The 2022-23 NBA season hasn’t even started yet and has already been a disaster for the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2 overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft Chet Holmgren was drafted out for the remainder of the season due to an injury he sustained in a Pro-Am game. Star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recently sustained an MCL Grade 2 sprain that will force him to miss the start of training camp and perhaps the start of the regular season.
NBA fans have already started joking that OKC will likely only tank one more season and hope to draft Victor Wembanyama next year. With a 2022-23 season still ahead of Thunder, building an impressive starting lineup that can compete will be an immense challenge. One person who has started a variety of games this past season and is at risk of losing that role is Aaron Wiggins.
Thunder swingman Aaron Wiggins
Losing Holmgren and having a tied Gilgeous-Alexander will give the youngsters more options as starters or second-unit players. As a second-round pick last season, Aaron Wiggins got a lot of minutes due to the numerous injuries suffered by the likes of Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort. It was an open secret that the Thunder weren’t fighting for a playoff spot, so developing the youngsters was a top priority.
Wiggins has been used for long stretches on some occasions due to his ability to play on both ends of the floor. There have been contests where he earned over 30 minutes and scored over 20 points, plus chips in multiple rebounds and assists. For a rookie who didn’t get much kudos upon entering the NBA, it was admirable that Wiggins showed his talent right away and wasn’t afraid of the bright lights.
Wiggins played 50 games in the 2021-22 season, including 36 as a starter. He averaged 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 24.2 minutes per game. That’s more than ample production for the 55th pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Wiggins’ 2-point percentage was excellent at 57.3%, but his outside shooting is still a big hole in his game. Shooting 30.4% on nearly three attempts per game from 3-point range needs improvement to the mid or high 30s.
With Josh Giddey and Luguentz returning there healthy, Aaron Wiggins is unlikely to retain his starting spot from last season. Giddey is a better all-around player with massive advantages, especially with his phenomenal passing ability and combination of tenacious rim attack. Giddey is likely to start the year as a starting 2-guard for coach Mark Daigneault, although there’s also the possibility of him starting as a point guard if SGA is out. Tre Mann, Theo Maledon and Ty Jerome are also listed on the depth chart at the point guard.
For the wing position, Dort is one of the toughest and most fearless defenders in the league. Daigneault will prefer Dort over Aaron Wiggins as he will need Dort to protect the likes of Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic, and Dort has also just signed a lucrative contract extension.
The Thunder also added two wings/forwards to the lottery: Jalen Williams and Ousmane Dieng. These youngsters are likely to come off the bench early in the season, offering Wiggins more competition, but don’t rule out one of them starting at some point. Trusted veteran Kenrich Williams is another guy who earned minutes.
Given the chaotic situation in OKC at the moment, it will be fascinating to find out who will be in the squad’s first session leading up to training camp. Daigneault has some important decisions to make.