The first draft prospect that I’m going to be looking at is Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He is a 6’6″, 19 year old, Freshman PG who can stretch to a wing position in some small ball lineups. Shai averaged 14.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.1 rpg for the Wildcats on 49% from the field, 40% from 3, and 82% from the line.
Offensively, Shai has lots of strengths to his game. He shot 40% on spot up threes in college (although it was on a small sample size). He is a very crafty finisher and had a 61% efficiency at the rim. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid first step that helps him get to the rim on his drives. Shai is probably at his best while running the pick and roll. Whether he is facilitating or trying to score, Gilgeous-Alexander is usually able to have his way in the pick and roll. He has a 7’0″ wingpan which helps him tremendously in grabbing rebounds and also finishing between defenders at the rim. As a floor general, he is a very good passer and has great vision thanks to his height. He is able to see over his defender most of the time and always is able to make the simple read. On defense, Shai is a very good defensive playmaker averaging 2.0 stl/40 minutes at Kentucky.
Despite having a good spot up jumper, Shai is not very developed in shooting off the dribble yet. He needs better shot mechanics on the move and also needs to get better elevation on those jumpers. He lacks confidence in his jumper at times as well. Shai is not very explosive on his drives and struggles to get past his man on drives at times. The only weakness I have noticed while he is passing the ball is when he gets occasionally careless with the ball. Defensively is really where he could use some work. At times, he lacks effort and fundamentals on defense. He is susceptible to blow-by’s in iso situations and is often taken out of the play completely in pick and roll defense.
The good news for Shai and the Denver Nuggets is that at only 19 years old, a lot of these weaknesses will be patched up in the NBA. Defensively, he has the potential and tools to turn into an elite guard defender with his terrific wingspan, size, and his quickness. Right away, you like the fit for Shai and Denver offensively for a few reasons. With Devin Harris entering free agency, and the Nuggets in a tough spot finanially, they could fill the backup point guard role through the draft. Shai takes care of the ball and would be a good backup to Murray from the start. What really intrigues me is a small ball lineup that Denver could use with Shai on the floor. If he were to get a little bigger, Denver could roll out a Murray-Harris-Shai small ball lineup that could be very efficient. It would take the ball out of Jamal Murray’s hands and let him become a spot up shooter in this lineup. Lastly, I think Shai would be great for Denver in the pick and roll game. Whether it’s getting the ball Jokic in the PnR, driving and scoring, or finding an open shooter as the second option Shai would help Denver’s offense out in the pick and roll for sure.