Oklahoma City Thunder 2019-2020 Team Awards
The Oklahoma City Thunder had a magnificent season, a fairy tale season if you will, when comparing results to expectations. After dealing both Paul George and Russell Westbrook last summer, they were projected to be a bottom team. However, they wouldn’t listen to the noise or lack of it and (if the season’s over) finished with a 40-24 record, good for 5th in the West.
Despite their difficulties shooting the basketball (3rd fewest three-pointers made), they managed to have a middle of the pack offense (18th most points per game and 13th offensive rating). Combine that with a top-ten defense (10th fewest points per game allowed, 10th defensive rating) and Billy Donovan’s excellent coaching, and it’s no wonder why they were surprisingly good.
Without further ado, let’s get into the Thunder’s team awards for the 2019-2020 season.
Most Valuable Player: Chris Paul
Chris Paul was acquired in a deal that sent star Russell Westbrook to Houston. The moment the trade went down it was rumored that he would not be in Oklahoma City long. It could have been due to his age, injury history, the Thunder “clearly” being in rebuild mode or his contract being as big as it is. Whatever the reason or excuse, people counted out CP3, a player that should be in the Hall of Fame one day. However, the savvy vet blocked out the noise and went to work for the city and the franchise. He showed durability only missing one game all season, was named an All-Star, and put up some sneakily impressive stats.
Paul shot a 48.9 percent from the field while averaging 17.7 points and 6.8 assists which are numbers that don’t jump out at you until you notice that Nikola Jokic and LeBron James were the only other players to do that this season. Also, he had a .608 true shooting percentage which was second only to Damian Lillard among starting point guards. He led the team in box plus-minus, offensive win shares, win shares and VORP (Value over Replacement Player) and was the Thunder’s MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: Nerlens Noel
For a top-ten defensive team, you could give this award to a few different players. A lot of times it’s one of the “stars” of the team that gets the nod, even if that’s not necessarily fair. I’m going a different route and giving this cyber award to a player that only clocked in for 18.4 minutes per game. In that time, he averaged 1.5 blocks per game (12th in the NBA) and the only other players that swatted more shots per night than he did and also had more steals (1.0) per game were Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis. That’s quite an impressive feat, especially for a guy that saw such limited playing time being the backup to Steven Adams. He had the best defensive rating on the team and it wasn’t close with the runner up being 4.0 points back and his defensive box plus-minus was almost three times higher than the player that placed second.
Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder
This is an easy one as Dennis Schroder is not just the sixth man for the Thunder but he has a legitimate chance to win the actual NBA award. He led the entire league in points per game off the bench and was a dynamic piece of one of the best backcourt trios in the association. He had the highest usage percentage on the Thunder, his on-off court rating was second only to All-Star Chris Paul and he was only 17 points shy of leading the team in total points. Schroder was a very efficient backup point guard and a very valuable player for Oklahoma City this season. Only 16 other players in the NBA averaged at least 19 points, 4.1 assists and 1.9 three-pointers per game. He did it coming off the pine.
Rookie of the Year: Darius Bazley
Unlike Dennis Schroder and the Sixth Man of the Year award, no player on Oklahoma City’s roster has a chance of coming anywhere near the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award or even one of the All-Rookie teams for that matter. The only other rookies in OKC were on two way contracts and he played in more games than both combined, averaging 17.2 minutes and finding a consistent place in the rotation. Darius only put up 4.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game but he did show some three-point potential (30 percent from deep) and some defensive potential (1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per 100 possessions, 3rd best defensive rating on the Thunder). He could end up being a 3-and-D guy or a stretch four, both of which are valuable in today’s NBA.
Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai was the 11th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by the L.A. Clippers and when they acquired Paul George from the Thunder, they reportedly did everything they could to hold onto him in the deal. This season, he made it clear to the league as to why.
He’s one of the best young players in the league and took a huge second-year leap, leading the team in scoring as well as placing second in rebounds and steals and third in assists and blocks. His defense was expected to translate to the NBA pretty quickly but his offense was thought to be a work-in progress. However, he drastically improved on that side of the ball averaging 19.3 points per game, an 8.5 point increase on last season. In 15 games from December 18 to January 15, he put up a 53-36-88 shooting line and scored 23.3 points per game. His most jaw-dropping stat though was when he went for 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists in a Thunder win over the Timberwolves. SGA was the youngest player in history to put up those numbers and only the second guard to do it in the last 30 years, joining… Russell Westbrook.