Eric Patten: A-
Some of the toughest spots to find top-tier talent can be the mid-to-late lottery. With the Clippers sitting at No. 12 and 13 in the June draft, they had two chances to get it right. With Gilgeous-Alexander (via a trade up with Charlotte), the Clippers seemingly nailed it. SGA presents both an opportunity for the franchise to have a modern two-way guard in the future and see immediate dividends. In the Summer League slate, it already appeared SGA was above and beyond most others in Vegas. Now, we get to see if that translates in a crowded LA backcourt during the regular season. Whether this season or later on, nabbing a 20-year-old who can defend multiple positions, see the floor, and is developing as an offensive threat is certainly as good as anyone could have hoped.
Lucas Hann: A
I love Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and I get to say that without being mocked for overvaluing LVSL stats because I loved him before his standout performance at Summer League. He’s good, and versatile, with the ability to fit into multiple roles and positions, setting the Clippers up excellently to have him as part of their starting backcourt for the next decade, alongside whichever star they hope to land in the coming seasons. His poise, intelligence, and leadership are far beyond his years at 19 years old, and I think I’d rather have him than Trae Young and Collin Sexton, two point guards who went ahead of him in the lottery. The only qualm that I have here is that the Clippers played their hand a little too heavily and ended up having to give up two 2nd round picks to Charlotte to move up to 11th and draft him. Those fringe assets are absolutely worth it to get Shai, but you’ve gotta wonder if a tweak in pre-draft strategy could have saved them some trouble. Still, they get an A, and even if it’s a 95% instead of 100%, it’s still a great 4.0 to start the summer with.
Michelle Uzeta: B+
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick-up for the rebuilding Clippers, but not without his issues. Whether the rookie was worth sending the 12th pick and two second-round picks to the Charlotte Hornets in the 2018 NBA Draft has yet to be seen. I’m choosing to be optimistic, however. Gilgeous-Alexander was impressive running the Clippers’ summer league offense, averaging 19 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.3 steals and a block in 27.8 minutes per game. At six-foot-six with a near 7-foot wingspan, the rookie from Toronto was able to cause opponents difficulty on both ends of the floor.
Positives for the versatile point guard include his ability to occupy passing lanes, solid free throw shooting (> 80%), efficiency working within a pick and roll offense (accounting for 38.9 percent of his offense at Kentucky), change of pace dribbling / ball-handling, and ability to use his length to finish at the rim (57.4% shooting around the basket).
On the downside, Gilgeous-Alexander is not particularly fast or athletic compared to other guards in the league. He is not a “coast-to-coast” player, but rather – like Milos Teodosic – prefers to push the ball in transition through passing. He lacks an explosive first step and struggles to get separation from defenders in the half-court. He also has a fairly slow shot release. While these weaknesses may not have been glaring during college match-ups, they may impact his offensive output on the NBA stage. At approximately 180 lbs, Gilgeous-Alexander is also slight relative to others in the league, and the size difference may cost him on defense with some of the sturdier guards in the league.
All things considered, I believe Gilgeous-Alexander is a good fit for the Clippers. He is poised, exhibits high basketball IQ, has good court vision, and is able to guard multiple positions. It’s unfortunate that Gilgeous-Alexander will not have an experienced true point guard like Chris Paul around to mentor him, but I’m looking forward to solid contributions and positive growth from Shai this season.
Taylor Smith: A-
I’ll grade the move to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with an A-. I was somewhat hopeful the Clips would take a chance on Michael Porter Jr. with one of their lottery picks, but I obviously get why they didn’t pull the trigger. Shai gives them a versatile, rangy point guard capable of defending both guard spots. In the short term, he gives them a nice insurance policy in case Patrick Beverley struggles to stay healthy again. In the long term, he has do-it-all potential as a 6’6” point guard with plenty of room for growth. It’s also nice that he already seems to have a capable shooting touch, so the risk of him becoming an updated version of Michael Carter-Williams look fairly slim. The fact that he should be able to step onto an NBA floor and contribute defensively right away is pretty rare, especially for a guard, so I’m a fan of the pick for the Clippers. I think he’ll force his way into some minutes this year despite the crowded backcourt.
Shapan Debnath: A
It’s easy for me to get excited about Summer League things, but as someone who does not watch much college basketball, SGA answered a lot of my questions about his game from his perfomance in Vegas. While his suspect shot is still a bit of a concern, I’m super impressed by his poise and the fact that he already has some nice pet moves that I think should translate. I’m very excited to watch him play.
Max Jeffrey: B+
When news broke during the draft that the Clippers were trading two future second-round picks to move up just one spot to draft Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, to a roster with a total backcourt logjam, it seemed pretty questionable. Moving Austin Rivers not long afterward certainly helped, but questions still remained about where SGA might fit in. Well, factor in that every other Clippers guard is on a trade-able/expiring deal, and then factor in SGA’s all-around production during his season at Kentucky; it becomes easier to see why Clippers made the move. Possessing great size for a guard, with a very versatile skillset and the efficiency to match, SGA gives the Clippers more than just a safe option at the guard spot. He’s not particularly agile, but he is especially crafty and possesses excellent court awareness. The Clippers were apparently very high on SGA for some time before the draft, and they envision him having the potential to play either guard spot as well as a forward spot in certain lineups. He had, arguably, the best showing of any rookie guard in the NBA Summer League, and Clippers fans should be excited about the opportunity to watch him develop.
Robert Flom: A-
If this were just regarding the Clippers picking Shai with one of their picks, it’s an easy A. I think he’s a terrific prospect, and an ideal fit in the modern NBA. He has the size and athleticism to defend multiple positions, is a capable passer and ball-handler, and is very nifty at getting to the hoop and finishing once he arrives there. Really, the only qualms I have about him as a player involve his shooting, and even there I don’t think he’s in a bad place.
My issue with the pick isn’t about Shai, or even about giving up two second-round picks to get him. The Clippers fixated on him early in the draft process, and then went up to get him. I don’t mind that—go get your guy. No, what I don’t like is that the rumors about the Clippers having a fondness for Shai started early, and the Hornets being aware of that interest is what enabled them to get two picks from the Clippers in exchange for moving up just one draft slot. I wish the Clippers had been a little more discreet, and their obvious interest in Shai cost them. Nonetheless, I think it was a good move to go up and nab him, and I think he’s easily a top 10 prospect in this class.