After bringing a surge of energy and focus to the defensive end of the floor this season, the Thunder’s franchise centerpiece, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is on pace to re-write the NBA’s record books.
After a monster 15-game stretch to kick off 2022-23 that could serve as the prologue to a Most Improved Player award, the Canadian scoring machine has a chance to match some unique thresholds only previously crossed by Michael Jordan, Dwayne Wade, and George Gervin.
On the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is currently averaging 31.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. Those numbers on their own are impressive in their own right. And if the season ended today, his averages would account for one of just 52 to accomplish the same. But the 6-foot-6 guard’s defensive numbers are what truly vault him toward the unique opportunity.
Leading Oklahoma City’s defensive renaissance, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game this year. Those numbers might not appear to be difficult to achieve at first, but there are only 38 seasons where a player averaged that many blocks and steals per contest. Here you see names like Draymond Green, Shawn Marion, and Andrei Kirilenko amongst other greats.
But when you combine Gilgeous-Alexander’s offensive and defensive statistics, they merge to provide a set of data that can only be compared to some of the greatest guards to set foot on a court. The skillful and slippery guard’s production of buckets, steals, and blocks combined are what does the trick.
If Gilgeous-Alexander continues on his current pace and ends the season averaging at least 29 points, one steal, and one block per game, he will join Jordan, Wade, and Gervin as one of only four players listed under 6-foot-8 to do so. Removing height from the equation, that list grows to just 12 players. Half of those players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame and five of those players are virtual locks to join their company.
Could the Thunder's new star be next?