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Juicy Fruit Rookies

NBA Rookie Rewind presented by Juicy Fruit: Is Shaun Livingston the best comparison for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?

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Juicy Fruit Rookie Comparison (NBA.com Illustration)

A popular pre-draft comparison for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston. But now that we've seen him play 51 games in an LA Clippers uniform, is there a better comparison to be made for the Hamilton native?

Yes and no. No, because Gilgeous-Alexander will always look like he came straight out of Livingston's lab, with both of them being big point guards who are at their best when they're using their 7-foot wingspans to score over smaller defenders. Yes because Gilgeous-Alexander could be a more versatile offensive player and a superior defender in his prime - though who knows what kind of player Livingston would have been had he not suffered a devastating knee injury early in his career.

That doesn't necessarily mean he'll one day lead the league in scoring or become a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but all the signs are pointing towards Gilgeous-Alexander developing into an All-Star calibre player.

Which brings us back to the opening question.

While there are many different directions Gilgeous-Alexander's career can go from here on out, it's encouraging that he stacks up well with one of the league's premier point guards when comparing his numbers to theirs as a rookie. They both averaged around 10 points, three rebounds and one steal per game in their age 20 seasons while posting an almost identical shot profile.

The biggest differences between them is one averaged more assists and the other shot a better percentage from the field. Remove their names when comparing their statistics and they otherwise look like the exact same player, all the way down to their Player Efficiency Rating and Usage Rate.

Player FGM-FMA FG% 3PM-3PA 3PT% PPG APG RPG SPG PER USG
A 3.6-8.3 42.8 0.6-1.7 33.0 9.4 4.2 2.6 0.8 12.6 18.8
B 3.8-8.2 46.6 0.5-1.5 32.5 9.9 2.9 2.6 1.0 12.0 17.8

So who is the veteran Gilgeous-Alexander looks like the second coming of - on paper, at least? Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley.

The No. 4 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Conley has never been named an All-Star though he's consistently been on the bubble with averages of 16.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game since the 2011-12 season. The Grizzlies have been a highly competitive team during that span, with seven consecutive trips to the playoffs, including one appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

He's still playing at a high level at age 31, posting 20.1 points, 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest in the 50 games he's played this season. If he does become available before next month's trade deadline, there are a handful of teams that would benefit greatly from adding him to their core. Not only would they be getting a versatile offensive player and a ball-hawking defender, Conley is a steady floor general who can be trusted to make the right play in big moments.

The combination means he can thrive alongside almost any player in the league, whether it's a Marc Gasol or a Luka Doncic.

Gilgeous-Alexander already ticks a lot of those same boxes. The looks he creates for himself are Livingston-esque - his go-to shot right now is a pull-up from midrange - but he's a capable 3-point shooter and a crafty finisher around the basket who has solid court vision.

With his height and length, there's also no reason why Gilgeous-Alexander can't develop into an All-NBA-type of defender, much like Conley has. He is already off to a good start in that regard, as he currently ranks third among rookies in total steals, second in total deflections, fourth in loose balls recovered and first among first-year guards in total blocks.

Gilgeous-Alexander is ultimately a mix of both; Livingston because of his physical tools and Conley because of how he impacts the game and the numbers he's producing on a nightly basis.

That gives the Clippers a unique player to build around as they continue their climb back up the Western Conference standings.

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