This has been an electric year for Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. From leading the offense to conquering the lane, his game has become more polished.
“I think we had fun this year, I suppose thats the point. So we got closer on and off the court, excited for the future of this team for sure,” Gilegous-Alexander said in his exit interview.
Despite Oklahoma City’s 24-58 record, Gilgeous-Alexander maintained a positive attitude throughout the season. According to his teammates, staying upbeat seemingly comes naturally to him.
Darius Bazley gave an insight to Gilgeous-Alexander’s true self during his exit interview,”I started smiling when you mentioned his name because Shai the person is like he’s just a joy to be around you know what I mean…”
“…like there’s never I’ve never seen Shai like, mad or not in a good mood. Like he’s always smiling, laughing and I think he’s you know, just becoming a better leader.”
This season was not only ups for this offensive machine, as he incurred a right ankle injury that stunted his season. His month on the bench allowed for the rise of Josh Giddey who became the youngest player NBA history to record a triple double.
After witnessing Giddey effortlessly spearhead the offense alone, it seemed as though OKC’s plans shifted and Giddey was to become the primary creator. This created some uneasiness between the two guards as Gilgeous-Alexander had gotten accustomed to being the main attraction. Yet it was evident that Giddey had a better eye for threading passes through traffic.
“Its something obviously still not my plan A. It’s something I have to sacrifice to be a really good team,” Gilgeous-Alexander after Giddey became the primary creator for the offense.
After this change, the two had a meeting with Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault to discuss ways to make the offense flow smoother.
Giddey spoke a little bit about the meeting during his exit interview,”It was nothing too, too over the top was more just little things, what we can do to make each other better. We’re both obviously better with the ball in our hands. It’s not a secret…”
“…But finding ways to impact off the ball, whether that’s cutting, screening, whatever it may be. So I think that being said, it was evident we really started to figure it out and I think going forward it’s only going to get better.”
Watching these two work in a symbiotic relationship in their contest against Phoenix allowed everyone to see the true potential of this duo. That night Gilgeous-Alexander went 13-of-22 from the floor and scored 32 points. Giddey finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and even two steals.
During his exit interview, Gilgeous-Alexander likened himself and Giddey to other top tandems in the league.
“I think you see guys in the NBA, Stephen (Curry) and Draymond (Green), Damian Willard and CJ (McCollum) at one point. I think like tandems are really hard to guard in the NBA, obviously, and both of those examples I gave you have been together for a very long time…
“It takes time to be that good. I think the earlier me and Josh attack it, the better we will be and the better the team will be.”
Clearly Gilgeous-Alexander has high expectations for what kind of a dynamic duo himself and Giddey can become.
Unfortunately this show was one-night only as Giddey became injured and did not suit up for the remainder of the season.
In Gilegous-Alexander’s post-injury stretch he was truly torching everyone in his wake. With a single spotlight shining on Gilgeous-Alexander, he scored above 30 points in ten of his last 13 games.
Despite his high offensive production there is a part of his game that should be honed in on this summer: perimeter shooting.
Gilegous-Alexander said his plans for the summer were to,”continue to work on shooting, I want to be a better shooter. You can always get stronger. But I say for me its working on leadership, including the guys in my summer a little bit. Making sure we’re still a close knit group throughout the summer.”
For Gilgeous-Alexander to place a focus on leading the group even in the off-season is so key to the Thunder’s overall plan. Keeping this unit cohesive throughout the summer will allow this squad to have more synergy on the court next season.
That being said, Gilgeous-Alexander honing in on his three-point shooting during the off-season is vital.
If Gilgeous-Alexander improves his efficiency from behind the arc, he will be even more impossible to guard. Yet according to Gilgeous-Alexander, not even Lu Dort (one of the league’s strongest defenders) can stop him.
“He can guard anybody but he can’t guard me,” Gilgeous-Alexander ‘jokingly’ said during his exit interview.
There is one thing that won’t be a part of Gilgeous-Alexander’s summer plans though and surprisingly its the NBA draft.
“I don’t like consume my time with it for real, just like when I’m bored I’ll look at stuff like that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “But I think as you can see, our guys do a great job of that. All of our rookies were amazing this year, gave great minutes.”
If anything this just shows Gilgeous-Alexander’s trust in Sam Presti and the front office to do their due diligence. After Presti pulled through drafting the 2021 rookie class, trusting his eye for talent will not be difficult for Gilgeous-Alexander.
His faith in the front office extends past the draft and towards the long-term future for the Thunder.
In his exit interview Gilgeous-Alexander stated,”It says a lot about having trust and being able to trust in this business. I think like you understand myself and of course Mark (Daigneault), we have that trust in each other and I can’t go into details but we’re very excited.”
Gilgeous-Alexander certainly talked the talk, but we’ll see if he can walk the walk once training camp rolls around.