddey Aleksej Pokusevski Kenrich Williams Gabriel Deck
PF Darius Bazley Jeremiah Robinson-Earl D.J. Wilson Mamadi Diakite
C Derrick Favors Isaiah Roby Mike Muscala

3 Key Storylines

Evolution of Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort

Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort are the two established young stars on a rebuilding roster filled with majorly filled with inexperienced players.

SGA's five-year contract worth $172.5 million, which kicks in next season keeps him in Oklahoma City until at least 2027 while Dort is under contract with the franchise until 2023.

If Gilgeous-Alexander takes the next leap and Dort evolves into a dependable No. 2 with his contribution on both ends of the floor, the Canadian duo could emerge into one of the league's best young duos and become the franchise cornerstones that would see out this rebuild.

Their leadership on and off the court will play a huge role in the next step the franchise takes this year in their rebuild.

Giddey's rookie year

The Thunder drafted sixth overall in the 2021 NBA Draft and with that pick, they selected the Australian Giddey.

The 19-year-old is the first NBA Academy graduate to be picked in the NBA Draft and is coming off a season in the NBL where he was named Rookie of the Year with averages of 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and a league-leading 7.6 assists in 28 games.

His 6-foot-8 frame and his playmaking allow the team to play him alongside their guard duo of SGA and Dort. That doesn't necessarily position him well to make a legitimate case for the Rookie of the Year award but familiarity with the franchise's two established stars does help him become an invaluable third asset for the team to rebuild around.

Franchise's decisions with future draft picks

The move to trade Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the offseason of 2019, which began the Thunder's current rebuild, promised them plenty of draft capital for years to come.

Following the trade to acquire Kemba Walker earlier this offseason, Oklahoma City has 36 draft picks to their name with 18 in the first round and 18 in the second. Here's a complete guide to their draft treasure chest

However, the franchise simply can't keep all of those picks given the players they currently have on their roster. At some point, the Thunder must flip that draft capital for a marquee player who would possibly accelerate their rebuild or elevate the floor and ceiling of their young roster.

When will Oklahoma City pull the trigger? As this will be the first full season since they started accumulating the picks, will this season's result help them decide or will they wait out another season? Everyone is watching to see what the franchise does with all of those picks.

5 games to watch

Oct. 22 at Houston Rockets

For years, the Rockets have been a team the fans of the Thunder have circled on their calendar. Probably because it gave them a chance to watch a superstar who was previously with them. Since 2012, that's been James Harden and during the 2019-20 season, it was Harden and Westbrook.

Now, there's no real former Thunder superstar connection anymore but Rockets are still a team to circle for OKC. Both franchises are in the same boat of rebuilding, so it's a race for who can do it better and quicker. Houston has their high draft pick in Jalen Green while the Thunder have Giddey, Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort.

Oct. 27 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

It's the return of Russell Westbrook. Since being traded from the Thunder in the 2019 offseason, the former OKC MVP has played on a different team in each of the three seasons. This year, he's bringing his hometown franchise and title contender - Lakers. Along with him also comes former Thunder player Carmelo Anthony.

Dec. 8 at Toronto Raptors

After the Raptors played home games in Tampa, Fla. during the 2020-21 season they return to play at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the upcoming season.

The Thunder have not one but two young Canadian stars on their roster in Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort, who will relish the opportunity to play in front of family and friends.

The last time SGA was home, which was nearly two years ago, he had a special game.

Mar. 9 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Everyone tries to have their best game when the defending champions have come visiting and this season, the Milwaukee Bucks come visiting in the second half of the season.

Apr. 1 vs. Detroit Pistons

No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, who played his lone college season at nearby Oklahoma State, and the rebuilding Pistons make their one trip to OKC as the season winds down.

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