ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 05: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks … [+]
Entering this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder seemingly had few ways of taking a big step forward. Many thought their primary approach to improving year-over-year was on the shoulders of Chet Holmgren, who was chosen No. 2 overall.
Nevertheless, Thunder GM Sam Presti was on the record multiple times indicating that this team would improve most through their non-rookie players making a jump, even before Holmgren went down for the season with a foot injury.
“The advance from our team [next season] will come from the present players,” said Presti on the close of the 2021-22 season.
He was absolutely right, because the Thunder are a way more complete team this season, headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Oklahoma City is now 13-18 on the season and still firmly within the play-in race at this point.
Gilgeous-Alexander is the betting favorite to win the The George Mikan Trophy, which is awarded to the NBA’s most improved player. In actual fact, he’s playing so well that he’s on pace to earn several honors.
Through the primary two months of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is already entering the territory of being a lock to make the NBA All-Star Team. From there, earning a spot on the All-NBA team is a much more difficult task, as only six guards across all the league can earn these honors. With that in mind, the numbers Gilgeous-Alexander is putting up would indicate he’s well on his way. He’s averaging greater than 30 points per game this season, and has scored the third-most points of any player within the NBA.
When looking back on the past 25 years, averaging 30 points per contest almost all the time gets a player on an All-NBA team.
The one player to average no less than 30 points for a whole season and never earn these honors was Bradley Beal within the 2020-21 campaign. Consider, this was the season that was placed on pause in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it much more of a singular outlier. Moreover, Beal was next on the list for guards in voting to earn an All-NBA team, meaning he would have been the subsequent player at that position to make it in.
While the NBA has modified over the past 20 years because the pace of play has increased and it’s easier to attain points, history still tells us that Gilgeous-Alexander is tracking to make one in every of these three teams.
Not only is he averaging nearly 32 points per game, however the Thunder are winning more games than expected. Gilgeous-Alexander has put together multiple statement moments, not only converting on two game-winners, but in addition sending one other pair of games to extra time on last second shots.
He’s also the league leader in total clutch points, all the time making huge plays down the stretch. As such, he’s within the running for the Jerry West Trophy, which can be given to the player voted as essentially the most clutch player within the league this season.
From there, the Thunder star can be in the highest 12 of MVP projections. While that award is probably going out of reach, even being within the conversation speaks volumes.
There’s still over half of a season to be played, but as of today Gilgeous-Alexander could have essentially the most decorated yr of his profession. Between making his first All-Star team, having a run at an All-NBA team, earning most improved player honors and potentially being voted essentially the most clutch player, the longer term of the franchise in Oklahoma City looks shiny.
If Gilgeous-Alexander can proceed this level of play for the remaining of the season, he’ll no doubt be referred to as top-of-the-line players in all the NBA at just 24 years old.