The Clippers used the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to acquire Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from the Hornets, making him the eighth Canadian lottery pick in NBA history .
Gilgeous-Alexander entered his freshman season at Kentucky ranked behind six of his college teammates from the same recruiting class, but he climbed up draft boards with his strong play in the second half of the season. Following a slow start, in which he came off of the bench for 13 of his first 15 games as a Wildcat, Gilgeous-Alexander went on to average 14.4 points, 5.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest on 48.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point range, numbers that made him one of the best guards available in Thursday's draft.
The Ontario native now has an opportunity to make a name for himself on a Clippers team loaded with impact players at every position and looking to make the playoffs next season. Even if it doesn't happen immediately, Gilgeous-Alexander has the tools to make a name for himself in the NBA.
What Gilgeous-Alexander brings to the Clippers
While Los Angeles already has four combo guards in Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverley,
Austin Rivers and Lou Williams under contract for next season, Gilgeous-Alexander should fit in well with each of them because he has the size and skill to play both guard positions.
As a lead guard, Gilgeous-Alexander can use his 6-6 frame to shoot over opposing point guards off the dribble and his 6-11 wingspan to finish around rim protectors in the paint. He isn't the most explosive athlete, but he's one of the craftiest finishers in this draft class. He can score with both hands when he gets into the paint, and he's effective from floater range when he can't get all the way to the hoop.
The combination helped him score at a rate of 0.95 points per pick-and-roll possession at Kentucky, ranking him in the 86th percentile in the country.
Gilgeous-Alexander's greatest asset as a lead guard might be his passing. His size is once again a factor, as he can see over the top of the defence to locate open teammates all over the court. He created 7.4 points per game with his passing out of pick-and-rolls at Kentucky, the third-highest mark in SEC play.
With some combination of Teodosic, Beverley, Rivers and Williams spacing the floor in the backcourt, it'll make him a natural pick-and-pop partner with Tobias Harris and a natural pick-and-roll partner with DeAndre Jordan - assuming the All-Star big man picks up his player option for next season and returns to the Clippers.
How Gilgeous-Alexander fares as an off-guard in the NBA hinges on how his 3-point shooting translates to the next level. He flashed potential as a shooter at Kentucky in making 40.4 percent of his long-distance attempts, though that success came on only 1.5 attempts per game, a rate lower than what 7-1 center Mohamed Bamba posted at Texas.
Gilgeous-Alexander at least has decent mechanics on spot-ups. His success at the free throw line (81.7 percent) on 4.7 attempts per game also bodes well for his future as a shooter in the NBA.
If Gilgeous-Alexander can establish himself as a legitimate threat from the perimeter with the Clippers, it would give him the tools to play alongside Williams in particular. One of the finalists for Sixth Man of the Year, Williams functions as a point guard when he's on the court, sporting a usage as high as John Wall, Donovan Mitchell and Stephen Curry during the regular season. With almost half of his own scoring coming in pick-and-rolls, Williams needs players around him who can give him the space he needs to get to his spots from 3-point range and midrange, not teammates defences can sag off.
That shooting ability will become a factor when Gilgeous-Alexander takes over as the primary ball handler as well. Almost all of his 3-pointers at Kentucky were assisted, and he rarely pulled up off the dribble. Teams will go underneath screens in pick-and-rolls far more frequently in the NBA than they did in college, so Gilgeous-Alexander will have to prove he can make teams pay in those situations to become a reliable scorer with the ball in his hands.
Until that day comes, Gilgeous-Alexander will look to make a difference with his defence. His slight frame will be a problem in the NBA, but he has the length and speed to match up with two positions - and potentially three depending on how his body develops. He averaged 1.6 steals per game at Kentucky, using his wingspan to harass ball handlers and pick off errant passes as a help defender.
For a team that ranked 19th in defensive efficiency last season, his versatility could give the Clippers the boost they need to compete on both ends of the court, especially if Jordan can return to his All-Defensive First Team form.