We’re watching Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make the jump
Ladies and Gentlemen, the 47th President of the United States of America, Himmy Carter.
Another angle, because it’s worth it.
These were points 40, 41 and 42 of the night for the new prez, aka Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the latest example of Himbo Slice’s recent rise to superstardom. He has leveled up. It’s shiny.
Strong flavor and style for days, so much sauce, Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the most unique scorers in league history. As a ball handler, he makes his moves in the space between beats. It keeps things silky smooth and distorted. Speeds up and slows down the frame rate on your drives. He slows down to the point where the turtles pass him, then uses his length to surge into the daylight and finish. He’ll happily target a defender’s hip and take straight routes to the glass or take more scenic routes. Himothy Olyphant enjoys a nice zig-zag and gets rough around the winding roads. You have the entire range of Eurosteps at your disposal and can deploy them in an instant. In a crowd, it transforms into apparition. He has a lot in common with pretzel makers: twisting defenders into twisted figure-eights, then leaving them deluded and plunging into lies. Its handle is deceptively tight, always seconds away from a turn, and becomes slippery on demand. Protecting him is like trying to shake hands with a tornado.
The raw numbers are pretty: 31.1 points per game, nearly 6 assists and 4.6 rebounds. The splits are equally beautiful. He’s shooting the ball dimples: 53.4% from the field, 40.9% from 3, 90.7% from the line. Let it reach its place in the midrange and it’s a wrap. It’s hitting [cups hands] 72.5 percent at the rim, 51.3 percent from 10 to 16 feet and 52.2 percent from 16 feet at the 3-point line. He is fifth in points per game, win shares and VORP, and leads the league in transition score, drives and points from 2 unassisted. His confidence is shot at both ends, and so is his defense has taken a couple bigger jump that his offense He is at 1.4 blocks per game and 1.8 steals. Himmy Buffett is locked down, wreaking havoc on the ball and in the passing lanes. This is NBA behavior. The bag is the size of Texas. The Thunder will have to start traveling with an extra plane. If you’re the company you’re keeping, Gilgeous-Alexander has easily been a top 10 player this year and has a case for the top five. And then there’s his street work.
You have a better chance of keeping the snow out of Buffalo than keeping SGA out of the paint. (Only Luka and Ja are more prolific there.) So far this season, he’s built vacation homes in the lanes of every stadium he’s played in. Baroque and luxury excavations. Profusely equipped and built for leisure. Four caves, a bowling alley, two recording studios, a marble bust Nardwara vineyard, a Chili’s, a Reba room, time Crisis 3and one SCTV-Thematic loggia overlooking the botanical gardens. There’s a neon sign on each door that says “WELCOME TO THE DISCO” and a closet that’s an exact replica of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.
What you have to understand in trying to defend this new iteration of Gilgeous-Alexander is that it would seem impossible. Teams that pride themselves on not doubling have realized this they have no choice. Get two on the ball or die. Their intermediate game is nails. He’s got the float working, a wide range of pull-ups, and he gets to the rim at will. This is the ultimate creation on the ball. He can finish through contact with either hand, and he can do so while hitting the deck and not looking. Shaking and movement take center stage, without a doubt, it’s getting pretty close, but there’s now a more consistent physicality to its units. Where he used to pass two or three times a game, he now regularly puts defenders aside.
He hasn’t eliminated all 3 from his diet, but he is being selective. It makes sense to be. The damage he does when he gets deep on defense, settling for a ton of treys would let them off the hook. The footwork is impregnable. [Arby’s voice.] He has the feet. [Arby’s voice.] he has the sweets. Supercharged Stretch-Armstrong finishes. The one-handed spoonfuls floated smoothly out of the glass. Post-gyre leans that fall out of bounds. He treats the lane like a funhouse mirror, stretching or shrinking depending on location, his dribble time and his flow always clashing with the defender’s rhythms.
Jason Kidd once told Luka Doncic “has its own speed limit“. The same could be said of Himmy Stewart. He is the master of the streets and of navigation: he goes as fast or as slow as he wants and no one can do anything about it. He is chronically balanced, plays at his own pace and no one else’s. Never in a dizzying fashion, never in a rush, just moving as the play and the defense dictate. Gilgeous-Alexander does it with craft and skill and a pair of legs that won’t quit. He gets into lane and becomes a combination of Doc Ock and Baryshnikov. It’s full Yamaguchi. Triple axes and double lutes between the trees. It has high-performance brakes: no matter how fast you’re going, it can stop before you.
Defenses charge to shut him down, but it doesn’t matter. Show him a wall of bodies and he’ll show you all sorts of fundamental inconsistencies with that barrier. He’ll show you the holes and cracks, the flaws in your construction, the areas the architect changed and missed, and the areas the contractor cut corners. Gaffigan’s game is unusually extensive. The kind of traditional, amazing athleticism isn’t there the way it is for other stars — his is more about flexibility, poise and elite touch.
The first step is world class. Dash past enemies, using long strides to stretch through and around defenses. He has golden hamstrings and a springy spine, and arms his length like Giannis Light. He plays with great flex and keeps that ridiculous step, even when defenses demand it, he goes down. There’s a seemingly endless buffet of countertops in his mind, and he’s created a body that can flex, bend, and lean as he needs to. He moves in ways that other players don’t, he has infinite mobility when he seems to be fully stretched. Sometimes in their units it looks like one jaguar swimming. Something alien in motion, fascinatingly fluid, unorthodox and smooth.
All stats are current through Saturday’s games.
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