Is Drake recruiting OKC Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) drives to the basket as OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2): Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) drives to the basket as OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2): Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

As the superstar of the OKC Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is in a precarious position. He has to navigate being the club’s leader with the patience required to wait for the team to rebuild its core.

Unlike the big market teams in New York and LA, the Thunder simply doesn’t have the ability to draw in big-name free agents which makes it necessary to rebuild through the draft and timely key trades.

Sam Presti has demonstrated true prowess in the draft and has a strong record in trades. The most recent deal was cited as being more about getting further below the luxury tax but it also felt like a move to open roster spots or in this case likely one spot.

Theo Maledon and Ty Jerome were the key players exiting in the deal and it’s not that difficult to ascertain the thinking behind the move.  Maledon never took the step the team hoped he would when drafted while Jerome was a reliable bench player.

Both guards, however, were blocking minutes for others – – specifically Aaron Wiggins who demonstrated more in his rookie season than Maledon did in his two seasons with the club.

Clearly, the main minutes at guard are owned by SGA, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort and now Wiggins will also get more opportunity.

The path to rebuilding the OKC Thunder for the future is a process to draw from a Hinkie expression but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy situation, particularly for SGA.

Raptors ambassador Drake hints of interest in OKC Thunder star SGA

He’s locked in with the team and dedicated to Oklahoma City but how long will he be comfortable with losing? The past two seasons he had injuries that kept him off the court in the latter half of the season and while he obviously was nursing injuries you have to wonder if the team was vying for a playoff seed if he’d have sat all those games.

It’s a catch-22 for SGA because he wants the team to nab prime draft position so the team can improve. But, by missing so many games will GMs around the league start looking at the young star as being injury prone? Moreover, is his value diminishing at all in the front office minds because he’s not playing on a playoff team beside other superstars?

At least one team isn’t concerned about those factors  — his hometown Toronto Raptors.  Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster are said to be keeping a close eye on the Hamilton native.

On top of that, they have fewer concerns about SGA’s ability given he played on the Canadian National Team this summer and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is also the coach of that squad. Nurse offered effusive praise about SGA.  The coach is also a huge fan of defensive star Lu Dort who didn’t play this summer due to injury but factored large last offseason for the Canucks.

While the Thunder were earmarked by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton to win approximately 27 games this coming season the Raptors in contrast are projected to win 47.4 games and finish with a home-court seed.

Although SGA says he’s content to await the rebuild and doesn’t envision it taking forever there may come a point in time where either the Raptors make an offer Sam Presti can’t refuse or SGA gets annoyed with the process.

Although the rumor mill never stops there are two things I’ll point to in regards to this situation that aren’t typical for the Raptors. First, there are only a handful of teams in the association that don’t leak information or talk about company business. The OKC Thunder and Raptors are two of those clubs.

A great example of this is during the NBA Draft notice how Woj doesn’t have the Toronto pick until available to preempt the podium. At best, he gets the pick a mere second or two before Adam Silver hits the stage whereas his other tweets are up typically the moment the next team is on the clock.

So the fact Josh Lewenberg was told the team is keeping an eye on SGA is as close to the Raptors proclaiming their intentions to eventually bring him to Toronto. It’s the first time I recall the front office being that demonstrative about their desires publicly.

The second factor was star Drake who is the Raptors’ official ambassador getting in on the action. Drake seldom pitches publicly or tries to recruit but he posted a picture of SGA in his Canadian uniform on his Instagram story the same day as Lewenberg’s article.

In 2014, the Raptors were fined $25k because Drake tried to recruit Kevin Durant to the team (KD was attending a concert by the rapper at that time).

This situation shouldn’t fall under the same category since Drake’s Instagram post was rather innocuous – just SGA in his Team Canada jersey.

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