Let me start this article, column, post, confessional, think piece- whatever you wanna call it by saying that I love Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
I love his leadership. I love his work ethic. I love his unique style of play. I love his attitude. I love where he went to school (Shout out BBN). I love his competitiveness. I love his demeanor. I just love the guy.
So what I’m about to say hurts. I’m not one to be graphic, but if I were I would say it’s like hitting me in the stomach with a baseball ball, stabbing me in the back with a katana (not all the way, just enough for the blade to hold), kicking in my kneecaps, and as I fall flat on my face running me over with a sporty utility vehicle, shoving said sword into my back more. But I’m not graphic, so I wouldn’t say that.
Here’s the deal guys, as much as I would love for him to, and as much as I desperately want him to…. Shai doesn’t deserve to make the All-Star Game this year.
There’s quite a plethora of reasons why actually. For one, the guards in the western conference might be as stacked as they have ever been.
Steph Curry and Luka Doncic are Thanos in the situation, saying “I am, inevitable.”
Despite Luka showing up this “out of shape”, he is still averaging 25-8-8, and his team is the 5 seed in the western conference. Also Luka is an international superstar, so even if he is “struggling” by his standards he has the fan vote to back him and likely help him find a starting spot in the ASG.
Curry is having a career year, and his Warriors are playing some of the best basketball in the league. Don’t even get me started on his league wide popularity. You can pencil him in as an All-Str starter every year as long as he’s healthy.
Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker are all guys many considered to be the same tier as Shai. They have each taken yet another jump in their production and skill set over the last calendar year, while Shai is seemingly stagnating with the Thunder’s lack of spacing.
Much like Trae Young, each of these players have definitely improved from last year, and the year prior. The common denominator with them though, is their team is almost totally built around what they need.
Mitchell was drafted into a playoff team, and was able to thrive year after year as he found his way. Booker led a bottom feeder of the west for years before Chris Paul (Thunder legend) came to town and they were instantly in the NBA Finals. The Hawks made moves around Trae to maximize his scoring and playmaking, as well as hide him on defense and they made their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Ja is surrounded by guys that play like him; gritty, competitive, athletic, and tough guys. They have established their identity, so much that they were able to hold onto their early season success in spite of missing Ja for a handful of games.
Those team have built their teams in a way that will maximize the success and effectiveness of each of those players, and in result they are thriving, and all will likely be in the All-Star game.
That’s not even counting the aforementioned Chris Paul, Damian Lillard who is looking like a shell of a shell of himself still garners league wide respect and admiration, Anthony Edwards taking a jump and is the next iteration of lightning in a bottle, and of course a name so familiar to Thunder fans in Russell Westbrook who is looking to make his 10th straight ASG.
Then you look at Shai, in an offense last year that averaged 2nd to last in the league 33.8% from the 3 point line. Since then… the Thunder average a league low of 30.9%.
This team is building around Shai, that’s clear. There are some pieces that will stick around, but this building process is far from finished. In the mean time, Shai is going to be fighting off the worst spacing in the league as the defense locks in on him and his stats have faltered because of it.
As much as I wish it was just the other guys in the west stepping up, Shai has to look in the mirror a bit too.
His counting stats are actually pretty similar, his points have gone down from 23.7-22.6 but his rebounds, assist, even blocks and steals look like the Spider-Man pointing meme. Where the stark (the “stark” after a Spider-Man reference is both unintentional and prefect at the same time) difference this year is in his efficiency. Last year his splits were excellent 50.8/41.8/80.8, but that has since taken a nose dive…. this year his splits are 41.6/28.5/82.2.
It’s no secret, the fans see it. If you watch the games you can see Shai pressing, frustrated, and relieved when his patented-but-still-work-in-progress side step 3 falls. It’s hard to blame him, seemingly having to make something out of nothing with everything crashing around him. But the stats are unforgiving, as are the NBA fans and national media.
The last reason is more of just a sad reality, compared to the rest of the NBA landscape we have a minuscule fanbase. While our passion well makes up for our lack of size, we pale in comparison to the sheer volume of larger market teams.
For example, last year we made the Shai all star push. We made up creative hashtags with his name, we made twitter threads dedicated to retweeting every reply that would mean a vote for SGA, we went to NBA.com and voted 10, 20, 50 times a day thinking we were gonna get our guy SGA in the ASG. Then the first voting returns came, and Alex Caruso had made it in the top 10 for western conference guards over him.
It unfortunately doesn’t matter how passionate we are, because in our fight to get SGA in the all-star game for fan vote we are merely Jon Snow unsheathing his sword prepared to face the entirety of House Bolton, and all of their allies.
Does that mean we should stop? Does that mean I’m gonna stop retweeting every tweet I see trying to make #ASGA happen? Does that mean I’m not gonna log on to NBA.com every spare minute I have to vote for Shai and no one else? Absolutely freaking not.
Keep voting, keep tweeting, keep trying, because he sees it. Last year when the All-Star tweets first started, Shai (who doesn’t really twitter) started liking the first few posts showing his appreciation. Of course, he couldn’t like ALL of them, but the point is it is encouraging to see a fanbase support you.
Shai deserved the All-Star spot last year, there is a possibility he might get in this year due to Covid protocols, but at this point he hasn’t earned that spot just yet.
You know what though? That’s ok.
We have seen what Shai can do, we have seen him do more with less than almost anyone in the league. We have seen him lock himself in the gym (the lab as I so fondly call it) during the off-season, and work and grind to hone his craft.
Shai may not deserve it this year, but I believe the next few years we are going to see him there.
We are going to see him there because he is going to deserve it.
We’ll see… as the stars start to align.