Malcolm Brogdon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander excelling in their starting roles

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

Malcolm Brogdon and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are excelling in their newly-acquired starting roles with their respective teams this season

The NBA is about change; about taking advantage of opportunities when they’re given. For example, the Most Improved Player award directly correlates with the meaning of opportunity. Players that have won this award have usually seen an enormous increase in minutes from the year prior.

A multitude of players that have had the honor of winning this award, in more cases than not, have always possessed the talent to contribute effectively to their respective teams. They just weren’t given the chance immediately.

With that being said, two players have immersed and embraced their new starting positions in the 2019-20 season. Their enlarged role and increased minutes have led to some extremely productive play and, perhaps, a chance at the MIP Award by the end of the season.

Let’s check out the two players maximizing their opportunity this season.

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

Malcolm Brogdon, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, has carved himself a nice role as a leader with the Indiana Pacers a quarter into the season. After being dealt away by the Milwaukee Bucks in a sign-and-trade deal, Brogdon signed a four-year, $85 million contract with Indiana this past offseason.

Last season, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged career-highs in all major statistical categories. He posted a stat line of 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while being featured as the fourth option for the Bucks. More importantly, he joined elite company by shooting extremely efficient throughout the entirety of the season as he joined the illustrious 50/40/90 club.

The Virginia product was a starter for Milwaukee a season ago, however, he could never optimize his talents to the fullest extent due to his lack of touches. This season, it has become readily apparent that Brogdon can handle the spotlight and a larger role as the number one option in Victor Oladipo’s absence. He’s posting All-Star type numbers, with averages of 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists, while shooting lights out at a 47 percent clip.

The Pacers currently sit comfortably as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 13-7 record. Brogdon has been tasked with the duty of holding down the fort until their All-Star, Victor Oladipo, returns from an Achilles injury. Furthermore, Indiana has been terrific on defense, as usual, and have an increased offensive rating(108.5) with Brogdon at the point guard position.

Understandably, we’re only 19 games in, but the improvement still speaks volumes to Malcolm Brogdon’s effectiveness.

He’s a deadly threat on all three levels of the court, can create opportunities for others with his improved playmaking abilities, and is a lockdown defender, he can do it all.

We may have a future star in the making.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

The second-year pro out of Kentucky is already making a name for himself in his short NBA tenure.

Last season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was selected 11th overall by the LA Clippers. After a relatively decent rookie season and stellar postseason play, the 6-foot-6 guard finished his rookie campaign averaging 10.7 points, while gathering 2.8 rebounds, and dishing out 3.3 assists. In a limited role, the rookie made contributions across the board and shot at an alarmingly high rate; he shot 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from three.

Over the summer, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found his self being shipped to OKC in the blockbuster trade that altered the complexion of the NBA. SGA, along with Danilo Gallinari, and several first-round picks were traded away in favor of Paul George. The second-year pro was, ultimately, given the chance to be the starting guard and, essentially, the future of the franchise.

He has not disappointed thus far. With extended minutes he’s averaging 18.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. A season ago, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only mustered up 26 minutes a game, and he wasn’t named a starter until the back end of the season. This year he’s seen a significant increase in minutes and is up to 34 per game.

His transition from a rotational role player to the primary ball-handler and number one option has been seamless.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently the 10th seed in the Western Conference with an 8-11 record. The Thunder has no aspirations of reaching the playoffs this season, as they have just begun the rebuilding process around their franchise guard.

SGA has the ability to use his length and quickness blow by defenders and reach the painted area in two steps, similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo. His 6-foot-11 wingspan allows him to make tough acrobatic layups while being able to post up smaller defenders due to his height. Along with his athleticism, he has a clean, controlled handle and is an efficient shooter from deep.

Not only is the 21-year-old showcasing his star potential and athleticism in his new starting role, but he has also been given the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest minds in all of basketball, Chris Paul.

The future looks bright for the talented combo guard.

Given the opportunity

Both Malcolm Brogdon and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have shown significant improvement in their new starting roles. They have proven that all NBA players are exceedingly gifted individuals.

As obvious as that may seem, it just proves that a player currently averaging five points could average over 15 if he’s placed in the right situation.

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Nonetheless, Brogdon and SGA are in a different class of players that can win the Most Improved Player award this season. These two guards have as good a chance as any and it’s going to be exciting to see who ultimately wins the award.