World’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, left, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, shoots against the U.S. forward … [+]
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, just 21 years old, is blossoming into an NBA star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging 19.5 points per game, he leads Oklahoma City’s offensive attack with the most points on the entire team. In fact, he is fourth among all second year players in points per game. The Canadian also produces 6.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest. This impressive production earned him a spot at two different events at 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.
The NBA Rising Stars Challenge is an event that brings the NBA’s best young talent onto the floor at the same time. Mainly first and second year players, these future NBA All-Stars, MVP’s, and potential Hall of Famers take the floor every year at NBA All-Star Weekend to get their first exposure to the weekend’s festivities. The event itself is a faced-paced, high-flying event that showcases who could be running the league in the years to come.
After coming off the bench as a rookie in the 2019 NBA Rising Stars Challenge, Gilgeous-Alexander got the chance to start in this weekend’s event. One of four Canadians on the World team roster, he was ready to show the world his unique style of play.
While most young guards utilize their strength and athleticism to score the ball on offense, Gilgeous-Alexander does quite the opposite. His finesse style of play, lulling defenders with crafty dribble moves, using angles to get to the rim, and adding the perfect amount of spin to the ball as he floats it up to the backboard is poetic.
While defense isn’t exactly a top priority in a game like this, Gilgeous-Alexander scored at will in the first half. He had seven first quarter points in just 6 minutes and 49 seconds of play. This included a beautiful scoop shot from the right side of the rim, a step back 3-pointer, and a jaw-dropping transition layup sequence.
With 13 points at halftime in just over 12 minutes of court time, Gilgeous-Alexander had been one of the best players on the floor. Not only was he great scoring the ball, but he showed a beautiful display of passing, getting the offense flowing and setting up his teammates for flashy finishes. Although his assist numbers on the season aren’t as high as other point guards around the league, his ability to move the ball and orchestrate an offense is undeniable.
On the night, the 21-year-old finished with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. He struggled from deep late, finishing 1-7 from beyond the arc, but nonetheless was one of the most impressive players at the 2020 NBA Rising Stars Challenge. Gilgeous-Alexander was a +8 (tied for best on team) on the box score in a 20 point loss which is impressive in itself, showing that his team played best with him on the floor.
The very next night, Gilgeous-Alexander was fortunate enough to be a participant in the 2020 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. This is a competition of some of the most skilled players in the NBA, regardless of age. It is an event that showcases a player’s ability to dribble, pass, and shoot. He was matched up against Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and was ultimately eliminated.
After the disappointing finish, Gilgeous-Alexander spoke with The Oklahoman’s Maddie Lee and touched on what happened at the event and his desire to come back and redeem himself next year. While being eliminated in the first round ultimately wasn’t what he wanted, it is still extremely impressive just how many events Gilgeous-Alexander was a part of throughout the weekend.
Overall, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shined throughout the weekend. While he isn’t taking home any hardware, he is now even more of a household name around the entire world. He is certainly the face of the franchise in Oklahoma City going forward and is going through the same stages that players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden went through in their early days on the Thunder.
It won’t be long before we start seeing Gilegous-Alexander playing on Sunday during NBA All-Star Weekend at the main event — the NBA All-Star Game. The way he has improved his game in less than two NBA seasons is outstanding, and he will certainly be at many more NBA All-Star Weekends going forward.