Thunder fans never want to hear “Shai Gilgeous-Alexander” and “MCL” in the same sentence, even if it increases our chances of being number one in next year’s draft and winning 7ft 5 International Sensation winner Victor Wembanyama to get. But that’s exactly what was reported today by Inside The Thunder’s Nick Crain.
The fanbase breathed a sigh of relief as the injury appeared to be just a sprain. While a full rupture probably wouldn’t hurt the Star Guard’s career, losing a player of his caliber for a year is never beneficial. After all, he’s the most valuable asset the franchise has in its closet.
According to InStreetClothes’ database of sports injuries, the average time it takes for a player to recover from a Grade 2 MCL sprain is approximately 41 days. Assuming it actually only takes 41 days for Gilgeous-Alexander to return, the Thunder Guard would make his 2022-23 debut on November 1 at home against the Orlando Magic.
The silver lining is that Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence will open up game time for the rest of the roster in training camp, preseason and beyond as the Thunder are likely to approach his return to the pitch with great caution. While this probably won’t seriously affect the situation in front of the field, it likely means guards and wings alike will have more opportunities to make an impression on head coach Mark Daigneault and the rest of the staff.
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And then there’s the question of who should fill the temporary gap that’s now in the starting XI. Sophomore guard Tre Mann certainly made an impression towards the end of last season and could be a great fit alongside Josh Giddey in backcourt. Rookie guard Jalen Williams certainly knows how to handle the ball and had fans buzzing after the Summer League game. Coaches should take this time to explore the depths of Ousmane Dieng’s ball handling skills. Or will they take this opportunity to get a better look at third and fourth graders like Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski?
The answers to these questions can only be answered over time, but it will certainly be interesting to watch closely how Oklahoma City is handling this situation and who will benefit. The opportunities are high for a franchise that looks set to attract more and more talent in the years to come. Players would do well to make the most of it.
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