Los Angeles Clippers

Can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander be as good as the best guards to come out of Kentucky?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (NBA Getty Images)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was selected with the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. He became the 14th Kentucky guard to be drafted since John Calipari took over the head coaching job in 2009.

So where will Gilgeous-Alexander rank among his Kentucky family when it's all said and done?

Of the 14 guards drafted to the league, only John Wall (1), De'Aaron Fox (5), Jamal Murray (7) and Brandon Knight (8) were selected higher than 11th. In the 2017 NBA Draft, Malik Monk (11) was selected at the same pick as Gilgeous-Alexander, with Devin Booker (13) in 2015 rounding out the group of players taken as a lottery pick.

Aside from Fox and Monk coming off the bench on senior night, all but two of the guards mentioned above started every game in their career at Kentucky: Gilgeous-Alexander and Booker.

Booker played during the blue-white platoon year for the Wildcats, not starting in any games for Kentucky. He came off the bench in all 38 contests and only played 21.5 minutes per game.

Gilgeous-Alexander's story was a bit different. He was the ninth-highest rated player on his team in terms of high school ranking. He came off the bench for 13 of his first 15 college games before Calipari slid him into the starting lineup permanently for the remainder of the season.

But coming off the bench is not the only thing Booker and Gilgeous-Alexander have in common. Neither were a top-20 recruit coming out of high school. They both slipped out of the top-10 on draft night and neither were the first Kentucky player selected in their draft. They also both stand in at 6-foot-6, which is bigger than the average guard in the NBA.

These similarities are good for Gilgeous-Alexander considering the success that Booker has had in the league, but where do they differ?

Comparing their college stats per 40 minutes to even things out, Booker averaged 18.7 points on 47.0 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from three. Scoring has never been an issue for the sharpshooting guard, but he contributed in other ways as well, pulling down 3.7 rebounds and dishing out 2.1 assists per 40 minutes.

Gilgeous-Alexander has never been known as a shooter like Booker, but he still averaged 17.1 points per 40 minutes at Kentucky. The shocking part? His 48.5 field goal percentage is better than Booker, and his 40.4 percent from three is nearly the same. He also averaged more rebounds (6.1) and assists (4.9) per 40 minutes.

This is by no means to say Gilgeous-Alexander is as good as or better than Booker offensively. He might just be slightly underrated as a scorer and shooter.

There is one area where SGA separates himself mightily from Booker, though, and that is defense.

Queue a former NBA All-Defensive team selection, John Wall.

Wall has finished top-10 in steals per game in the NBA four times. His 157 steals in 2016-17 led the league. He had a total of 66 steals in his one year at Kentucky, averaging 1.8 per game with a 2.9 steal percentage.

Gilgeous-Alexander is praised for his defense and having a nose for the ball, just like Wall was coming out of college. In his one year at Kentucky, he had 61 total steals, averaging 1.6 per game with 2.8 steal percentage. Per 40 minutes, both Gilgeous-Alexander and Wall averaged 2.0 steals a game.

The NBA's defensive mold has become very switch-heavy. This bodes well for Gilgeous-Alexander, as his 7-foot wingspan is the longest of any guard in the league, which makes him a switchable defender on just about any guard or forward. His 180-pound frame was seen to be a concern among NBA scouts, but with a year of NBA training, Shai has the ability to become an elite defender.

His offensive numbers at Kentucky were step for step with Booker, a guy who just signed a five-year $158 million contract becoming the franchise player for the Phoenix Suns. His defensive numbers matched the likes of Wall, who signed a $207 million extension as the face of the Washington Wizards franchise in July of 2017.

Calipari coached both of these guys - among others with some serious talent - but the praise he gave Gilgeous-Alexander was unlike any other.

Calipari didn't stop there either.

If Coach Cal is right, the Los Angeles Clippers may have struck gold with Canada's own Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in this year's draft.

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