Prospect Preview: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

Class: Freshman
Ht: 6-foot-6
Wt: 180 pounds
2017-18 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.1 rpg


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hopes to be another in a long line of successful NBA point guards, who were coached at the collegiate level by John Calipari. John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Derrick Rose were all Calipari pupils. Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox was last year’s latest lottery pick who played point guard for Calipari.

Gilgeous-Alexander wants to continue the tradition.

A native of Hamilton, Canada – a town just outside of Toronto – he played better and better as his freshman season wore on. He went from not starting, to starting. He averaged 14.1 points in the season overall, 15.1 during conference play, and 21.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the SEC Tournament. He was named to the All-SEC Second Team.

The question is: What from his game translates to the NBA?

Height, is the first answer. Gilgeous-Alexander has great height for a point guard at 6-6. He’s also got a near 7-0 wingspan. So, he’s long and lean. Very lean. Gilgeous-Alexander weighed in at 180 points at the NBA combine, so right away he’ll need added size and strength.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s ability to get to the rim with relative ease stands out. Especially in pick-and-roll situations, where he is effective in navigating his way through traffic and getting to the spot he wants in order to shoot. His height helps him shoot over many defenders, and his ability to finish with either hand makes him effective at finishing at the rim.

Pick-and-roll plays were his most-used actions, so he’ll enter in the NBA with a good feel for how those situations will work. As a shooter, Gilgeous-Alexander has range out to the 3-point line, but this is not a high-volume shooter from deep. He only took 1.5 3-point shots per game, making 40 percent on the season. But he does show the ability to play as the primary ball-handler or off the ball, and catch-and-shoot. He’s a decent spot-up shooter at this point with room to improve.

Defensively, his length helps in potentially switching screens, and in fact Kentucky did a ton of switching pick-and-roll actions during the season. Gilgeous-Alexander was fine in those situations. If he’s forced onto a bigger player who is looking to post up, Gilgeous-Alexander will struggle to hold him off, but his long arms afford him the opportunity to tip entry passes away or get steals as long as he’s got the footwork to put himself in position to make the defensive play.

He shows some urgency in getting out to spot-up shooters, but will improve his closeout technique. He has the potential to be a highly-productive steals player, and was very good at getting into passing lanes for deflections and pressuring shooters off the ball to force turnovers when the pass came over to them. He’s got quick hands as well and showed the ability to simply pick the pocket of the ball handler.


Gilgeous-Alexander’s best fit is with a team that doesn’t need him to be the savior right away, that can groom him and get him stronger. He has shown he can work his way from a reserve to a starter, so his work ethic, patience and belief in his abilities are not in question.

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter


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