Not much more was asked for from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the fifth year of his NBA career. His scoring was undeniably superb. His leadership was felt across the team. His formidable defense was buried under his other elite aspects. His value to the OKC Thunder’s future was even more emphasized.
This season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 31 points, five rebounds, and six assists, alongside nearly two steals and a block in 68 games played. His shooting splits were somewhat absurd, tallying 51 percent on field goals, 35 percent on threes, and 91 percent on free throws. He finished the season with an impressive 63 percent true shooting rate.
The OKC Thunder have seen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander take a massive leap this season.
The Numbers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would have made the MVP conversations on any other season in history. He joined the 2015-2016 Stephen Curry as the only player to average 30+ points, 50+ percent field goal shooting, and 90 percent on free throws in a single season. For context, that was the season Curry bagged the only unanimous MVP nod in league history.
With those numbers at just 24 years old, he also became the youngest guard to average 30+ PPG and 50+ from the floor since Michael Jordan in 1988.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring prowess was an unbridled constant of his season. He was fourth on points-per-game, and finished with the most 30-point games in the season with 45, which was the most 30-point games by a Thunder player since the MVP season of Kevin Durant.
This efficient tally on the offensive end can be attributed to his improved shot selection and incredible finesse on the floor. Only about 12 percent of his shots came from the three-point range this season, down from 27 percent in his first three years with the Thunder. He turned most of those attempts into drives, leading the league on them, while generating about 28 percent of his attempts in the restricted area.
Those drives have snagged 322 shooting fouls for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this season, allowing him to shoot more free throws and lead the NBA on foul shots made with 669. He shot six or more free throws in all but eight games this season.
His offensive pedigree was the key cog to OKC’s offensive machinery, which hovered around top-10 offense on some stretches before settling in at the 16th best offensive rating this season. His true shooting rates — .62.3 in November, .62 in December, .65 in January, .61 in February, and .63 in March — never waned under elites’ benchmark of 60 percent throughout the season.
His remarkable season netted him his first All-Star appearance and first postseason ticket in three years. SGA performed emphatically in their first play-in game versus the New Orleans Pelicans, dropping 32 points (25 in the second half), while holding the ninth seed Pels to 4-of-19 from the field and 1-of-9 from the three when he was the primary defender, according to ESPN.
That two-way brilliance epitomized his value outside of his offensive production across the season. He led the league on stocks (steals plus blocks) this season, and finished behind Derrick White on most blocks by a guard. Opponents shot 46 percent when he was their primary defender across all games. SGA was also ranked second on deflections per game.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s incredible leap this year was one of the best storylines for the OKC Thunder. His jump not only put his name on All-NBA conversations, but also lifted the Thunder to new heights.
This season proved SGA’s rightful bill as the cornerstone of this OKC resurgence. His overall performance is a bright representation of what shall be in store for the Thunder in the future. Time can only tell what Gilgeous-Alexander will accomplish when the Thunder reaches its ceiling.