Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is 23 years old, he’s 6’6”, and he’s the point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Last year he finished 121st on ESPN’s Player Rater. Could he be a top 10 fantasy player this year?
Here’s why I ask: SGA’s numbers from last season. He averaged 23+ Points Per Game, 5+ Assists Per Game, 4+ Rebounds Per Game, and 2+ 3-pointers made. Only eleven players in the NBA could say the same: Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, LeBron James, James Harden, Paul George, Julius Randle...and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
That is an AMAZING list to be on, no matter what. All of those players were top 75 fantasy players, except for SGA. Why? Because SGA only played in 35 games last season. (Durant only played in 35, but he played transcendently last season.)
Here are those players with their fantasy rating from last season, and their current Average Draft Position (“ADP”) this season.
Steph, #2 Player Rating 2021, ADP 5th this season
Dame, #3 PR2021, ADP 8th
Luka, #8 PR2021, ADP 3rd
Durant, #59 PR2021, ADP 7th
Kyrie, #7 PR2021, ADP 39th (no vax penalty)
DonMitch, #54 PR2021, ADP 19th
LeBron, #72 PR2021, ADP 12th
Harden, #25 PR2021, ADP 4th
Julius Randle, #10 PR2021, ADP 22nd
Paul George, #30 PR2021, ADP 11th
SGA, #121 PR2021, ADP 27th
Luka and SGA are both 23 years old now, two years younger than the next youngest player on that list, Donovan Mitchell. Shai is definitely getting drafted like he’s a fantasy star, but maybe we’re still drafting him too late? Paul George scored 23 PPG, just like Shai last season, but PG13 played in 54 games to Shai’s 35. PG ended the year as the 30th most valuable fantasy player. Had SGA simply played 20 more games or so, he’d probably have ended the season as a top 30 player. If he, as a 22-year-old, had played in 60+ games, he’d have been a top 10 player, that’s how good his numbers were last year.
But, OKC basically shut him down to assist their tanking, and he only played in those 35 games out of 72. Well, now we’re back to an 82-game schedule, and the limits on Shai should be off completely. Why couldn’t he replicate what he did last year? Why couldn’t he improve on it? Sure, you can counsel caution, but there’s nothing to suggest any of these numbers were flukes. Hell, he didn’t even play 34 minutes per game last year. If he played 37 MPG in 70 GP this year, perhaps his ratios would suffer, but why wouldn’t all of his counting stats go up? It’s not like his teammates are radically better or worse. Why wouldn’t SGA’s PPG increase along with his minutes?
And, let’s remember: he’s 23 years old. This will be SGA’s fourth season, and really he’s only played 2.5. Shai should be extremely well-rested and healthy and raring to go.
Oh yeah, Shai also shot 50% from the field last year. and had the third best 3PT% behind only Steph & Durant. Hot damn and sweet Christmas, what if the kid makes All NBA this year?
Everything about his abbreviated season is shouting TOP 10 FANTASY PLAYER to me. The only thing missing last year was volume. If he can play the majority of this season, he’ll most likely be a top 10 pick in drafts next year. He’s currently being drafted 27th, so folks know he’s good, but I don’t think they understand just how good.
Those who reach for SGA in this year’s drafts may be rewarded for their daring.