Helping hand: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander evolves as a facilitator

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Much has been said about the Oklahoma City Thunder coach At Marc Daigneault’s announces that Josh Giddey would be used more as a starter earlier this season.

The immediate reaction was to wonder if that meant Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would become the secondary ball handler, if he could cut him as an off-ball player, and what the long-term prospects for the Thunder’s backcourt were.

Giddey has since been ruled out of OKC’s last 14 games with a hip injury. It remains to be seen if the duo play together again this season, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been development in their backyard collaboration.

Giddey is just one of eight Thunder players currently sidelined, meaning the team is playing shorthanded with a rotation largely made up of G League regulars. It didn’t stop Gilgeous-Alexander, rather it forced him to improve parts of his game.

With the Thunder as shorthanded as them, teams had the opportunity to create a wall around the basket, forcing non-SGA players to hit shots to win.

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He seems to have taken this challenge to heart. Not only that he can score regardless of the number of players in the paint, but to show teams that he can get others implied to create points.

In the 13 games SGA has played since Giddey was injured, he averaged 7.3 assists per night, good for ninth place in the NBA during that span. His expected assists paint an even clearer picture at 13.5 per game.

It didn’t bother his scoring either. If anything, that made him harder to keep than ever. SGA is averaging 30.4 points per game on the same streak – the highest mark of his career, showing he finds how to score and facilitate simultaneously at a high level.

When Giddey returns there will certainly be some rust – both in his game and in partnership with SGA – but Gilgeous-Alexander’s growth as an enabler and passer should ease Gieddey’s burden as he marks his return .


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