Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Should Be Nearly Untouchable In Trade Discussion

As we get closer to the 2021 NBA Draft and free agency shortly after, teams around the league continue to make more calls to gauge player availability in trades. While the Oklahoma City Thunder will be extremely active over the next few months leading up to the 2021-22 season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be nearly untouchable. 

Unless it’s a trade for a superstar in their early twenties like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson, it’s in the Thunder’s best interest to build around Gilgeous-Alexander. 

While Oklahoma City wasn’t on National television once last season, Gilgeous-Alexander put up extraordinary numbers without the exposure that other young stars receive. When stacking him up against his peers like Donovan Mitchell, Ja Morant, Devin Booker and Jamal Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander put up numbers just as good if not better while making as significant of an impact as any of them. 

Overall, the 23-year-old Canadian is the perfect modern NBA guard, making him even more valuable for a team like the Thunder. 

For starters, he’s got the size that every team craves in today’s NBA. At 6-foot-6, Gilgeous-Alexander can play three positions effectively on both ends of the floor. Whether he’s your primary ball handler at point guard or working off ball at shooting guard or small forward, he’s able to produce at a high level. 

Gilgeous-Alexander’s production isn’t something that can be taken lightly just because he played for a bad team in OKC. During the 2019-20 season, in which the Thunder went to the playoffs led by Chris Paul, the young guard led the team in scoring, was second in rebounding and third in assists at age 21. 

This past season, shouldering much more of a load on both ends of the floor, he flourished as the best player on an NBA team. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the season averaging 23.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per contest. 

While this is impressive for a guy who was 22 at the end of the season, what’s most promising is just how efficient he was. 

Not only was Gilgeous-Alexander a top-25 scorer in the NBA, but he was one of only four players who averaged 20+ points per game on 50/40/80 splits. He shot 50.8 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from three and 80.8 percent from the free throw line. 

The other three to accomplish this were Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zach LaVine. 

Only 21 players in the NBA last season that played at least 20 minutes per game shot a better percentage from beyond the arc than Gilgeous-Alexander. In fact, Steph Curry only shot 0.3 percent better from deep than him. 

Only 43 players averaged at least 20 points per game last season, six of which were 22 years old or younger, including Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s among the best players in the NBA regardless of age, but certainly one of the best young players. 

“All I know is I coach the Thunder, and a lot of nights I walk away thinking we had the best player on the court,” said Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault about his young star last season. 

Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the craftiest players in the league, scoring effectively from anywhere. He doesn’t have top-level athleticism or explosiveness, but is still extremely difficult to defend. Last season he was among the top isolation scorers in the league, leading the NBA in several unassisted point categories. 

Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t need to score to impact the team, as he is an excellent facilitator and passer as well as rebounder. He was among just 21 players who averaged at least 5.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per contest last season. Among these 21 players, he was the second youngest to accomplish this behind Luka Doncic. 

Defensively, Gilgeous-Alexander has shown flashes of greatness as well. Using his length, he’s able to defend a handful of positions while also deflecting passes and contesting shots. As he continues to improve on that end of the floor and become a legitimate two-way player, his value as a player only improves. With everything he’s able to do, Gilgeous-Alexander’s ceiling has no limit.  

Finally, he’s got the poise and leadership that can’t be taught. At this point in his career, no moment has been too big, as Gilgeous-Alexander always embraces the big stage. Whether it’s vocally or behind the scenes, he’s emerged as a leader and mentor at an early age and is someone his entire team looks up to. 

“When Shai is out, we’ve gotta make more plays,” said teammate Lu Dort in March. “Shai is our leader.”

Gilgeous-Alexander is eligible for a max contract extension this summer and is worth every penny. As the Thunder continue to rebuild through the draft, free agency and trades over the next several seasons, he should be the primary building block.

There’s very few trade scenarios in which Oklahoma City should even consider moving this blossoming young superstar.

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