The OKC Thunder have a superstar on their hands in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the rest of the NBA is taking notice. Including, NBA Draft prospects who are searching for their ideal fit in the league.
The NBA media was allowed to talk with Texas big man Kai Jones on Friday, and without being prompted by an OKC media member, Jones name-dropped SGA as a player that can help him grow and reach his full potential.
OKC Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a rising star that players want to play with
SGA had an incredible season for the OKC Thunder a year ago. One that put him on an All-Star trajectory and would’ve garnered more Most Improved Player votes had he been able to compete in more than just 35 of the team’s 72 games.
The third-year guard posted 23-points per game, six assists, nearly a steal and block per game, as well as almost five rebounds a tilt. The most impressive part? In his first year as a full-time point guard, the Kentucky product posted a 50/41/80 shooting split. Without his early free throw woes, the rising star would’ve closed in on the 50/40/90 club.
The Canadian has made quite the name for himself over the last few months. He has been tossed the keys to an NBA franchise and did not back down from the challenge. SGA represents the Russell Westbrook for the next generation of OKC Thunder fans if all goes well.
As he is in line for his rookie max extension in a little over a week, this offseason has been littered with poorly thought-out hypothetical trade articles that include SGA. While other outlets try to rip Shai Gilgeous-Alexander away from the OKC Thunder, Sam Presti and company have a player on their hands that others want to play with.
Kai Jones says he thinks he fits all the qualities of a new age big. Says playing with guards like LaMelo or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would help a ton.
— Rylan Stiles (@Rylan_Stiles) July 23, 2021
Oklahoma City is in desperate need of a center, without a true five on the roster, that is a position Presti has to address via trade, free agency, or in the draft. Kai Jones should be a target for OKC. While they are too early in the rebuild to draft for positional need, Jones has the high ceiling the Thunder are looking for.
You might be asking yourself, why is it important that an incoming rookie name drops SGA, who cares? Sure, Kai Jones might not be the headline name you would like shouting out your superstar in a small market, but it is still important.
As this rebuild continues, eventually Sam Presti will cash in these picks for a disgruntled star. Most solidified NBA stars request a trade with a year or two left on their current deal. That is not a lot of time to work with for a small market team that struggles to sign stars.
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After trading five, six, seven, however many future first it will eventually take to land a superstar, the Thunder would prefer to re-sign said player. Just as they worked to re-sign Paul George after going all-in on a trade for the former-Pacers star.
That work can be made easier when you have a player that someone wants to play with. Paul George wanted to play with Russell Westbrook, and the eventual player will hopefully want to play with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
If the reputation of SGA making players better catches on around the league, it is an advantage that a small market desperately needs.