NBA Scout Speaks On Hot Start For Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

The 2022-23 NBA season started just like the last few have for the Oklahoma City Thunder; they were losing games at a rapid pace. The season started 0-3, but something has clicked recently as they are currently riding a four-game winning streak. A big reason for that has been the performance of guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Gilgeous-Alexander is putting up some eye-popping statistics in the early going of the season. He is averaging 32.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists to go along with 2.4 steals and 1.1 blocks in 35.9 minutes per game. It’s not surprising that their most lopsided loss of the season came in the matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves in which he sat out.

As one NBA scout that spoke to NBA Analysis Network pointed out, Gilgeous-Alexander is finding success as he is living in the paint.

“SGA has done a lot of damage attacking the paint. He’s tough to handle. He has a quick first step and can get by most defenders. He’s got great size and is crafty with his handle, so even if you do contain that initial attack, he’s going to counter you and basically use contact against you. …

“He’s impressive with his ability to change speeds and read the defense. If help comes his way, he’s going to make the right play. … He’s become a technician with his short-range pull-up. That makes for a tough combination to account for. Can you gap up against him and risk leaving someone open? That’s probably the best play right now until the Thunder surround him with more shooting. But regardless, it’s tough to stop.”

LATEST NBA NEWS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander & Oklahoma City Thunder Updates

His efficiency has been off the charts, as he is shooting 54.5 percent overall from the field despite making only 31.8 percent of his 3-pointers in the early going. He is making up for the shooting woes at the foul line, where he is 51-of-52 on the season.

The 3-point shooting woes have only begun since last season, as he was a 41.8 percent shooter during the 2019-20 campaign and knocked down and 35.4 percent in his first two seasons in the NBA combined.

“When he starts getting the 3s to drop off the dribble at a higher clip like he has in the past, he’s going to be incredibly challenging to contain. He already is getting into the paint more than anyone else in the league. When the defender has no choice but to press up even more, he’s going to take advantage even more getting downhill.”

LATEST NBA NEWS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander & Oklahoma City Thunder Updates

This is still a roster in transition, but the talent level is beginning to tick up. Oklahoma City signed Kenrich Williams and Lu Dort to an extension this past offseason and selected Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Holmgren is going to be sidelined for the season with a Lisfranc foot injury, but is another talented player to build around.

“I like what the Thunder have done defensively. SGA has become an impressive defensive playmaker and he competes when guarding the ball. With Lu Dort next to him, they have a lot of size and length at the point of attack — making it tough for the offense to operate comfortably. … With Chet Holmgren out, they don’t have a traditional rim protector available, but they have a lot of switchable defenders in their unit with size and athleticism. … It could get pretty impressive when Holmgren is in the lineup. They’re developing nicely until that happens.”

LATEST NBA NEWS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander & Oklahoma City Thunder Updates

They are showing signs of life this season as Mark Daigneault is doing a good job of getting the most out of his squad. Right now, the Thunder are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, allowing a defensive rating of 108.3, which is 8th in the league.

If that continues, the Thunder are going to be able to win plenty of games this season relying on their stingy defense as their offense is still near the bottom of the league, ranking 25th in Offensive Rating.