It wasn’t long ago that Isaiah Joe was a minor footnote signing before the start of the season. Joining the team three days before the season opener, his addition was swept under the rug by most Thunder fans. (His signing came as Daily Thunder finalized our 2022-23 player profiles…without him.) Some fans who are into the draft like myself still remember him as an exciting prospect coming out of Arkansas that was a potential selection for Sam Presti in the second round (I had him ranked 29th that year). He was passed over by the Thunder multiple times and eventually waived after two seasons with the Sixers, having failed to carve out a role for himself on a competitive Philadelphia team. Three days after he was waived, the Oklahoma City picked him up–perhaps on the recommendation from former VP of Scouting for the Sixers, Vince Rozman, whom they had hired a few months earlier.
Four months later, Joe looks to be like one of the best free agent signings in Thunder history (however sad that may be) and has been a huge catalyst in their surprising season thus far. If he keeps it up, could be one of the better value non-rookie or max contracts in the entire NBA.
Over the previous two seasons, the Thunder were the worst perimeter shooting team in the NBA. Their lack of spacing and any real threat from the outside cratered their offense, leading to being last in offensive rating in both seasons. This year, they have climbed up to 21st (with a very small gap between the few teams above them), and while that’s still not great, it’s been a massive improvement from what we have been accustomed to, and a huge reason for this is the play from Isaiah Joe.
Ever since the Thunder started to get good in the early 2010s, they cycled through shooters that they thought they could rely on and help the team win. They needed these guys to be able to play off ball dominant players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and even a younger James Harden. Daequan Cook, Kevin Martin, Anthony Morrow, and Alex Abrines are players that come to mind OKC tried to use to fill this role. Now years later, Joe is putting up one of the better perimeter shooting seasons in Thunder history for a team that is punching above its own weight in talent level. His minutes keep steadily climbing, and his production isn’t faltering as a result. He’s only 23 years old, and for a young team like the Thunder, people should consider him a real asset and a member of this young core if…