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The Thunder’s mini camp is a sign of growth from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

13 Thunder players worked out together at Olin Simplis’ open run

NBA: Boston Celtics at Oklahoma City Thunder Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

It is pretty clear that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a star in the making. The young Canadian guard has the skill-set and temperament to be one of the best in his position for the next ten years. However, there has always been a question about Shai’s leadership.

Gilgeous-Alexander spent his first two seasons in the league on teams led by strong veterans. In his rookie year, Gilgeous-Alexander was able to feel his way into the league while players like Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley commanded the Clippers. In his sophomore year, Chris Paul took Shai under his wing and imparted his wisdom.

Since that, Shai has been the leader on young, inexperienced teams. We have seen Gilgeous-Alexander improve his overall game but the team’s growth has happened more slowly.

It was reported last week that Gilgeous-Alexander put together a mini training camp for every Thunder player who wanted to attended. The only absentees were Chet Holmgren and Mike Muscala. Everyone else turned up and put in the work. The camp occurred at an open run organised by Olin Simplis, Gilgeous-Alexander’s trainer.

The camp was also attended by Thunder coaches including Chip Engelland, OKC’s newly hired assistant coach. It is really pleasing to see Gilgeous-Alexander take a leaf out of Damian Lillard’s playbook and get the roster together to build relationships.

Lillard has taken his teammates on the Trailblazers to San Diego every offseason for the last seven years as a way of building chemistry. The bonding trip has become a hallmark of Dame’s leadership. These sort of trips allow players to get in the gym with each other and provides plenty of time to figure each other out on a personal level.

Tight-knit teams win championships and spending time together is one way to develop these ties. Gilgeous-Alexander bringing his team together for offseason workouts would seem to suggest that he has learned this lesson. Individual brilliance can only take the Thunder so far; winning playoff series requires contribution from every man on the roster.

There are other notable takeaways from the mini camp, the first being Gilgeous-Alexander’s fadeaway jumper. In the film, Shai takes Payton Pritchard down into the post numerous times before spinning back and draining a clean jumper. His form on the fader looks very tight and I would not be surprised to see this shot implemented into his game this season.

Lu Dort’s driving game appears to be a lot smoother and more controlled. Last season, Dort could be a little wild and relied too much on physicality to battle past defenders. His footwork and interpretation of space seems to have improved; this will be something to watch as the season progresses. If Dort can consistently create his own shot off the drive, his ceiling as a player completely changes.

My last takeaway is more of a general point but it feels like jumpers are snapping off the wrist a lot quicker for the entire team. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Tre Mann and Aaron Wiggins all look to have quicker, more precise jumpshots.

Gilgeous-Alexander will likely not be a perfect leader for the Thunder, that is an impossible task but he has made a good start this season. By embracing his teammates and bringing them into offseason workouts, he is helping to set the Thunder on a good footing for the 2022-23 season.