Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is counting on the door to stardom, and once the Oklahoma City Thunder are a 50-win team — which could very well happen by next season — that door will likely open.
It’s hard to know where to start with the superlatives when it comes to the 24-year-old’s output. Not only were his raw numbers of 31.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists as high as you get among the elite, but Gilgios Alexander was also very effective.
Despite being a somewhat reluctant three-point shooter, attempting only 2.5 of them per game, the All-NBA first team player knew he could simply reach the edge, or almost anywhere, whenever he wanted. Taking advantage of his ability to finish the ball around the basket to get to the line, he hits a whopping 10.9 free throws per game, hitting 90.5% of them.
To put his free throw proficiency into perspective, Gilgeous-Alexander has missed a total of 70 free throws all season, an absurdly low number for someone with a backing of this kind.
The All-Star guard was also effective in other areas, hitting nearly 68% from near the rim, and more than 45% from between 3-16 feet. He has evolved into one of the most dangerous shot hunters on the planet, relentlessly searching defenses for gaps and cracks to exploit, rarely missing his salvo.
As for the Thunder, they finished with 40 wins on the season, due in large part to the play of Gilgeous-Alexander, who was also one of the most reliable defenders aside from being the team’s best offensive player. His 6’6 frame and ability to change direction allow him to stick to ball coaches, battle quickly across screens, and transform into larger players when needed.
While Thunder has seen a few of their youngsters develop, some faster than others, it’s no surprise that the organization is taking steps in the right direction. But Gilgos Alexander remains Snakehead, and a sinister one at that. He has also played a vital role in the development of Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, simply by being able to handle such a high amount of responsibility offensively. This meant less pressure for these guys to produce right away, allowing them to develop at a pace that was comfortable for them.
Next year, they will be joined by Chet Holmgren and whoever the Thunder picks in the draft in June, as trade-offs should not be ruled out due to the treasure chest of draft picks they have at their disposal in the coming years.
Predictions will start coming soon. Increasingly, young players and Gilgios Alexander were doing better.
Is it fair to expect the Thunder to make the Western Conference playoffs next season? Given how close they are this year, and provided they return with an improved roster, one could make the argument that not making the playoffs next season could be seen as a failure. Especially if Gilgeous-Alexander stays healthy all year round.
This is the price of playing basketball of this caliber. Being a 30-point two-way player who can become a future MVP candidate comes with more expectations. no escape. With the Thunder seeking to turn future assets into players on a similar Gilgeous-Alexander schedule, it’s only a matter of time before they’re mentioned at the same time as Memphis and New Orleans, two of the most discussed young teams in the West in recent years.
Fortunately, Gilgeous-Alexander appears to be up to the task. He’s spent the vast majority of his NBA career under the constraints of the rebuilding process, and as he enters his 25th season, now is the time to turn all of those long-term visions into reality.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are across NBA.comAnd PBPStatsAnd cleaning the glasses or Reference basketball. All salary information via crook. All odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook.