The Los Angeles Clippers went into the 2018 NBA Draft with two first-round lottery picks and the ability to drastically shape their long-term future in one night. As the draft approached, the Clippers and the Denver Nuggets were two teams rumored to be a possible destination for Michael Porter, Jr., who had been falling on draft boards due to concerns regarding his long-term health. The Nuggets took a chance and drafted Porter (14th) right after the Clippers acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th) in a draft swap with the Charlotte Hornets and then surprisingly selected Jerome Robinson (13th).
While it will take time to fully evaluate the long-term impact of both of these respective selections, Gilgeous-Alexander has already shown significant flashes of his skill set and talent that compelled the Clippers to trade two future second round picks to acquire him. So far at the Las Vegas Summer League, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 27.8 minutes per game, just behind second-year guard Sindarius Thornwell, and has shown the ability to use his length, timing, and off-speed attack to be effective.
“I’m obviously not the fastest A to B guy. But I am long and have long shots. So, I got to use my change of pace to keep guys on their heels and off balance,” Gilgeous-Alexander told Basketball Insiders.
And that’s exactly what he’s done. Gilgeous-Alexander has been able to get to the basket on numerous occasions to score or generate easy scoring opportunities for teammates. In four games, he has put up 19 points on 46 percent shooting to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game. In sum, he has been the best player on the court for the Clippers. However, summer league success doesn’t automatically equate to regular season consistency. Gilgeous-Alexander was mindful of the difference.
“Obviously, the real league is going to a be a little bit different. But the same thing goes for that, get better every game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
In fact, Gilgeous-Alexander repeatedly made that point that his focus is on adapting to the pro level.
“I’m feeling more and more comfortable each and every game with the speed and physicality of the pro game. I’m just trying to get better every game,” Gilgeous-Alexander stated. “That’s all I really wanted to get out of this summer league. Just get more comfortable and just get more adjusted to the playing style.”
Gilgeous-Alexander articulated what specific improvement the coaching staff has already identified as something to improve on.
“Just pick my spots, take better ones [shots] at times,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I just go to narrow in and take the best ones I can get for the benefit of the team.”
Gilgeous-Alexander also discussed how the team wants him to play his game, be assertive and be prepared to receive constructive feedback.
“They just want me to play and show what I can do. From there, they’re going to give me their feedback and really just try to take it to that next level,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
After beating the Washington Wizards’ summer league team, Gilgeous-Alexander has the opportunity in the summer league playoffs to take on the cross-town rival Los Angeles Lakers, who are led by Josh Hart. As the Clipper’s best player so far and their on-court leader, Gilgeous-Alexander was measured in responding to any additional excitement when it that comes with playing against the Lakers.
“No, not at all,” Gilgeous-Alexander stated before clarifying. “I’m looking forward to every game really … We will watch film. We will be ready.”
That matchup takes place this evening and will be the first chapter in his career against the Lakers. Gilgeous-Alexander also didn’t hide his excitement about being able to talk to and learn from NBA legend and Clippers executive Jerry West.
“It’s pretty cool. He’s obviously the logo [as Gilgeous-Alexander points to the NBA logo behind him],” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Yeah, he has given me some pointers and stuff like that. That him being a legend is pretty cool, just trying to pick his brain and learn from him as much as possible.”
When asked what specific lessons or conversations he could share, Gilgeous-Alexander was very coy and refused to elaborate.
“No, those are secrets. I can’t share those with everybody,” Gilgeous-Alexander stated.
Gilgeous-Alexander may not share these lessons, but now that his pro career has begun, he has the chance to put those lessons to use and demonstrate how far he can push his talents at the next level.
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