Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already looking like the next star point guard
A new era has begun for the Oklahoma City Thunder and it may feature Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becoming their next star point guard.
The rookie season that Alexander provided the Los Angeles Clippers established a strong foundation for his NBA career. He managed to average 10.8 points. 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.5 minutes per game. This season will be about shouldering a heavier load while maintaining respectable efficiency.
Between standing at 6’6″ and possessing a 6’11” wingspan, Gilgeous-Alexander has great size and length to disrupt opposing guards on defense. This allows him to play at either guard position with effectiveness and will be important when playing alongside Chris Paul for however long he remains with the Thunder.
During Gilgeous-Alexander’s preseason debut for the Thunder against the Dallas Mavericks, he managed to score an efficient 24 points while making four jumpers from beyond the arc. While the jump shooting impact that he provided was intriguing in itself, he drove and finished at the basket with ease.
The impressive play from Gilgeous-Alexander has already caught the attention of fellow Paul. During a recent conversation with Erik Horne of The Oklahoman, Paul noted that he is impressed with Gilgeous-Alexander’s ability to break down the defense off the dribble.
“Shai can really shoot it, but having the ability to shoot it and break down the defense, it makes him that much more dangerous,” Paul said. “The good thing about Shai is if he misses a couple he doesn’t shy away from the next shot. That’s what’s going to make him tough for a long time to come.”
Whether improvement in Gilgeous-Alexander’s jump shooting sustains or not remains to be seen. Regardless, his ability to use his explosiveness, size, and length on drives to the basket will enable him to provide the Thunder with an impressive secondary lane penetration threat while playing off and learning from Paul.
Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that Gilgeous-Alexander is only 21-years-old given how under control he is with the ball in his hands. That’s something that fellow Thunder teammate Abdel Nader mentioned about Alexander during a recent conversation with Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.
“Extremely crafty and smooth is the perfect way to describe it,” Nader said. “He’s like slithery, thin, gets through every little gap.
“I think he’s a little stronger than he looks. He’s only like, what, 20 years old? He’ll get stronger as he works and develops that man strength as he gets older.”
Many have discounted this current Thunder team after they traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Considering OKC will still have veteran contributors like Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams, the Thunder could compete for a playoff spot, but will require a strong season from Gilgeous-Alexander.
If the Thunder manage to receive a stout impact from Gilgeous-Alexander, don’t be surprised if they are one of those teams that overachieve.