Every year, media outlets release their top lists for various sports, but the NBA conversation undoubtedly dominates them all. Everyone wants to debate who the top players in the NBA are.
Unfortunately, this is usually a one-sided debate based on the latest trend in the league: offense.
CBS Sports recently released their list of the top 20 players in the NBA, and, like most other “top player” lists, well-rounded basketball players were overlooked.
One top player I’ve chosen to highlight is Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is a better basketball player than his 2018 draft mate Luka Dončić, and it’s not particularly close on one end of the floor.
“The Canadians enter this tournament arguably with the single best player in the entire field in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander,” Bontemps said. “He’s as good or better than Luka Doncic and anybody the American team has.”Tim Bontemps
Direct evidence of this claim comes from the FIBA Men’s World Cup matchup between Canada and Serbia, where SGA led Canada to a win over Serbia while recording efficient numbers on both ends of the court and conquering the pressure. Meanwhile, Doncic was inefficient from the floor, ineffective on defense, and succumbed to the pressure, losing his cool and getting ejected from a pivotal game.
SGA vs. Doncic head-to-head in FIBA World Cup
This isn’t a fluke either. Looking at their season stats, when considering all-around numbers and their impact on the game, Shai still holds the edge. Doncic is just the trendy pick for the time being.
SGA’s 2022-23 season stats: 31.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.5 rebounds on 51% shooting, 34.5% from 3, and 90.5% from the free throw line.
Luka’s 2022-23 season stats: 32.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 8.0 rebounds, on 49.6% shooting, 33.8% from 3, and 74.2% from the free throw line.
Gilgeous-Alexander had 11.4 win shares (5th) in 2022-23 while Doncic 10.2 (7th).
Based on the above information, Doncic boasts a more impressive offensive stat line than SGA on the surface, although he’s not as efficient. That’s where most people’s opinions rest.
Who’s including the other side of basketball? Defense is half of the game!
For those who still value defense in the league, SGA displays far more two-way prowess than Doncic. Gilgeous-Alexander ranks 38th in blocks at 1.0 per game, which is first among guards. He also ranks seventh in steals with 1.6 per game. His on-ball defense is well above average, while Doncic’s name doesn’t appear in the top 50 of any of the major defensive statistics outside of defensive rebounds, where he ranks ninth at 7.8 per game.
Doncic is undoubtedly a top 10 player in the league, but after comparing both, it’s absurd not to have SGA in the top 10 as well, slightly above Doncic.