Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finishes runner-up for Most Improved Player

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

The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander take an absurd leap this season. The max contract point guard is living up to his five-year deal, becoming a 30 points per game scorer with elite efficiency, rim scoring, and defense—a rare feat for a superstar player to produce on both ends of the floor.

Coming into the season, the question among OKC Thunder fans and the national NBA audience was whether SGA could sustain his red-hot finish to the 2021-22 season. Post All-Star break, the Kentucky product posted 30 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per game while swiping nearly two steals and a block per tilt. His shooting splits were jaw-dropping, 54 percent from the floor, nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc, and 80 percent at the free throw line on eight attempts per contest.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, robbed of the Most Improved Player Award, finishes second to Utah Jazz All-Star Lauri Markkanen.

While that 13-game stretch was great, could Shai Gilgeous-Alexander do that throughout an entire season? Could he be an NBA All-Star? Is he even a number one, or will this top-five pick become the face of the franchise? These were all questions we had this time last year.

Fast forward to the present day, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played in 68 games, the third most in his career, to the tune of 31 points, nearly five rebounds, five assists, nearly two steals, and a block per tilt. In addition, getting to the free throw line 11 times per game while shooting 90 percent at the charity stripe allowed him to unlock a new scoring level. SGA shot 50 percent from the floor, including 34 percent from beyond the arc.

It was not just his elite rim finishing, turnaround mid-range buzzer beaters, and career-high 50 dunks that led the way for this superstar serge from Gilgeous-Alexander. It was the defense.

Synergy grades Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as an “Excellent” defender. He also ranks top three in the league in deflections and loose ball recoveries, all while carrying the load on the offensive end. That is an absurd motor and unreal production.

SGA was also the catalyst for a team that went from 24 wins to 40 victories this season — a 16-game improvement — to finish just two games below .500 and clinch a berth in the NBA postseason play-in tournament.

After winning one game, the team fell short in game two to end their season. However, if I told you all this would happen a year ago, you would first slap me and tell me to remove my Thunder-colored glasses.

He not only earned his first All-Star nod, but all signs also point to him being named to the first-team All-NBA list, on top of carrying this team to the postseason, being a leader on and off the floor, and declaring himself as the face of one of 30 NBA franchises.

Then, you would say there is no way he does not win Most Improved Player.

The leap from good to great is the hardest leap to make, but it is not always the leap this award rewards. Lauri Markannen going from a rotational player and questionable former-first rounder to a first-time All-Star after a change of scenery is more of a “spirit of the award” campaign.

Next. Full List of OKC Thunder Future NBA Draft Picks. dark