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Thunder’s Gilgos Alexander tea comes to a halt with all those buckets

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When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander fails to pan out on screen, his best friend is on his case. And he doesn’t want to hear it anymore.

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However, Gilgeous-Alexander can’t tell his friend to keep his mouth shut. Luguentz Dort, his Oklahoma City Thunder His teammate, is one of the most prominent perimeter defenders in the NBA.

“He’s there doing it,” said Gilgios Alexander. “I can’t get him to yell at me for not doing it, so I have to.”

Gilgos Alexander said this at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, after insulting The Nix Reaching 37 points on 13-for-22 shooting. Main reason named at Hint From Seemingly everybody Tongue — and the higher All existing One of the better candidates for the early players – is that their insult was outrageous. The most mind-boggling thing about his first four weeks is that his defense has taken off as well.

To say that Gilgeous-Alexander made The Leap to superstardom isn’t entirely true, but it falls short. The 24-year-old took a series of separate steps, collectively approaching the top of the mountain. He scores more goals than Kevin Durant, shoots better free throws than Stephen Curry, finishes better than Joel Embiid and (for the third season in a row) drives more than anyone else, but none of this — nor his increased use of Gilgeous — has stopped Alexander from Do more energy on the other end.

In the third quarter at MSG, Gilgeous-Alexander slid around the screen and grabbed the ball from Cam Reddish, who fouled an attempt to split the catch, then went down the coast to start an easy layup:

If Reddish was surprised, he shouldn’t have been. The wingspan of the Glagos Alexander is half an inch shy of 7 feet. “His length and disablement have been phenomenal for us in terms of deflections and [forcing] It’s especially dangerous when you think you’ve turned a corner, said Thunder coach Marc Denyault; Just ask Fred VanVleet, Franz Wagner, and Reggie Jackson:

Oklahoma City forward Kenrich Williams said it was clear in the preseason spats that Gilgios Alexander brought back a different kind of defender. “You can see he takes pride in that side of the ball,” he said. “It moves on to the games.” Dort used the same phrasing—”He’s starting to take a lot of pride in her”—and added that “Shay’s got good hands, he knows where he’s at and he’s getting a lot better.”

“I always challenge him to get a block and steal two game,” Williams said, and Gilgios Alexander doesn’t hesitate. “A man thinks he can do anything. He literally thinks he can do anything.”

Through 13 matches, Gilgios-Alexander’s confidence has not been misplaced. He’s second in the league in steals (2.1 per game, up from his career high last season of 1.3) and among the non-seniors he’s first (or second, depending on how you classify Durant) in blocks (1.5 per game, up from his 2000s). The highest functional level of 0.8). He had more combined average “arrows” than all but one players and more deflections than all but four.

“He was locked up,” Williams said.

Gilgos Alexander said his development in defense is partly the result of improved conditioning. He’s been better at navigating screens and delivering the versatile plays that coaches love:

His height allows him to cover the ground the way few rangers can, so he always had highlights. They’re happening more often now, with fewer inattention errors between them. In almost every game, Gilgeous-Alexander does something amazing, whether that’s blocking a 3D cursor, stuffing 7 feet into a rim or hand-slinging a pass at just the right time:

He also achieved the best individual performance:

Twice, Gilgeous-Alexander caused a spin by “pulling the chair” on an opponent, using the same finesse and body control he’s known for when with the ball in his hands:

Dort said the Thunder needed their captain and MVP to “step it up,” and he did. Williams said that Gilgos-Alexander “knows he can’t escape being unbiased on this side of the ball” because “the whole team and coaching staff” are holding him accountable. According to Denault and Gilgios-Alexander himself, this growth is primarily the result of him placing the burden on himself.

“I wanted to be reliable on both ends of the ball,” said Gilgos-Alexander. “The best players in the NBA are reliable on both ends of the ball for sure. And that’s what I want in the end.”

Daigneault said that defense is “just one area where it got better for us this year.” The coach of the smaller league team believes that improving is a skill, and that Gilgos Alexander is “kind of evolving and getting better and better” because he is “very self-reflective” about his game.

“For a guy with so many distractions available to him, he has a very unique focus on becoming a great player,” said Denault. “And so every time he has time and space, he comes back better. And he does it in a very subjective way. He doesn’t need a lot of direction and direction. He wakes up in the morning with a sense of purpose.”

So far this season, the Thunder’s half-court defense ranks seventh in the league, according to Cleaning The Glass, and at 3.3 points per 100 half-courts has been playing better with Gilgeous-Alexander on the field than without him. They forced turnovers more frequently than all but three teams, and in the 353 minutes Gilgeous-Alexander shared with Dort, they allowed 105.4 points per 100 possessions, just a few percentage points higher than the league’s best. Milwaukee Bucks. If those things are sustainable, the future of the Oklahoma City defense will be brighter, with #2 pick Chet Holmgren on track to return from a foot injury and paint leagues early next season.

Perhaps most important, though, is what this might mean for the rest of Thunder. Gilgeous-Alexander will never be as rugged or convertible as Dort, but if he’s the type of defender who hides his teammates’ flaws, rather than someone who needs his teammates to hide them, it radically changes the type of formations they can use.

“The thing I’ve always respected about him: For someone so young, he sees the big picture,” Denault said. “And his defense is just one way of seeing the big picture because the better he can defend, the better encounters he has, the more that we can put different players on the field with him and be creative here and also opens up Sam.” [Presti]The ability to put different players in the list. It really opens things up.”

The best players on the planet tend to be able to dominate offense without taking anything off the table defensively, allowing their teams to be as flexible with formations and schemes as they have to be in the playoffs. That this isn’t an immediate concern for Oklahoma City only makes Gilgos Alexander’s lead even more impressive. He is at the stage where he is “growing into a leader” and “beginning to take responsibility for not only himself but the team,” said Denault. Given his aspirations, calculus was easy.

“Whatever it cost, I wanted to do it,” said Gilgios Alexander.

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