Charles Barkley made quite the claim in late November.
“If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is not starting in the All-Star Game, we’re not going to let the public vote again,” the Hall of Famer said on Inside the NBA. “He should be starting at the two spot in the Western Conference. Easily.”
Gilgeous-Alexander might not have entered the 2022-23 season as a household name, but the Thunder guard has quickly proven himself to be one of the NBA’s rising stars. We didn’t even have him as a top 30 player in the league entering the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Eight months later, we have him at No. 15.
Does that make Gilgeous-Alexander a lock to be an All-Star this season? Does he have a case to start?
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is putting up All-Star numbers
Let’s start with some good old-fashioned stats.
On the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.5 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Not only are those career highs almost across the board — he averaged a shade more assists and rebounds last season — but the only other players currently averaging around 30-5-5 are bonafide stars.
Gilgeous-Alexander has been incredibly efficient as well. Through 31 games, he’s shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 35.2 percent from the 3-point line and 92.5 percent from the free-throw line.
There aren’t many spots on the court he’s not comfortable shooting from.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s numbers are even more impressive considering his surrounding talent. The Thunder don’t have many creators on their roster and are light on shooting, and yet he consistently cooks defenders one-on-one, drives more than anyone else in the league and lives in the paint.
The icing on the cake? The rebuilding Thunder are actually competitive with him on the court. According to NBA.com, they’re outscoring opponents by 0.7 points per 100 possessions with Gilgeous-Alexander in the lineup. With him on the bench, they’re being outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions.
For context, that’s the difference between Oklahoma City ranking 18th and 27 in net rating.
MORE: Gilgeous-Alexander is the NBA’s most underrated player
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has had All-Star moments
Helping Gilgeous-Alexander’s All-Star case is that he’s already had some signature moments.
In a win over the Wizards on Nov. 16, he went off for 42 points and drained the game-winning 3-pointer.
On Dec. 19, he stole the show on a night that saw Damian Lillard make history by scoring 35 points and nailing yet another game-winner.
On Dec. 23, he scored a career-high 44 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and six assists, albeit in a loss.
44 PTS (career-high)
SGA showed out for OKC tonight. pic.twitter.com/KKE9dnQpkr
— NBA (@NBA) December 24, 2022
Only DeMar DeRozan has scored more points in the clutch than Gilgeous-Alexander so far this season and only six players have more 40-point games. He’s been big-time.
Should Shai Gilgeous-Alexander start in the 2023 All-Star Game?
Ah yes, the million-dollar question.
Good as Gilgeous-Alexander has been, starting in the All-Star Game is no easy feat. He’s listed as a guard on the voting ballot, so he’s competing for one of only two available spots in the Western Conference.
One of those will almost certainly go to Luka Doncic, who is having a historic season and fans love. Stephen Curry is the front-runner for the other spot, but the shoulder injury that could sideline him for up to a month opens the door for someone else to start, especially if it takes him some time to find his rhythm when he returns.
Even then, Gilgeous-Alexander faces some real competition. Ja Morant and Damian Lillard are strong options. Devin Booker is as well, though he’s going to be sidelined for a while himself with a groin injury.
If you were wondering how the five of them compare statistically:
Regardless of if he gets the votes to start or not, it’s hard to imagine Gilgeous-Alexander not being named an All-Star if he continues to play at the level he has. He’s been in the conversation before, but he’s entered a different stratosphere this season.
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