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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander early favorite for MIP, Josh Giddey scathes ROTY list

Since the opening of last season, Oklahoma City Thunder have kicked their rebuilding efforts into full throttle. All along, the center of Presti’s Plan has stood firm — to redevelop a youthful, fresh-faced roster in hopes of a title bid. As the NBA betting lines opened last week, the Thunder appear to be par to the course in their rebuilding hopes.

As released by FanDuel, the Oklahoma City Thunder wields two contenders in pre-season award races, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.

Fresh off a third-year campaign in which Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, the 23-year-old is the preseason favorite to take home the 2021-22 Most Improved Player award at +800. Gilgeous-Alexander shares the podium with Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson.

Gilgeous-Alexander made a drastic jump last season pivoting from Billy Donovan’s third-wheel guard to Mark Daigneault’s star, however, a mid-season plantar fascia injury held the guard to 35 games. Based on Gilgeous-Alexander’s spike, the Kentucky alum could’ve brought home MIP hardware last season, but the time cut almost indefinitely pushed him off the ballot — receiving a singular third-place vote last season.

Under the notion Gilgeous-Alexander stays healthy next season, he is expected to be handed full reigns of the Thunder offense both as a facilitator and scorer on the roster.

In the rookie category, sixth overall pick Josh Giddey carries FanDuel’s eighth-best odds at +2300 to take home the season’s Rookie of the Year honors. The pack of players ahead of the Aussie consists of Cade Cunningham (+195), Jalen Green (+340), Evan Mobley (+550), Jalen Suggs (+650), Scottie Barnes (+1300), Davion Mitchell (+1600), and Alperen Sengun (+1600).

The Rookie of the Year award is no stranger to Josh Giddey. Last season, Giddey took home the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award for the Adelaide 36ers, placing averages of 10.9 points, 7.6 assists, and 7.3 rebounds. For reference, last season’s NBA ROTY, LaMelo Ball, won the NBL’s ROTY award last biennium clocking 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists with the Illawarra Hawks. 

Josh Giddey expectations teeing into regular-season play may hover below top five selections in his draft class, but the developmental nature of the Thunder franchise could easily garner the 18-year-old a hefty sum of looks by the season’s end cap. Giddey’s playstyle possesses a favorable archetype within award grounds as his well-rounded game should garner the 6-foot-8 guard a packed statline in points, assists, and rebounds.

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