3 Thunder players who are underperforming, 4 exceeding expectations at the All-Star break

Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is exceeding expectations

The expectations for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander coming into the season were quite high after a breakout 2022-23 season. He had the seventh-best odds to win MVP, the Thunder were expected to challenge for the Top-6 berth in the Western Conference playoffs, and a repeat placement on an All-NBA team was in the cards.

Even with such a high bar, SGA has cleared it and then some. He is neck-and-neck with Nikola Jokic as the current MVP favorite, the Thunder could finish with the best record in the Western Conference, and he is a lock for First Team All-NBA.

Offensively, Gilgeous-Alexander has improved as a shooter, hitting 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers (most self-created) and also shooting a career-best 58 percent from inside the arc, basting opponents from the midrange. He has better teammates on the other end of his passes to knock down shots, but to his credit he has also cut down on his turnovers.

The most surprising step forward, however, has been on the defensive end. He is thriving in the Thunder's defensive scheme and with a rim protector like Chet Holmgren behind him. SGA leads the league in steals per game (and it's not close) with 2.2 per game, and the Thunder are a better defense with him on the court than off.

To win in the playoffs you need to be good on both ends of the court, with star players versatile enough to play different lineups and in different ways, and your best player needs to be a Top 10 guy. The Thunder have all of those pieces, and even if some players on the roster have room to improve, there are enough guys showing out to make OKC a dangerous team coming out of the All-Star Break.

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