The Oklahoma Thunder appear to be embracing the rebuild. They have made multiple big trades this offseason to set themselves up for the future. However, while they probably won’t be a great team in 2020-21, they could still have a superstar player this season. That potential superstar is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as the Thunder could see their $4.1 million star transform into a superstar this year because of how they plan to use him.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have made a bunch of moves this offseason
Many people didn’t expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to have a good season in 2019-20. They, however, surprised a bunch of people and made the playoffs.
The Thunder ultimately went 44-28 behind players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams. They even almost won a playoff series, too, as they took the Houston Rockets to seven games in the First Round. The Rockets ultimately won, though, 104-102 in Game 7.
The Thunder have since traded Chris Paul — who averaged 17.6 points per game, five rebounds, and 6.7 assists last season — to the Phoenix Suns. They also traded Dennis Schroder — who averaged 18.9 points per game last year — to the LA Lakers, and Steven Adams, who averaged 10.9 points per game and 9.3 rebounds, to the New Orleans Pelicans. OKC also traded Danilo Gallinari (18.7 points per game and 5.2 rebounds in 2019-20) to the Atlanta Hawks.
This means that the only top player from last season’s team that is still on the Thunder is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander became a star for the Thunder last season
In 2017-18 at the University of Kentucky, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proved to have a lot of potential. He averaged 14.4 points per game, 5.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. He also came up big in the postseason. Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 29 points and seven rebounds in a win over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game. He also scored 27 points to go with six rebounds and six assists in a Second Round win over Buffalo.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s play at Kentucky then led to him becoming a top prospect in the 2018 NBA draft. The Charlotte Hornets ultimately selected him with the No. 11 overall pick in the draft. He, however, got traded to the LA Clippers and played there during his rookie season. During his rookie year, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 10.8 points per game, 3.3 assists, and 2.8 rebounds. He ultimately earned Second-Team All-Rookie honors, too.
However, the Clippers ultimately traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the trade for Paul George. He then became a star for the Thunder, though. Gilgeous-Alexander was ultimately a big reason why the Thunder won so many games and made the playoffs, as he averaged 19 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals.
While he certainly proved to be a star last season, though, Gilgeous-Alexander now has a chance to become a superstar this upcoming season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a chance to become a superstar
With Gilgeous-Alexander being the only top guy still on the Thunder for this upcoming season, it appears that he will be the focal point of the team’s offense.
“We’re really kind of clearing the way for him to expand his game, to be on the ball full time,” Thunder GM Sam Presti recently said, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “We’re putting a lot in faith in him and showing him he’s a central figure to a lot of things we ultimately want to be.”
The Thunder seem to have a lot of confidence in Gilgeous-Alexander. This means that he can be a bargain for them this year, as he is actually scheduled to only make $4.1 million this season, according to Spotrac.
Additionally, if Gilgeous-Alexander’s usage rate goes up this year, he has a chance to become one of the top players in the league. Last season, he averaged 19 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on a 23.7% usage rate. That usage rate was tied for 60th in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe had the same usage percentage as him and averaged 14.9 points per game, 5.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds last season. Alec Burks also had a higher usage percentage than him and only averaged 15 points per game and 4.3 rebounds.
If Gilgeous-Alexander’s usage percentage just increases slightly, he could have some of the best statistical averages in the entire league.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a star last season. Now, with more opportunities, he will have a chance to become a superstar in 2020-21.