We’re just at the beginning of the NBA season, not even 15 games in yet. Is it too early to start looking at who has really made leaps and strides to help their teams so far? Not at Daily Thunder!
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having a good start to the year. A lot of Thunder fans didn’t really know what to expect from him after his rookie stint with the Clippers, but since arriving in Oklahoma City, Thunder fans have reason to believe he will be the franchise’s next star.
Let’s take a look at some early candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, and how SGA compares.
Malcolm Brogdon – Indiana Pacers
Despite being selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NBA Draft, Brogdon went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award that season, the first to do that since 1965. Since then, Brogdon has shown improvement every year. His scoring average has improved each season. He has been filling up the stat sheet so far on an Indiana Pacer team that is missing its star, Victor Oladipo. Brogdon is averaging nearly 20 points per contest, and his passing game has also improved, averaging 8.2 assists per game so far, compared to 3.2 last year.
Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves
FINALLY, Wiggins is starting to look like the NBA player that everyone expected him to since he was drafted back in 2014. In his sixth season, he is posting career high averages in almost every category: points (25.9), rebounds (5.1), and assists (3.6). In his defense, Wiggins is only 24, and has played for four different coaches in his NBA career, so that might be a reason for him being a late bloomer. Wiggins getting a full season with Ryan Saunders at head coach should be interesting.
Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks
Thunder fans know this sharpshooter out of Norman, OK all too well. Just one season after finishing as runner-up for Rookie of the Year, Young has been playing lights out. Through 13 games, his points per game average has gone up by about 8 points compared to last season. Young’s average of 27 points per game is tied for 7th in the NBA. Meanwhile, he is third in the league in assists at 8.7 per contest. Young also became the first NBA player to have at least 38 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists in each of his team’s first two games, which is quite an accomplishment.
How does Shai stack up?
Gilgeous-Alexander has taken “the leap” with force.
He was on the All-Rookie Second team last season, but in his second season, Thunder fans have already seen growth. SGA wasted no time showing OKC what he was made of, scoring 54 points in his first two games of the season. He has nearly doubled his rookie scoring average of 10.8 (19.4 through 14 games), and that is with other ball dominant guys like Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari on the roster.
Not only has SGA nearly doubled his rookie scoring average, he has more than doubled his rookie rebounding average (from 2.8 to 5.1 per game).
On top of that, he has shown that he is not afraid to shoot the three ball – shooting more threes than last year, but at a higher percentage (38.3%). SGA has improved in almost every possible stat.
Why SGA has a chance
SGA’s production has gone up so much from last season, and it’s only going to get better. Even though he is taking twice as many shots as he was last season, his field goal percentage hasn’t dropped much (47.6 to 44.9). He is relied on way more in OKC than he was in LA, as he should be.
As the season progresses, you will start to see Billy Donovan go to SGA in late-game situations more and more. If Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari get traded (which is likely), SGA will be there to shoulder the load, and Thunder fans should be excited.
That is when he can show everyone why he is our future star, and why he deserves the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.