Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is clearly becoming a star in OKC

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is becoming a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Every NBA season, there are always a few players that go up a level after the all-star break. This season is no different and one of those players is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

On Tuesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder took on the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. The game was relatively close until the fourth quarter when the Bucks outscored the Thunder 37-22 and came out with the 142-115 victory.

In the losing effort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a masterful performance. The fourth-year guard out of the University of Kentucky dropped 33 points on 11-18 shooting, dished out 14 assists, grabbed eight rebounds, and got three steals.

With this performance, Shai now has the same number of 30 points/10 assists games as LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, and Ja Morant this season, per StatMuse:

Since the All-Star Break, Shai has been unstoppable. He’s averaging a whopping 33.3 points, 6.7 assists,  6.0 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 36 percent shooting from 3-point range.

He’s also scored 30 or more points in six of the Thunder’s last seven games. Oh, and by the way, he just so happens to have scored the most points since the All-star game (233). The guy is playing the best basketball of his career.

It should be noted that star rookie Josh Giddey has been sidelined due to injury during this increase in productivity from Shai. But, still, what SGA has been doing since the All-Star break should not and cannot be overlooked.

A large part of his success comes from his ability to beat his man off the dribble and drive to the rim. In fact, the SGA is averaging 25.2 drives per game which leads the league, and is on set to set the record since the 2013-14 season. In the pick and roll, Gilgeous-Alexander is the second most efficient scorer in the league behind only Steph Curry.

Simply put, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is among the best in the league at creating and finishing shots inside the arc.

Adam Goldman of Fade Away World describes SGA’s ability to get to the rack perfectly:

"“Gilgeous-Alexander uses a shifty first step, or small pump fake to rock his defender onto his heels before jetting into the lane. If you foul him, he’s knocking down 80.3% of his free throws on the season, and if you lay off him, he’ll rise up and dunk it.”"

The reason he’s not a bigger story is because of the team he’s playing for.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been tanking for two seasons now. Over the past two seasons, the Thunder are 42-95. Even if you include Shai’s first season with the Thunder where they surprised everyone and made the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Western Conference with Chris Paul as their leader, they still are 39 games below .500 (86-125).

In a league that worships 3-pointers and long-distance snipers, athletic guards who can get to the rim at will have lost some of their luster. But Shai and others like DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, and Ja Morant are proving otherwise.

Players that can put pressure on opposing defenses by consistently beating their man and getting to the pain are the most valuable assets in the NBA.

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Gilgeous-Alexander might be an afterthought to most NBA fans, but he’s better than most people think and this year he’s proving he can be the number one option for a team with his ability to get by his defender and drive to the basket at will.