Following his inaugural All-Star season and his strong performance as one of the top players in the ongoing FIBA World Cup, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder is poised to contend for the NBA MVP title in the 2023-24 season.
Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic and OKC Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are at the forefront of @hoopshype‘s rankings for the top players in the ongoing FIBA World Cup. 🏀🌍 #FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/VJXU0QtGc6
— NBArepublic.com (@nba_republic) September 3, 2023
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were the trio of stars who led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012. Since then, all three of these superstars have left Oklahoma City.
However, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is determined to rejuvenate the Thunder and make them genuine contenders in the Western Conference once more.
The 2022-23 season marked a significant success for the Thunder as a team. Although they didn’t reach the playoffs, they gained valuable insights into their young core, with players like Josh Giddey and Luguentz Dort standing out.
The most notable development of the season was Gilgeous-Alexander’s transformation from a very good player to one of the league’s top offensive talents.
In the course of 68 games, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 31.4 points and 5.5 assists, with an impressive 51.0 percent shooting from the field. He ranked fourth in the league in both total points scored and scoring.
This season also marked his first All-Star appearance, and at just 25 years old, he has laid the foundation for what promises to be an exciting era for his franchise.
In his season-ending interview, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander expressed that while awards and recognition are nice, he’s come to realize that they don’t hold much significance without the support of his team.
He acknowledged that this might sound like a cliché, but he’s believed for the past few years that he’s a skilled basketball player.
He emphasized that many of their victories during the season were a result of teamwork, and achieving individual and team success requires the collective efforts of the entire group.
While many NBA players focus on boosting their stats and positioning themselves for awards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stands out for prioritizing his team’s success over personal accolades.
Despite being just 25 years old, this Thunder guard displays the composure of a seasoned veteran. With his unwavering confidence and ability to inspire his team, Gilgeous-Alexander’s ascent to stardom places him on a trajectory similar to some of the league’s elite talents.
Notably, Kevin Durant secured the league’s Most Valuable Player award with the Thunder in 2014, and Russell Westbrook achieved the same feat in 2017 while in Oklahoma City.
The question now arises: Could Gilgeous-Alexander become the third player in the team’s history to win this award during the upcoming 2023-24 season?
Continuing the momentum from the 2022-23 NBA season.
The Thunder have been in a rebuilding phase for several years, and the 2022-23 season finally provided them with a clear sense of direction.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showcased his full potential, putting to good use the lessons he learned early in his career from successful veterans like Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, and Patrick Beverley.
While averaging an impressive 31.4 points per game, what makes Gilgeous-Alexander’s performance stand out is how he achieved it.
He scored at least 20 points in 65 out of the 68 games he played, the most in the NBA. Additionally, he recorded 30 or more points in 45 different games, also a league-leading statistic.
In contrast to stars like Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander not only served as his team’s primary scorer but also distinguished himself as a team player.
Most players who average over 30 points per game are not typically considered facilitators or team-oriented, but SGA has continued to be a leader for his team.
His mentorship has played a significant role in the development of young talents like Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, Luguentz Dort, and others, helping them grow as players.
Josh Giddey expressed his strong support for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s well-deserved accolades from the past year during the offseason in an interview with clutchpoints.
He noted that Gilgeous-Alexander was a crucial part of their team’s success and fully deserved to be considered for the MVP award.
Giddey highlighted the significant strides Gilgeous-Alexander made and hoped that all the players on the team would make similar progress in the upcoming year.
While Joel Embiid ultimately won the 2022-23 NBA MVP award, Gilgeous-Alexander’s exceptional performance earned him a fifth-place finish in the voting, placing him ahead of notable players like Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, and Stephen Curry.
In each of his years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has consistently enhanced some facet of his basketball skills.
As he enters his fifth season with the team, the young star is signaling his readiness to contend for the NBA’s highest honor through his impressive achievements during the offseason.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s outstanding performance with Canada at FIBA World Cup
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Slovenia, currently stands out as the top two performers in the ongoing FIBA World Cup.
While Canada boasts multiple NBA players on its roster for this summer’s tournament, Gilgeous-Alexander has been the standout star, shining brightly.
He proved nearly unstoppable in their preparation games, and in the five tournament games so far, the Thunder guard has maintained impressive averages of 23.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. These statistics are among the best in the world for international competition.
Gilgeous-Alexander has led Canada to the quarterfinals of the tournament and secured their qualification for the 2024 Olympics. This marks Canada’s return to the Olympic Games for the first time since 2000.
— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) September 3, 2023
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander expressed the significance of Canada’s qualification for the Olympics, saying, “We’re making history.” He finds it challenging to put into words the feeling of achieving this milestone.
He acknowledged the tremendous efforts of many people who have contributed to the national program over the years and emphasized their desire to represent and thank them.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s accomplishments for his home country in this offseason are remarkable. Regardless of the outcome in the FIBA World Cup knockout stage, he has already provided NBA fans with a preview of what to expect in the upcoming year.
While many NBA players have been using the offseason to relax and spend time with loved ones, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been relentlessly working in the gym and maintaining a high level of competition.
Unlike most players who may require some time to get back into peak form at the beginning of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander will be in top condition right from the first game.
This puts him in a strong position to establish himself as the early frontrunner in the league’s scoring race.
If he can potentially win the scoring title and lead the Thunder to the playoffs, he has a chance to become only the third MVP in the franchise’s history.
The Oklahoma City Thunder already boast one of the most promising young cores in the NBA, and they’re set to improve further with the addition of Chet Holmgren, the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
This increased depth and the team’s continued growth will only enhance Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s abilities as a player.