OKLAHOMA CITY — If the World Cup was an indicator, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder have a lot to sit up for this season.
Gilgeous-Alexander made the All-Event group at this summer season’s occasion and generated the sort of buzz that had eluded him for a lot of his profession.
He averaged 24.5 factors, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists in eight video games for Canada, together with a 31-point, 12-assist output within the bronze medal win over the USA.
“It was nice that he obtained to try this on the world stage — like, the entire world might see that, and he’s getting higher yearly,” mentioned Lu Dort, Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammate on each the Thunder and the Canadian groups.
Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 31.4 factors per sport for the Thunder final season and was an All-NBA first-team choice earlier than turning within the dynamic World Cup efficiency. Now, the 25-year-old star is primed to assist Oklahoma Metropolis flip the nook on its rebuild and enhance on final 12 months’s 40-42 season that ended within the Play-In Event.
Gilgeous-Alexander hopes a World Cup that included wins over France, then-No. 1-ranked Spain and Luka Doncic-led Slovenia helps him enter the season sharper.
“One of many the reason why I wished to play Canada basketball in the summertime is as a result of it provides you a little bit bit extra run and a little bit bit extra bump earlier than the preseason,” he mentioned. “In the summertime I’ve all the time tried to seek out pickup video games to take action, however there’s nothing higher than an actual sport, actual rush, actual opponents. Sure, it feels prefer it’s useful and we’ll see if will probably be very useful.”
Davis Bertans, traded from Dallas to Oklahoma Metropolis on draft evening, came upon first-hand simply how good his new teammate could be when he confronted him on the World Cup. Gilgeous-Alexander had 27 factors, six rebounds and 6 assists in Canada’s 101-75 win over Latvia in group play.
“We had a troublesome job that we couldn’t deal with throughout the World Cup,” Bertans mentioned. “He was the man that went off within the second half and sort of, , put us within the floor at that second.”
Extra success and accolades could be in retailer for the 6-foot-6 guard.
“Properly, it’s all he’s ever achieved is enhance, so it wouldn’t be a shock if he’s higher,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault mentioned.
Gilgeous-Alexander will not be enthusiastic about setting particular group or particular person objectives for this season.
“So long as we maintain getting higher individually and as a gaggle, we’ll get to the place we wish to be ultimately,” he mentioned. “However it’s about being affected person and staying on track.”
Thunder common supervisor Sam Presti has generated assist for Gilgeous-Alexander with a number of draft-night wins.
Josh Giddey, a first-round choose in 2021, averaged 16.6 factors, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per sport final season for the Thunder. He stepped ahead for Australia on the World Cup and averaged a team-high 19.4 factors for a group that went 3-2.
Jalen Williams, a first-round choose final 12 months, averaged 14.1 factors and 4.5 rebounds final season and was runner-up for Rookie of The Yr. Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 total choose within the 2022 draft, is again after lacking final season with a foot harm and has been dominant within the preseason.
Because the expertise round him blossoms, Gilgeous-Alexander’s strategy will stay the identical. He was one of many league’s greatest gamers at attacking the basket and attending to the free throw line final season.
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“It would all the time come right down to taking what the protection provides me, and placing their protection on their heels,” he mentioned. “I believe that’s how I attempt to assault. What it comes down to each offensive possession is productive strain on the protection. If that’s what it requires, that’s what it requires. I attempt to not assume an excessive amount of about it, simply play my sport and play snug.”