Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is developing into a star

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having a fantastic sophomore season in the association, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder in scoring while solidifying himself as one of the most promising young talents in the NBA

When Russell Westbrook and Paul George both left Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason, there was a huge void left, with Westbrook serving as their franchise star for many years. But when they shipped off George to the LA Clippers, they received two intriguing talents in Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

There was never a lot of expectations for this season for Billy Donovan‘s team, even with the addition of Veteran guard Chris Paul as well.

But Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander have seemed to find a home in Oklahoma City, both leading the Thunder in scoring this season. With Gallinari, it’s expected. He’s a 12-year veteran who is 31 years old and knows exactly what it takes to succeed in this league.

He has been a key piece there is no question about it, but it’s what youngster Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has accomplished this season which has many heads turning around the league, leading the Thunder to a 26-19 record so far.

Gilgeous-Alexander had a relatively impressive rookie year last season in LA, averaging 10.8 points per game while starting 73 of 82 games for the Clippers. Once he arrived in OKC, the 21-year-old took on a starting role at shooting guard and has thrived from day one.

He’s playing almost 10 more minutes per contest than last season while starting all 45 of the Thunder’s games. Gilgeous-Alexander is dropping 19.8 points per night while collecting six rebounds and dishing out three assists.

The main man in OKC

It was imperative that the Thunder received a quality guard who could potentially develop into their next franchise star after losing Westbrook. Their front office did a very good job of making sure this happened by getting Gilgeous-Alexander. He showed potential last season with the Clippers and by starting more than 75 percent of the 82 games he featured in during the 2018-19 campaign, it prepared him for a more advanced role in OKC this season.

The former first-rounder has seen his usage rate increase heavily this year, going from just 18.3 percent last season to 24.2 in 2019-20. Their offense generally runs through him and Chris Paul/Dennis Schroder in the backcourt.

Unlike a lot of players in the league today, Gilgeous-Alexander relies more on his game in the paint rather than trying to drain 3’s all the time. He still attempts 4.9 3-pointers per game which is more than he shot last season, but the 21-year old is very effective at using his impressive handles and quickness to weave amongst bigs and finish at the hoop. Gilgeous-Alexander is shooting 47 percent from the field and 34 percent from downtown.

On January 13th, SGA became the youngest player ever to collect a triple-double, dropping 36 points, while collecting 20 boards and 10 assists. He was also just the second Canadian to ever complete the feat besides Steve Nash. The fact that he collected 20 rebounds as a 6-foot-5 guard who isn’t the biggest speaks to his athleticism and savvy for the game. He’s making a name for himself across the league as one of the best youngsters in the NBA today.

SGA been given a lot more freedom offensively in OKC after playing mostly point guard prior to this season. The new role has worked wonders for Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s taking full advantage of being OKC’s primary ball-handler while making the most out of every opportunity he has to drain buckets.

Thriving under Chris Paul

If Chris Paul wasn’t in a Thunder uniform, there is no way SGA would be having such a monster season. The nine-time All-Star is one of the best playmakers to ever play in the NBA, averaging 9.5 career assists, while dishing out 6.4 dimes this season, which leads the Thunder. He’s definitely helped Gilgeous-Alexander through the trials and tribulations that come along with playing in the association while serving as OKC’s best playmaker.

The experience that Paul brings to this team is extremely important and is definitely a vital reason that Gilgeous-Alexander is enjoying so much success. These two have formed an exhilarating partnership in the Thunder backcourt.

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OKC’s next star for years to come

It was always a worry that OKC wouldn’t find a player to fill the void that Russell Westbrook left. SGA isn’t Westbrook, but he is definitely turning into a star right before our eyes. He possesses every skill set needed to be their next franchise piece and at just 21 years old, the best is yet to come for the second-year guard.