OKC Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs to pass more in the paint

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder shoots the ball against the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder shoots the ball against the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder hit the motherload in the Paul George trade. They have a record number of first-round picks, Danilo Gallinari, and they secured the future of the franchise with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The OKC Thunder has been incredible this season. They are sitting in the sixth seed in the Western Conference and have the second-best record in the NBA since Thanksgiving. A large portion of the credit for this can be given to second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Canadian has been a revelation this season. He is averaging 19.3 points per game which is an increase of 8.5 per game on his rookie year with the LA Clippers. On top of that, his rebounds per game have gone up from 2.8 to 6.1. This is quite the jump from year one to two.

It is easy to see why Clippers coach Doc Rivers was upset to be losing Gilgeous-Alexander, but as they say, it is the cost of doing business. Gilgeous-Alexander has fit into the OKC Thunder style of play so seamlessly it is like he has been there for years.

It does not hurt to have the best mentor in the game, Chris Paul, there to help improve his play. Despite the age gap, they do everything together. Gilgeous-Alexander is reportedly a sponge for information, so he is learning.

Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to heat up, even after a very quiet start to any game. His driving game allows him to find cracks in the defense and he has the ability to spin the ball every which way of the backboard in order to score. However, if he tweaked his paint passing game, this would make him even harder to guard.

Close in paint passing.

As mentioned earlier, Gilgeous-Alexander can find cracks in most defensive setups. His ability to finish with both hands helps him to score where others could not. However, with the level of professionalism in the NBA, it will only be a matter of time before someone works out how to stop him.

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If you shoot the ball most of the time you make it into the paint, you become predictable. As Michael Cage says, never give the opposition a steady diet of anything. Gilgeous-Alexander takes enough 3-points attempts to put question into his defender’s minds as to what he will do on the perimeter.

If Gilgeous-Alexander was to apply the same principles to his driving game where he passed often enough, he would be impossible to guard. One example of where he was able to be stopped was in the game against the Denver Nuggets.

Gilgeous-Alexander stole the ball and had a two on one break with fellow guard Paul. The Nuggets defender was able to smother Gilgeous-Alexander as he knew the ball was not getting passed to Paul. Gilgeous-Alexander managed to collect the foul, making only one of the two free-throws.

If the pass of been made, this would have been an easy two for the OKC Thunder. Likewise, when Gilgeous-Alexander is in the half-court set, if he drops the pass off to a big in the paint, his defender would be unsure whether to guard the pass or shot.

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This is all part of his learning and if he has a full three years under the mentorship of Paul, who knows where his game will end up. He has helped make this team fun and will continue to do so in the future.