In what was without question the biggest move in the NBA this summer, the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George all in one night. The deal only happened, however, partly because of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George. Now with OKC also trading Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul earlier last week, what will SGA’s sophomore season be like in OKC?
Well, this question has to be dealt with in two ways. The first of which is an OKC team with Chris Paul, and the second scenario is a Thunder team without him. Paul’s agent has been very vocal that the star does not want to play in OKC this season. It remains to be seen if another team would be willing to take on Paul’s outrageous contract, but for the sake of this post, let’s play both scenarios out. (It should be noted that Steven Adams is also not a lock to stay in OKC, but for conciseness, this article is sticking to CP3.)
Scenario With Chris Paul
If Paul stays in OKC then their starting lineup would look something like this:
PG – Chris Paul
SG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SF – Andre Roberson
PF – Danilo Gallinari
C – Steven Adams
That’s….actually not a bad starting five at all! However, is it good enough to make the playoffs in the loaded West? Probably not, but the Thunder would have a chance. In this scenario, I think the Thunder’s leading scorer might be Gallinari considering he averaged 20 points per game lost year for a playoff team. He would average around that many points again in 2019. Paul would be in the 15-18 point per game range, Roberson would be in single digits as always, and Adams would be in the 13-15 range.
This lineup makes a nice spot for SGA to improve upon his stats from last season which were 11 ppg, 3 rbg, and 3 apg. With his and Paul’s passing ability this would be a free-flowing offense in which both of their assist numbers should improve. With the big scoring gap left behind by George and Westbrook, I see around 4-6 points worth of wiggle room. Add in a marginal increase in rebounds thanks to more playing time, and I can see a very easy path to Gilgeous-Alexander averaging around 15 ppg, 5 aspg, and 4 rbg in this lineup. While I personally don’t see this OKC team making the playoffs, I think it would be a great year in SGA’s maturation playing alongside a great point guard in Chris Paul.
? 6' 6" guard
? Born in Canada
? Drafted 11th overall in 2018 (Univ of Kentucky)
? 2018-19 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
? Started 72 of 83 games in rookie season
? 2018-19: 10.8 ppg / 48% fg / 37% 3p pic.twitter.com/dUQuF7d3Ut
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 10, 2019
Scenario Without Chris Paul
This is where things get wild. First off, it would totally matter what the Thunder are getting back for Paul. Would it be Goran Dragic from Miami or Andrew Wiggins from Minnesota? Who can really say? But if OKC doesn’t get back any players who can score the ball at a high rate, then I see a path where Gilgeous-Alexander’s stats will take a significant leap, thus making him the Thunder’s second-leading scorer behind Gallinari.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 10, 2019
In fact, I would not be surprised at all if his scoring average rises all the way up to around 18 ppg simply because someone has to score the basketball in OKC, and it might as well be SGA. If this path does happen, then Gilgeous-Alexander would be in the running for Most Improved Player. However, I could see his efficiency taking a hit in this scenario. I’m not quite sure if he is ready to be scoring the ball that much, and he should not be the second option for any team at this point in his career. Again, it really depends what OKC would be getting back for Paul. Wiggins actually makes sense considering that the contracts would work, and he would probably be the Thunder’s new leading scorer while being very inefficient. If the Thunder want to be bad, then adding Wiggins is a good way to get bad.
Overall, it should be obvious that no matter which scenario happens, SGA is probably in for a nice sophomore season which will see a boost to his stats across the board. It doesn’t matter if the Thunder misses the playoffs. They have officially committed to a long-term rebuilding phase and they have tied the organization to a very good young player in doing so. While this will be a long process, there is a scenario wherein 4-5 years Gilgeous-Alexander is leading a very young team deep into the playoffs.