Though the OKC Thunder may not be anything close to “title-favorites” this year, they do have a solid building block that B/R is high on moving forward.
After making the postseason in 10 of the past 11 years, Sam Presti and co. have decided to call the impressive streak quits and, instead, help guide the OKC Thunder on the road to a rebuild.
Off to a great start, Oklahoma City holds the rights to a bevy of draft assets over the next several seasons with the hopes of landing themselves into the top-3 with their own pick as soon as 2021.
Not only this, but the franchise seems to be ahead of the game in terms of the state of their current roster, as it appears they already have their building block in place in third-year wing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Breaking onto the scene last season after being acquired by the franchise in the Paul George deal, the 22-year-old posted impressive averages of 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from deep.
Now, heading into 2020-21, SGA is tabbed as top-dog in the lineup and believes he’s worthy of such a role, saying:
“Obviously, it’s something that I’m excited about and I think I’ve worked hard enough to deserve that responsibility and trust from Sam and the rest of the front office…”
These big words come with big expectations and, according to Bleacher Report, it appears they too believe in the potential of the young baller.
In a recent article penned by Dan Favale predicting the top 25 guards this season, B/R went on to rank Gilgeous-Alexander 19th on their list, placing him ahead of numerous All-Stars such as D’Angelo Russell, Victor Oladipo — a player we believe he should mold his game after –, and Kemba Walker.
Favale cited his production from last season as well as his new-found opportunity as OKC’s top option as two of the biggest reasons behind his rank, while going as far as to say he could wind up developing into an All-NBA player at some point in his career:
His in-between game has come along quite nicely. He has added more shifts in pace and in-and-out dribbles to his toolbox and seems more comfortable finishing through contact even though his accuracy around the rim dipped. Another free-throw spike feels inevitable given the body and ball control on his sudden changes in direction.
Whether Gilgeous-Alexander can power an offense as both scorer and facilitator remains to be seen. The Thunder ranked in the 9th percentile of points scored per 100 possessions during the time he logged without Chris Paul, and those minutes are now both the status quo and harder to navigate.
The calm he displays out of the pick-and-roll bodes well, but Oklahoma City needs him to increase the frequency with which he table-sets out of traffic. If he partners that with a healthier clip on pull-up threes, all while shouldering tougher defensive assignments this year, the Thunder will have an All-NBA linchpin on their hands.
While it is still an unknown as to how Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will fair in his new role, based on what we’ve already seen from him and what we’re hearing this offseason, the potential is there for him to be the long term franchise staple this OKC Thunder team would love to have in place moving forward.