Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, soon to enter his fourth year, has made leaps every offseason of his career thus far.
After a rookie season in which he started but averaged fewer than 27 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Clippers, he took on a complementary role with the Thunder. He looked good on defense, he looked good handling the ball, and looked like he was reading the game at a high level. His shooting percentages stayed the same despite taking almost twice as many shots.
This past season, he was given reins to the team and did most everything two notches better than the season before, at least in terms of offense and leadership. He was elite at getting to the rim and finishing. His shooting percentages went from respectable to remarkable. His numbers mirrored All-Star and All-NBA players.
It’s not unusual for up-and-coming NBA stars to make a leap between seasons two and three, and Gilgeous-Alexander did this.
He still has areas to improve on, and was asked about them during the end-of-season interview in May.
“Always continue to get stronger. To try to get more athletic faster, conditioning-wise. Really just working on my body,” he said. “And then in terms of skills, just getting better the same way I did.”
Once a player starts nearing stardom, improvement becomes very specific instead of general areas. Over the last two seasons, Gilgeous-Alexander needed to learn to generally read the court. Now, instead of “be better on offense,” he needs to get a deeper bag of tricks in the midrange to get better at making contested looks. Instead of “be better on defense,” he needs to learn how to use his energy well enough that it won’t all be on the offensive end.
At 22 years old, Gilgeous-Alexander is well ahead of schedule in his path to stardom. From here, it’s more of refining his skills and body than it is about changing his game.
“You can always improve. I don’t shoot 100% from the field, I don’t shoot 100% from the free throw line, and I certainly don’t shoot 100% from 3, so I got a lot of improvement I need to do and I’ll continue to do so.”