Shai Gilgeous-Alexander landed in Oklahoma City as part of a trade that sent Paul George to Los Angeles. The story has written itself ever since. SGA has proven to be the best part of that deal, even with the abundance of draft picks involved.
All jokes aside, if you told Thunder fans this is what Gilgeous-Alexander would be doing at 21 years old, most would have been fine with just getting him and Danilo Gallinari back in the George deal. But with five first round picks, two pick swaps and any potential return for Gallinari, the Thunder are set for the future.
At 26-19, the Thunder only sit two games behind the Houston Rockets and four games behind the Los Angeles Clippers. The two teams the Thunder traded their superstars to, and now own their futures for the next six years.
Sam Presti took a jammed situation and turned it into something that could be generational. OKC fans are watching a 21 year old kid take over the big stage. He also is learning from one of the greatest of all time in Chris Paul. It’s truly special what we’re watching of SGA in OKC right now.
SGA has shown his skills this year in a variety of ways. He is very smooth and fluid with the basketball, using his bag of dribble packages to create for himself. He’s been very good around the rim, flicking scoop shots and maintaining good body control. He avoids offensive fouls when going downhill so frequently as well.
His three point shot is becoming more consistent. He started off strong from distance, hit a slump, and is now back up to 34% on the season. I believe he can get that up to 40% when he starts to hit his best years.
His FG% has climbed to 47%, a slight drop from his rookie season. But keep in mind he’s been the number one scorer for OKC, so he is carrying more of an offensive load. It’s good to see he is not cracking with the extra reps on him.
Lastly, one area that he has greatly improved is his rebounding. He has more than doubled his output per night from his rookie year, going from 2.8 boards to 6.1. His focus on the glass has helped OKC get out in transition.
There are a few negatives that stick out, but they can be fixed with game experience. They might not correct, though, by the time SGA is a final product.
First: Passing. Is SGA talented enough to be a point guard in the future? Most certainly! But is his vision and playmaking strong enough to move him from shooting guard to point guard in the future? The verdict is still out.
If/when Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder are traded, there will be a hole at the point guard position. SGA is expected to step up and fill that role as part of OKC’s plan. But with him playing so well at shooting guard, it could be possible he stays there and OKC seeks out another true point guard.
Secondly: Although we have seen strides of this getting better, he still struggles on defense at times. Bigger point guards can get position on him and faster point guards can get him off balance. As time goes on he should get smarter and learn techniques to defend more effectively.
The great thing about both of these weaknesses at the moment is that Paul is on the roster. Not many players know how to pass like CP3, and there are few who know how to defend as smartly as Paul does. He will be a huge asset in determining what SGA becomes.
Mid-Season Grade: A-
It would be easy to give SGA an A+ and say he’s exceeded expectations. But there is always room for growth. The jury is still out on him becoming more aggressive and trying to seize the future point guard position.
With that being said, he is playing at a future All-NBA level. He is growing his game in front of our eyes and he is so, so young. OKC got a really special player and an abundance of picks. Life is pretty good in the 405.