2018 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Shai Gilgeious-Alexander

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This is the eighth installment in a series of regular postings on draft prospects. This series will take a look at the top draft prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft in June. The plan is to have one or two a week, leading up to a flurry of activity the week of the draft.

Shai Gilgeious-Alexander

School - Class




Age at time of draft





6’6" (with shoes)


180 lbs



Average Mock Draft rank


Pro-player comparison

Shaun Livingston (6'7" with a 6'11" wingspan)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a skilled combo guard with a smooth offensive game, natural ability and defensive upside. On a team full of raw freshmen, he played like an experienced upperclassman.

He was a reserve for Kentucky until about half way through the season - and he was playing so well (over 29 minutes per game, shooting 48% from the floor, 42% from three and 88% from the line), that Calipari really had no choice but to put him in the starting lineup. That is when I noticed his confidence really soared. Since then his draft stock has also skyrocketed.

Gilgeous-Alexander as all the physical tools you look for in an NBA guard, with good height, exceptional length and nice agility. At 6’6", he has excellent size for a point guard / combo guard. He has very good length with a 7’0" wingspan. This superior length (7.7% greater than his height) allows him to contest shots, defend bigger players and disrupt passing lanes. At 180 pounds, he could stand to add some upper body strength, and some bulk; but he’s a hard worker and a gym rat, so that shouldn’t be a long-term issue.

On defense, Gilgeous-Alexander has terrific tools and instincts, but those tools and instincts need polishing. His height and length should allow him to guard multiple positions at the next level. As a defender, he has terrific hands, length and timing. He plays with a ton of energy and effort on the defensive end; and he can switch screens and match up with multiple positions on defense.

Gilgeous-Alexander has solid, but not elite quickness. His game is not predicated on being the quickest or fastest guard, but on his understanding of the game and his high basketball IQ. He is prone to getting beat one-on-one at the college level, so it is safe to assume that may have some trouble staying in front of some of the quicker NBA Point Guards.

With his slight frame, Gilgeous-Alexander sometimes gets "stuck" on screens in the pick-and-roll; but he never gives up on a play. He is very good on rotations, and closes out on shooters under control. He is an excellent team defender and gets quite a few steals by being in the right place at the right time. He’s also a very good rebounder for a Guard.

Offensively the best way to describe Gilgeous-Alexander is "smooth" and effortless. He plays with confidence and it looks like nothing ever rattles him. He doesn’t possess the blazing speed or a lightning-quick first step of John Wall, but he’s crafty, has good court vision and plays under control. When he needs to speed up, he speeds up; and when he needs to slow down, he slows down. He plays at his own pace, and generally it’s the perfect pace for that particular situation.

His calling card on offense is his ability to get into the paint. He is a polished ball handler with a variety of moves. Hesitation, spin, change of direction, crossover, behind the back; he has all the advanced dribble skills. Despite the fact that the Wildcats really couldn’t space the floor effectively, Gilgeous-Alexander was still able to find weaknesses in the defense to get into the lane and do damage.

Gilgeous-Alexander knows how to use angles. Many times I’d watch as he would get a defender off-balance with a hesitation or crossover that allowed him to get a step. He would then use the angle to keep his defender on his hip, or behind him all the way to the rim. Once there, he was a terrific finisher. Gilgeous-Alexander can finish over shot blockers with either hand. There were many times I saw him use his left hand to finish high off the backboard to thwart an awaiting shot blocker. And, Gilgeous-Alexander's got an absolutely terrific left hand.

In regard to his jump shot, Gilgeous-Alexander has a slow release, but shows rock solid shooting mechanics. He shot 40.4% from three in a limited number of attempts (1.5 per game), but what is more encouraging is that he shot 81.7% from the free throw line. It has been my experience that free throw shooting is a better indicator of potential NBA 3-point shooting than actual college 3-point shooting. I would have really liked to see Gilgeous-Alexander shoot more threes in college, but despite his efficient percentages, he seemed reluctant to shoot from deep. He also showed me terrific mid-range, pull up jumpers as well as step back jumpers off the dribble.

While I wouldn’t call him an elite passer, I would say Gilgeous-Alexander’s a very skilled passer. He averaged over five assists per game even though he was not the primary offensive playmaker for the first half of the season. His height allows him to see over the defense. Gilgeous-Alexander attacks the paint with the intention of passing to open shooters, and he is one of the very best at passing the ball ahead to start the break.

Another reason to be optimistic about Gilgeous-Alexander's NBA future is his ability to run the pick & roll. He makes great decisions as the ball handler in p&r, and has mastered the angles, timing and spacing. As I said above, if you give him a step, whether defending one-on-one or in pick-and-roll, Gilgeous-Alexander won’t let you back into the play. He’ll keep you on his hip, or behind him. If the screener tries to help, he can throw perfect pocket passes or pretty lobs to cutting bigs.


  • Solid, but not spectacular athlete.
  • Good feel for the game, good court vision.
  • Plays under control with a ton of confidence.
  • Smooth, polished offensive game.
  • Extremely hard worker - gym rat.
  • Good scorer off the dribble
  • Very good free throw shooter
  • Fairly good playmaker
  • Adequate defensive player that can rack up steals
  • Good size to play either backcourt position
  • Has very good intangibles


  • Reluctant to shoot threes.
  • Needs to speed up his release.
  • May struggle to consistently create his own shot
  • Can be beat by quicker players
  • Must get stronger

In summary, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a smooth, silky game that should translate well to the NBA. A perimeter player with a 7-foot wingspan who can guard multiple positions is incredibly valuable in today’s League. I am confident Gilgeous-Alexander can become a good, if not very good, perimeter shooter and his proficiency in the pick-and-roll, playmaking ability and basketball IQ will earn him a spot in someone’s rotation.

In the NBA, Gilgeous-Alexander's lack of elite quickness might mean he could have trouble gaining separation from defenders, and his average athleticism may diminish his ability to finish at the rim at a high rate. Although I think he could become a starting quality Point Guard, I think his value is more as a combo guard with secondary ball handling and playmaking duties. Everything I’ve seen from Gilgeous-Alexander suggests a high floor with very good upside.


If quality big men are gone from the board (Jontay Porter, Robert Williams, Kevin Knox) then I think it’s a toss up between Khyri Thomas and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the best fit for the Wizards. Khyri is the better defender and shooter, while Shai has a better all-around game and has higher upside. I wouldn’t be disappointed with either choice.

Previous Draft Profiles:

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