After a promising rookie campaign with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018-19, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s progression has been on an upward trajectory ever since. Last season, in his second season in the association and his second with the Thunder, Gilgeous-Alexander leaped in his production with the Point God’s mentorship, Chris Paul. This season, he’s turned into an All-Star caliber player on a depleted Thunder roster.
All-Star caliber doesn’t mean NBA All-Star, though. He’s not going to be an All-Star this season, snapping OKC’s franchise record of having an All-star on their roster for 11 consecutive seasons. But will there be one year between the streak ending and a new one beginning? It depends on whether or not the 22-year-old, third-year player will take another leap next season, or if this is his ceiling.
Last season alongside Chris Paul, SGA averaged 19.0 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting, 34.7 percent from 3, dished out 3.3 assists, and pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game in 34.7 minutes. This season, Shai’s totals have blossomed while playing slightly less. In 33.7 minutes, SGA averages 22.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game on 56.3 percent shooting and 38.3 percent from 3.
Shai is one of the most efficient point guards in the NBA. He ranks seventh among guards in the NBA in field goal percentage and first among guards under 24 years old. He’s also 25th in the league in scoring while ranking 56th in attempts, reflecting on his efficiency.
However, with the NBA All-Star selection ultimately being a popularity contest, mixed with who’s on the hottest teams and who averages the most points, basically, the ‘who’s the loudest in the room’ mentality, Shai could be a year or two removed from his first All-Star game.
While I believe he’s one of the NBA’s better players, it’s hard to put him over the guards above him in the Western Conference. Names like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, and Devin Booker are a noticeable step up from where SGA is right now. The other two guards, Ja Morant and Chris Paul, who were ranked above Shai in the All-Star voting, are debatable.
My classification of NBA talent is as follows:
Tier 1: Superstar.
Tier 2: All-Star.
Tier 3: Budding All-Star/Consistent scorer.
Tier 4: Solid player.
Tier 5: Bench player, rotational piece.
Shai is sitting solidly as a Tier 3 player but is transitioning into a Tier 2 player as this season progresses. The second half of this season, into the first half of next, will be very telling.
Regardless of how the Thunder play, I expect SGA to inch up closer to the top five in All-Star voting for the Western Conference next season. While it’s to be determined whether or not LeBron James will draft Shai as a reserve this season, extending OKC’s All-Star streak to 12 consecutive seasons in potentially their worst year as a franchise, he’ll undoubtedly be a star in this league. He’s regarded as one of the premier players in the 19-23 age group.
Since the voting is based on popularity and considering SGA’s stature in the sports fashion industry, already regarded as one of the freshest players in all sports, his popularity among fans will only increase as time progresses.
The point is, the future remains bright for OKC’s new franchise player.