The Oklahoma City Thunder dismantled the Utah Jazz on Saturday, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was an integral part of it with 19 points, six assists and three steals on 6-for-12 shooting, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc. He also got to the line six times, netting five of those attempts. The Thunder, if you haven't noticed, have a future star on their hands. It won't be long before we have to remove the "future" part of that distinction.
In addition to being a terrific two-way player and a much better shooter than his skeptics feared when he came out of Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the most unique finishers in the league. He's so long. So crafty. A master of wrong-foot finishes, scoop shots and reaching, full-extension layups that never cease to surprise defenders via unconventional timing and releases.
On Thursday, SGA did a number on two-time reigning defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert, taking it at the Jazz big man with zero fear. Let's marvel at a few of these finishes. First, watch SGA weave in and out of this pick and roll, get into Gobert's body to maintain leverage after elevation, and finish with his left hand over the best rim protector in the world.
Here's a similar move to get to the basket, but this time SGA gets Gobert in the air on the left before dipping back under to the right, using the rim as protection.
Here, he beats Joe Ingles off the dribble and, rather than getting all the way to the rim, uses his length and reach to get it up on the glass with his left hand before Gobert can react.
SGA isn't yet a great finisher by the numbers; he shoots 58 percent at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass, which puts him in the 37th percentile among wings. But, to me, this is a case of the numbers just not yet catching up to the obvious skill. Plus, a lot of SGA's finishes actually qualify as short mid-range shots for how far out he can release from and his feel for off-beat, in-between pull-ups against retreating defenders. His unorthodox creativity and timing and natural feel for wrong-footed takeoffs and awkward, off-hand finishes are such a joy to watch and constantly keep bigs off balance and guessing.