Gilgeous-Alexander talks up Oklahoma chances
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander knows that he has big shoes to fill. There is no way that he is capable of filling what Russell Westbrook left behind in such a short space of time, but this does not mean that the former Clippers rookie is not prepared to try.
This Oklahoma City Thunder side are looking at a complete rebuild over the next few years, having lost their two best players in the space of just a couple of short weeks. Paul George left for the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving them already short, but it was not like they had been achieving big things in the last couple of years.
When George went to the Clippers to play alongside Kawhi Leonard in one of the most fearsome pairs in the West, it was little surprise when they realised that they had to let Russell Westbrook explore new options as well.
Westbrook joined the Houston Rockets, and now Gilgeous-Alexander knows that this could be one of the roles that he needs to try to fill across 2019/20.
It is not surprising that Gilgeous-Alexander may be a little overwhelmed by what is expected of him. Westbrook managed to average triple-doubles across the past three seasons.
With an average of just 10.8 points and 3.3 assists as a rookie in last year’s Clippers roster, he was not pushed into the spotlight quite as much, and was allowed time to develop on the side under Doc Rivers’ regime. Things will be different this year. There will be less expectation of winning every game, but more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Gilgeous-Alexander.
While they may both be point guards, Gilgeous-Alexander says that they differ in almost every other way, and will be keen to distinguish himself from Westbrook as soon as possible. He noted that they are far apart on previous record, build, experience and playing style.
Gilgeous-Alexander also knows that Oklahoma would like to try to build a squad around him in the next few years if they play their cards right, given how many future picks they get to take off other sides, or can include in trades.
Chris Paul is also expected to depart next season, though they also thought that the 34-year-old would leave this summer. Paul will help to lead the line, but the Thunder expect Gilgeous-Alexander to grow into his role and take more weight when he can start leading the next generation.
Words: Josh Dixon