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OKC Thunder Show Promising Development Amidst April Skid

 OKC Thunder Show Promising Development Amidst April Skid

Although their 1-15 record in the month of April is the worst in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder have shown some very promising things this month. They went on a 14-game losing streak, which tied the franchise record for most consecutive losses, previously set in the inaugural season back in 2008, but had some great individual performances along the way.

As a team, the Thunder have had great success getting to the free throw line in the month of April, attempting the tenth-most per game in the league. Additionally, they’ve become an established rebounding team, pulling down the second-most offensive rebounds and sixth-most total boards in the league over this span.

As Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault likes, Oklahoma City has played with great pace in the month of April, with the highest pace in the entire NBA. Playing with this much pace has proven difficult for the young players on the team, which has resulted in a high number of turnovers. Nonetheless, it’s great experience to play like this as they adjust to the speed of the game.

Individually, a handful of players have stepped up and turned a corner in the past month for OKC. For starters, Lu Dort has become a real offensive weapon. Known for his defense, the second-year guard has averaged 24.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest on 46.3 percent from deep in seven games this month.

In a game against the Raptors a few weeks ago, Dort erupted for 21 points in the first quarter alone, making him the seventh player in Thunder history to score 20+ points in a single quarter. This came after a career-high 42-point performance in the same week against the Jazz, which made him the sixth player in Thunder history to register a 40-point game.

His sophomore teammate Darius Bazley has also taken a huge leap in April. Through 11 games, he’s averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. This included back-to-back games notching a career-high 26 points. Not only has he been great offensively, but Bazley has been tasked with being a lead defender for Oklahoma City. Over the past several weeks, he’s been assigned some of the best players on opposing teams, getting trust from his coaching staff on that end of the floor.

Ty Jerome is a former first-round pick and was acquired by the Thunder in the Chris Paul trade last offseason and has had a spectacular second season in the NBA. His monthly averages are 10.6 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 37.6% from beyond the arc through 16 games. While he battled through injury issues throughout his first season and the beginning of this season, Jerome is finally staying healthy and proving to be one of the better young bench scorers in the league.

Rookie Aleksej Pokusevski has been spectacular of late, getting better and better as the season goes on. In April, he’s produced 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game on 30.1 percent from deep thorough 13 games. While that isn’t the best percentage, it’s much improved from earlier in the season and still solid for a 7-footer regardless. Doing a little bit of everything for the team, Pokusevki impacts the game in many ways.

One of his most impressive recent accomplishments was becoming first rookie since LeBron James in 2004 to register at least five points, assists, rebounds and blocks in a single game. In that same game, he broke Thunder rookie record with six blocks. Pokusevski also notched a game this month with seven made 3-point field goals, setting a new Thunder rookie record.

His rookie running mate, Theo Maledon, has gotten better as the season goes on as well. Taking over as starting point guard, he’s averaged 13.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds through 16 games. He had a game this month with a career-high 33 points, which made him the second Thunder rookie to ever score 30 or more points (Russell Westbrook).

Earlier in the month, Maledon and Pokusevski became the first pair of rookie teammates to each score 25+ in the same game since March 19, 2012 (Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson). A few games before that, they became first pair of teammates in NBA history under the age of 20 to score 20+ in the same game. It’s safe to say that OKC had an excellent 2020 NBA Draft with these two rookies.

When it comes down to it, although the Oklahoma City Thunder had a rough month as a team, there were plenty of positive things that occurred throughout April.