The NBA’s Hidden Superstar In The Making


Jadon Cottrell, Staff Writer

The National Basketball Association is a globally popular brand with many recognizable star players. 

Whether you are a fan of basketball or not, there is a good chance that you know the names LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant. Not to mention stars of the past such as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. While these are some of the best players of all time, the NBA’s cultural impact is the reason why people who have never even watched a game in their lives can still recognize the names of some of their stars.

However, in a league with so much talent, it is inevitable that many good players will fly under the radar. After all, there are 30 teams and, naturally, the teams in the bigger cities will have the most eyes on them. A great player in New York or Los Angeles will likely get more attention than a great player in, say, Portland or Charlotte. This has been the case so far in the career of one young player named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Also known by his initials, SGA is a 24-year-old point guard who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder. And while it may only be a small sample size, so far this season he has put the rest of the league on notice. 

Entering this year, the average NBA fan had likely at least heard of Shai. He was picked 11th in the 2018 draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, and he showed some potential there in his rookie year. Prior to his second season, he was traded along with several draft picks to Oklahoma City. He has spent the last three seasons there with the Thunder and has steadily improved every year. But now, at the start of his fifth season, something seems to have really clicked for him. He averaged 24.5 points per game last year, which is definitely a good number. But right now, he is scoring an even more impressive 31.1 points per game. And he is doing so very efficiently, as he is making nearly 54% of his shots. For reference, the league average is about 46%. On top of that, he is also averaging a notable 5.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.  

Not only has he been great on offense, but he has also been responsible for much of the team’s success on the defensive side. He is leading his team in many statistical categories, and he is a major reason for why the Thunder have been competitive so far this season. After being at the bottom of the standings over the last few years, Oklahoma City is still too young of a team to compete with the best of the best in their conference. However, through 16 games, they are hanging around the middle of the pack in the West. And after years of losing and hoping to draft a player to build around, SGA may be emerging as that franchise cornerstone that they need. 

Shai is currently on pace to have about as impactful of a season as a guard has ever had. The only guards in NBA history to average 29 points, one steal, and one block per game have been future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, and arguably the greatest player ever, Michael Jordan. Even though it is still very early in the 2022-2023 NBA season, Shai is on pace to join those two. Even if Shai falls behind and doesn’t quite meet that criteria by season’s end, he will likely have made his impact known around the league and give the Oklahoma City Thunder no doubt about who they are going to build their young team around. 

The NBA is a league that is filled to the brim with talented young players who all have a ton of promise. And every year it seems like one of those young players steps up and begins to reach their full potential, adding to the league’s list of already proven stars. This season, it is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s time to shine.