Post-ASB, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is still a star

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander epitomizes a superstar, a franchise cornerstone, and a needle-mover. However, he has been hampered by injuries — abdominal strain, plantar fasciitis, among others — in his young career. Playing through those is a litmus test for any superstar in the NBA — more so for an emerging 24-year-old. So far, he has passed the test with flying colors.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 33 points per contest in his last 10 games. It was as if SGA never was sidelined prior to that stretch as he had an abdominal strain last February before the OKC Thunder decided to have him on injury management that prevented him from playing back-to-backs.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to look like a star after the All-Star break, solidifying his All-NBA spot.

His pain was sometimes evident still, but his offensive barrage has never relented, even dropping a 40-piece in the Thunder’s 124-120 win against the Phoenix Suns last week, before proceeding to post 31, 30, 27, and 31, respectively in this week’s west coast trip.

In spite of missing some time, Gilgeous-Alexander is still in the running for most 30-point games this season as he trails Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic by just one game, having 42 throughout the season.

Watching him would give one a clue he is enduring aches — as he winces and grimaces on most drives to the paint — but one cannot really tell looking at the boxscores after every game.

SGA abused defenders through his quirkiness on drives to the paint, where most of his baskets came from. His drives have seen a slight dip in volume, though, dropping from a league-leading 24 drives per game last month to just 22 in his last 10 games.

When he slithers through the first-line of defense, one of two things mostly happens: a basket, or a foul. If SGA’s relentlessness proved to be too much, the best of both occurs.

He continues to be lethal when defenses put him on an island. As the team’s offensive linchpin, SGA’s isolations remain elite at 1.05 points-per-possession (PPP) on the second-highest volume in the league at six per game.

This style of play surely takes a toll on Shai’s body. But one cannot deny how important he is for the Thunder’s postseason hopes.

OKC was 2-5 when SGA sat out due to injury and 7-3 when he was able to play.

His resilience when faced with injury has proven to be extremely high. Gilgeous-Alexander’s buoyancy in the offensive has made the Thunder’s play-in and playoff hopes well and alive.

Time can only tell the likelihood of his game towing the Thunder to some postseason success. But one thing is for sure: OKC has a stalwart of a foundation in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

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