Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was arguably not only the most improved player on Kentucky’s team but the entire country.
The freshman swingman has also worked his way into the lottery discussion and potentially to the 76ers at No. 10 in the upcoming NBA draft.
Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds for the Wildcats on his way to becoming one of the most consistent players on the team. It was quite an impressive feat for such a young player from the beginning of the season to the end.
“I’ve had doubters a lot in my life,” Gilgeous-Alexander told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “That’s always motivated me. … I don’t think it was proving myself to the fans or the rest of the world. It was just trying to maximize my potential, and be the best me I can be. And I knew if I did that and worked as hard as I possibly could, things like (being invited to the NBA Combine) would happen.”
Gilgeous-Alexander shot 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc this season. The Sixers are desperate for another wing shooter, especially if JJ Redick doesn’t re-sign in the offseason.
“A lot of them don’t say it’s necessarily a weakness,” Gilgeous-Alexander told the Herald-Leader of what NBA scouts have said about his shooting. “It’s just another thing that needs to improve. Personally, I think all my attributes need to improve to get to the level I want to get to, which is that elite level, that superstar talent level. Like with everything, work will get you where you want to go.”
Gilgeous-Alexander became one of the top point guards in the country by the end of the season and he would seem to be a curious choice for the Sixers, who already boast Ben Simmons, T.J. McConnell, and Markelle Fultz.
Adding a quality player is never a bad idea. Who knows if Fultz will be in Philadelphia long-term? If last season was an indication, anything is possible.
There have been 24 first round choices from Kentucky since 2010 and Gilgeous-Alexander looks like he’ll join an impressive list, which includes John Wall and De’Aaron Fox.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been outspoken for years about wanting his players to leave school for the NBA after one season to achieve their childhood dreams of reaching the NBA.
“Shai’s development is a story I’ll tell our players for the rest of my career,” Calipari said in a statement after Gilgeous-Alexander announced his intentions to head to the NBA.
“When we talk about building your own confidence and conquering yourself, Shai is the perfect example. You’re talking about a kid who had the physical tools and had the potential to be in this position. But he elevated his game because he woke up at 7 a.m. every day to work out, was the best in the weight room, watched film and never missed class. … He’s done this because he’s put in the work. And it’s that attitude and mindset that will ensure his success at the next level.”
In the NCAA tournament, Kentucky was ousted by Kansas State in the Sweet 16 and Gilgeous-Alexander shot just 2 of 10 from the field with five turnovers.
Even though he had a poor shooting performance in his final collegiate game, Gilgeous-Alexander’s upside is huge and he would look good in a Sixers uniform.