January 27, 2023

OKC Thunder

OKC Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) drives to the basket against the Atlanta Hawks: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been quite an exciting time for OKC Thunder with the team exceeding expectations. Well, maybe not Thunder Nation’s expectations, but they definitely exceeded what Vegas and several national pundits expected for this season.

Rather than go into full-on-tank mode, the OKC Thunder overtook the Jazz as the West’s early Cinderella squad. In fact, there’s an argument that OKC stole the mantel from the other Cinderella squad — the Pacers, who are reeling from Tyrese Haliburton’s absence.

Three intriguing storylines featuring OKC Thunder hosting the Atlanta Hawks

As OKC gears up for the Atlanta Hawks tonight, there are several storylines offering intrigue ahead of the game.

Trae Young loves playing in Oklahoma City for a reason. Young spent his early developmental years in OKC first at Norman in high school before visiting Oklahoma to set records with the Sooners.

Tensions between head coach Nate McMillan and Trae Young

Unlike the comfortable environment enjoyed by the Thunder, Atlanta grapples with constant conflict and drama.

Young and head coach Nate McMillan had some internal troubles that both seemed to be vying for control. At some point that season, Young chose not to show up for a game.

This stemmed from McMillan’s policy that every player must participate in the walkthrough. But Young, getting therapy on his sore shoulder, chose to pass on the walkthrough.

This despite McMillan saying if he didn’t participate he wouldn’t play. The point guard took this to the extreme and didn’t even show up to sit on the bench, which got a lot of play externally when the conversation went public.

What seems to be the main problem is McMillan’s desire for the ball to move more and for Young and Murray to share more roles as playmakers. The goal was for Young to play the ball more so the offense would be less scripted and give Young additional (and easier) off-ball shooting opportunities.

During the recent five-game winning streak, Young seemed to have bought more into the role. It certainly helped that Murray had a particularly hot shooting streak.

Still, the ball isn’t moving as much as McMillan would like. Even during the Hawks’ recent heatwave, problems remain. Specifically, Atlanta is 20th in assists (24.6) over the last 10 games, while the Thunder are 10th (26.1) over the same period.

And as if that weren’t enough to worry Hawks fans, now trade rumors are swirling about Young.

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