It’s official. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has arrived as the newest bona fide superstar of the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard sealed a thrilling 121-120 win over the Washington Wizards on Thursday (AEDT) with a clutch three-pointer that made the basketball world sit up and take notice.
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Down two points with the clock ticking down, Gilgeous-Alexander received the ball from Australian teammate Josh Giddey and nailed a three-pointer over Washington’s Monte Morris with just 1.1 seconds to go.
The matchwinning shot was a statement moment for the 24-year-old, who has emerged as the breakout star of the NBA in the early part of the season.
Gilgeous-Alexander, affectionately known as ‘SGA’, finished with an equal career-high 42 points against the Wizards, along with seven assists and six rebounds.
Giddey had 11 points and was one of four Thunder players to finish in double figures, but his back-court partner was the star of the show.
Gilegous-Alexander has threatened to explode in previous seasons but has been held back by injuries and a Thunder front office conscious of limiting his game time so the franchise could land high draft picks including Giddey and No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren.
He has finally delivered on his promise and now appears a lock for his first All-Star appearance in the New Year.
SGA has already scored at least 30 points in 10 out of 14 games and his performance against the Wizards was his third consecutive tally of 37 points or more.
Making his game-winning three-pointer even more impressive is the fact he has been most of his damage this season from inside the arc.
Remarkably, the lanky Canadian is on pace to be the first guard to average 30 points per game shooting less than three three-point attempts per game since Michael Jordan.
Gilgeous-Alexander will undoubtedly attract trade offers from NBA rivals but his rapid progression is the perfect scenario for OKC.
The Thunder are likely to still have a losing record this season but have been both competitive and entertaining this season as their franchise star goes berserk alongside a supporting cast of Giddey, Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Tre Mann and youngster Aleksej Pokuševski.
It means if everything goes well, the Thunder could still be in the lottery mix to receive next year’s prized No. 1 pick, which every team would use to take seven-foot teen sensation Victor Wembanyama.
Pokuševski and the injured Holmgren are both seven feet tall and if the Thunder somehow land Wembanyama, a team of SGA, Giddey and a crew of athletic 2-metre giants would be a tantalising prospect.
Giddey recently told Australian reporters he is “more than happy” to let Gilgeous-Alexander run the show for OKC as they continue to build their on-court chemistry.
“When he’s playing the way he is, I’m absolutely happy to play that second guy, be that secondary creator,” Giddey said.
“He’s probably the best isolation player in the league and he needs the ball in order to do that.
“When he’s cooking like that, whether I’m running the point guard, I’m trying to get the ball back in his hands. A lot of the time something good is going to happen.
“I love playing with him. Our chemistry’s going to continue to grow the more we’re on the floor together. He’s playing at an elite level and helping us win some tight games that maybe last year we weren’t winning.
“Shai’s been awesome, he’s great to play with. Hopefully he continues the way he’s going and the rest of the guys around him can play their roles and do what they need to do to help our team win games.”
So dare to dream, Thunder fans. And even if the wins are coming slowly, get ready to enjoy Gilgeous-Alexander in his All-Star debut.