Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, young guard on the Oklahoma City Thunder, has had a pretty good (but quiet) season so far. Unfortunately, he sprained his ankle and he’ll now be out through the All-Star Game, but that’s all the more reason to take a look at his season thus far.
SGA is 23 years old, and this is his third year in OKC after being traded from the LA Clippers after his rookie season. Shai’s averaged 22.7 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 5.5 assists per game, 1.1 steals per game, and he’s getting to the free throw line 6.9 times per game. The FTA are a career high for him.
How many other players are averaging at least 22 PPG and 5 APG and get to the line at least 6 times per game? Well, it’s a pretty impressive list:
Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, DeMar DeChozan, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Dame Lillard, James Harden, Jimmy Butler, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
That’s a list of All-Stars and SGA.
Here’s the bad news: Shai’s shot is missing. He has the second worst 3PT% on that list of players, 27.8. Guess what? Gets worse! Of the 104 players who average at least five 3PA per game, SGA has the third worst 3PT% Guess what? Gets worse! Do you know who the two players are who have a worse 3PT% than SGA? Michael Porter, Jr., who played 9 games before being shut down for the season, and Isaiah Thomas, who’s played in 5 games total. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the worst 3-point shooter on volume in the NBA this year.
Last year, SGA shot nearly 42% from three in half a season worth of games, before being shut down. The season before that he shot 34% from three, and his rookie year 36%. So, it doesn’t seem like he’s THIS bad from downtown. Maybe it’s the type of threes?
Catch and shoot threes, 0.9 3PA, 41 3PT%
Pull up threes, 4.7 3PA, 25.2 3PT%
Catch and shoot, 1.1 3PA, 43.2 3PT%
Pull ups, 3.8 3PA, 40.9 3PT%
Catch and shoot, 1.2 3PA, 41.9 3PT%
Pull ups, 2.3 3PA, 31.9 3PT%
Catch and shoot, 1.4 3PA, 37.1 3PT%
Pull ups, 0.3 3PA, 31.8 3PT%
It’s tough to take many catch and shoot threes when you’re always driving, I suppose (see below), and Shai’s on a team with young talent and guys waiting to get traded, so it’s possible it’s not the most cohesive unit. But, it sure does look like SGA’s not great at pull up threes, except for a half season of games last year.
SGA’s fadeaway is basically nonexistent this year, and his pull-up threes are even worse. It doesn’t look fantastic in a league where you’d like to have competent outside shooting, but there are certainly players without a dependable three in their arsenal who are still All NBA level, like DeRozan mentioned above. But, damn, SGA sure does take a lot of threes for a guy who can’t hit them at a 30% clip.
On the other hand, Shai drives to the basket more than anyone else in the league this season. He drives 24.1 times per game, tops in the NBA; only Luka Doncic and Ja Morant also average at least 20 drives per game. Only SGA and Ja get 10+ shots out of those drives per game, too. Ja makes half of his, while Shai has a 47 FG%. SGA gets free throws out of those drives more than anyone else in the NBA, averaging 4.5 FTA off penetration. That’s how he’s maintaining his PPG despite the horrendous outside shooting.
In fantasy, Shai had a 31.5 ADP, right between Bam Adebayo and Rudy Gobert. He’s 99% rostered, obviously, and he’s been the #36 player on the player rater for the season, so he’s delivering third round pick value. The lack of an efficient outside shot is keeping his value depressed, I think, but he’s still only 23, and he’s playing on a bad/young team. If he can get his threes back up to 35%, Thunder fans would be thrilled, as would fantasy managers who roster SGA.
It sucks we won’t get to see him play for a few weeks, because I do think he is one of the more intriguing players in the NBA, and he could be a pivot point. If he can ascend another level, then you’re talking about a true franchise player, someone the OKC Thunder can absolutely build around. If this is his ceiling, though, an uber athletic guard who can drive and score, but you can’t depend on from downtown, even a little bit, then things get a little more complicated.
Regardless, whether it’s playing off the rookie guard Josh Giddey, or the new balls, or the new rules, or Covid-related, or hell, maybe he’s just as stressed as the rest of us, SGA’s outside acumen has been subpar this season. Is that an outlier? Let’s hope so.