By LARRY VAUGHT
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti obtained former Kentucky standout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the trade that sent NBA star Paul George to the San Diego Clippers.
Gilgeous-Alexander, the 11th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, had a very solid rookie season and was a player the Thunder wanted when it became clear George wanted out.
“Shai, who we think has a tremendously bright future in the league, and we’re really proud to have as a Thunder player, and excited about the growth potential that he has in his game,” Presti said during a press conference Thursday.
“We’re also really excited about just who he is as a person and the makeup of him as a young man is something that we’re really, really excited about having and adding to our organization going forward.”
Kentucky fans would certainly say amen to that. Not only was Gilgeous-Alexander outstanding on the court, he was special off the court and liked by teammates, fans and media at UK.
Presti made it clear this is not a year he wants just to rebuild and is counting on Gilgeous-Alexander, who turned 21 earlier this month, to help the Thunder win. The guard started 73 games last season and averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game. He shot 37 percent from 3-point range but averaged less than two 3-pointers per game.
“I think he’s not really even scratching the surface,” Presti said. “I think he’s got tremendous makeup, and that’s a big — I think that’s going to be a big accelerator for ultimately how good a player he becomes, and I think he has that. He’s got great size and great length, and he’s a sponge. You know, he’s a sponge.
“But we’ve seen this take place before in Oklahoma City. If you think about the differences between players in year one to year three or year two to year four, they’re drastic. If you just think about the jump that Terrance Ferguson took from his first year to his second year or Steven Adams or Dre or down the line, you have to be able to — in my opinion, to be able to see things through.
“And I think where Shai is today is not close to where ultimately he’s going to be. But we have to be really patient with that process. But he’s got great tools, and he’ll have to follow the same track that a lot of these other players have, but we think he has a bright future.”