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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 6’6″ Combo Guard, University of Kentucky, 19 Years Old
Collegiate Stats: 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists in 33.7 minutes per night (48.5 percent shooting, 40.4 from three-point range, 81.7 percent free throws)
Best Game: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers on 62.5 percent shooting (10-of-16 overall, 2-of-3 from three, 7-of-7 from the free throw line) SEC Tournament Championship vs Tennessee
For the first 15 games, SGA started twice and mainly held a sixth man role. Beginning in early January, however, he received a full-time starting role and his play improved with the added responsibility. Here are his numbers before and after his role change:
Pre Jan. 9 – 15 games and two starts, 29.5 minutes – 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.5 turnovers, shooting splits of 48.4 / 45.0 / 86.5
Post Jan. 9 – 22 games and 22 starts,36.6 minutes – 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.8 turnovers, shooting splits of 48.6 / 37.8 / 79.7
SGA finished second on the Wildcats in points behind fellow draft hopeful Kevin Knox. For the entirety of conference play, SGA and Knox tied for the team scoring title at 15.1 points per game. He also led the team in assists and steals.
By all accounts, he projects as a late lottery pick in the No. 10 – 16 range.
SGA projects as a plus defender from the moment he steps onto an NBA court. His 7’0″ wingspan allows him to pressure ballhandlers and prowl passing lanes. He showed good composure at Kentucky playing both on and off the ball.
His size and athletic ability allow him to be a plus rebounder at the guard spot.
On offense, SGA can handle the ball and get to the rim with a herky-jerky game. He draws a ton of fouls (175 free throw attempts) and makes free throws at a high rate. His 81.7 percent on free throws suggests that he could improve his overall jump shooting in the pros.
While not a true point guard, SGA has the ability to make plays for others out of the pick-and-roll. His unorthodox driving confuses defenders and he can exploit the extra space they give him.
How can this be with his solid three-point percentage, you ask? Sample size. SGA only attempted 57 threes in 37 games, and his jumper is odd. It includes a clunky windup and a low release, making for a pretty slow jump shot.
While SGA got to rim at will in college, he lacks an elite burst from an NBA perspective. He needs to continue to improve his floater and pull-up game because he may not ever be a plus finisher in traffic.
He can also be somewhat turnover prone. Possessions are a valuable commodity in the NBA, you have to protect the ball and make smart plays.
So the obvious comp here is any skinny, defensive-minded guard with some playmaking chops and a questionable jump shot. SGA has shown the ability to run a high-level offense with plenty of pick-and-rolls. This should serve him well at the next level.
Note: Don’t be scared by the MCW comp. SGA has shown much more defensive potential than MCW ever did. He won’t be another big guard bust… hopefully.
Best NBA Situations
Denver Nuggets – projected No. 14 pick
The perfect fit for SGA might be in the Mile High City. He and former Kentucky product Jamal Murray form a complimentary backcourt, as SGA can guard the better opposing backcourt player. Murray can also spot up and run off screens while SGA handles the ball.
SGA’s lockdown defense would be a welcome sign for a team that finished dead last in field goal percentage defense last season.
Los Angeles Clippers – projected No. 12 and 13 picks
The Clippers, thanks to the Blake Griffin trade, own back-to-back lottery picks in the 2018 Draft (pre-lottery.) They should be able to take SGA with one of these two picks.
The Clippers are in the midst of a rebuild, and they need competent guard play outside of sixth-man extraordinaire Lou Williams. SGA represents a shot at a defensive-minded point guard who can run an NBA pick-and-roll centric offense.
Plus, is there a player better suited to teaching SGA how to pester opposing guards better than Patrick Beverley?
Washington Wizards – No. 15 pick
The Wizards’ bench as currently constructed is, to put things mildly, not great. SGA would be able to play an important bench role from day one and could form a menacing tandem with Bradley Beal while John Wall rests.
The Wizards run plenty of pick-and-rolls, so SGA could develop a nice chemistry with any of Washington’s bigs.
When the Wiz elect to go small, SGA could play in three-guard lineups with Wall and Beal.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be one of the first fifteen players to go in this year’s NBA Draft, and he has a lot of potential at the NBA level. Best of luck to him in his future career.
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