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OKC Thunder: Who's in Contention For an All-Star Appearance?

With limited spots on the NBA All-Star team, who is in contention for the final guard spot?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander produced all-star level numbers last year in his limited time on the court. If he remains healthy for the entirety of the 2022-23 season, the Canadian guard will surely be in contention for the coveted final spot.

Gilgeous-Alexander is not the only backcourt player pushing to earn his first All-Star selection; SGA must beat out the likes of Anthony Edwards, CJ McCollum, Collin Sexton and De’Aaron Fox in order to represent the Thunder in Utah over All-Star Weekend.

Collin Sexton enters his first year in the Western Conference after being shipped to Utah in the Donovan Mitchell trade. Sexton, a 2018 top 10 pick, showed a steady increase in production throughout his first three years in the NBA.

The former Cavalier guard played only 11 games in the 2021-22 season before a knee injury shut him down for the rest of the year. The season prior, however, Sexton played in and started 60 games, averaging over 24 points and four assists per contest.

Now with the Jazz, Sexton is in prime position to become the team’s lead ball-handler, which would grant the 6-foot-1 Alabama product greater volume offensively.

Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards comes into the 2022-23 season fresh off of an impressive showing in a first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Edwards was the leading scorer down the stretch for the Wolves, averaging a team high 25.2 points per game and shooting over 40% from beyond the arc in the series.

Throughout his first two seasons in the NBA, Edwards has shown why he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. The former Georgia Bulldog dazzles fans with his athletic ability and knack for making highlight reel plays.

Last year, Edwards averaged just over 21 points per game to go along with 3.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. However, with the Timberwolves’ addition of Rudy Gobert, it would not be shocking to see Edwards offensive volume remain stagnant.

Gobert is not a stretch big, and plays primarily on the block. This will likely leave “Ant-Man” less space to fly through the paint. Additionally, Gobert will take touches away from Edwards, who was already splitting with Karl-Anthony Towns.

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Another guard who could stand between SGA and an all-star appearance is Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox. In 2020-21, Fox averaged over 25 points and 7.2 assists per game on 47.7% from the field.

The Kings’ star has averaged over 20 points and five assists per game for three consecutive seasons but, similarly to Alexander, has had trouble receiving all-star votes due to a lack of team success.

CJ McCollum represents the “which of these is not like the other” category. None of the other players mentioned are older than 25 whereas, McCollum on the other hand, will be 31 in less than a week.

The 10-year veteran has been a fringe all-star level player for over half a decade, but was in the shadow of former backcourt teammate Damian Lillard until last season, when Portland sent McCollum to New Orleans.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 26 games for the Pelicans last year. If sustained for a whole season, these would be the highest totals of the Lehigh alum’s professional career.

While a new role as the lead guard created a perfect environment for McCollum to improve his stats, the return of superstar Zion Williamson could just as quickly relinquish that freedom.

Going by last season’s numbers, Gilgeous-Alexander has the strongest case to join the ranks of the all-stars in 2023. The Thunder’s lead man averaged 24.5 points, 5.9 assists and five rebounds per game in 2021-22.

SGA’s averages ranked higher in all three categories than any of the other players mentioned. This, coupled with the lack of ball dominance on OKC’s roster, gives the Kentucky product an easier path to reach the all-star game.

Thunder fans have longed to see Gilgeous-Alexander in the all-star threads; after this offseason’s Western Conference shake up, SGA could be in prime position for an all-star appearance.

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