Shaquille O’Neal picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander over Luka Doncic in ringing endorsement of Thunder star

Shaquille O’Neal is familiar with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game.

With Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder taking the floor during a Tuesday night doubleheader on TNT, the Big Aristotle waxed poetic about OKC’s franchise player, making an eye-opening claim in the process.

“I’m gonna have to take [Gilgeous-Alexander],” O’Neal said when asked his choice between Gilgeous-Alexander and Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic. 

“Luka’s a fabulous player, but this kid? Listen, he plays the right way, he gets his teammates involved. … I’m taking him right now,” the four-time champion continued.

“He’s definitely emerged as one of my favorite players to watch because I like stories like this — guys that come out of nowhere and then they’re a force to be reckoned with. He’s a hell of a player right now.”

MORE: The funky pick-and-roll that makes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander such a headache to defend

Gilgeous-Alexander’s trajectory toward superstardom wasn’t exactly expected. A draft classmate of Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander was selected eight picks later, acquired by the LA Clippers in a draft-day deal and traded to Oklahoma City just one year later.

After averaging 10.8 points per game as a role-playing starter in his rookie year, Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring production has increased year over year. He’s now averaging over 30 points per game for a second consecutive season, something his biggest fans may not have been able to predict during earlier stages of his career.

As for O’Neal’s statement, Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic have established themselves as the best guards in the Western Conference for two years running now. It is, of course, a matter of preference, but recent history suggests that the two aren’t too far off from one another, if at all.

Last season, both Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander represented the Western Conference in the 2023 All-Star Game and would later share All-NBA First Team honors. This season, the two have a good chance of running things back in the All-Star Game and potentially on the All-NBA First Team.

Gilgeous-Alexander is less than a year older than Doncic, who will be 25 at the end of February. They represent the young guard in an MVP race that also features previous winners in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.

MORE: The Thunder are proving that history does repeat itself

Where Gilgeous-Alexander could get the edge this season is tied to team success, as the Thunder are in play for the West’s top seed, while the Mavericks are currently seated a few games back in the middle of the playoff picture. Doncic has an edge with individual numbers, but they paint an interesting argument as well.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter of preference, it’s hard to argue that both Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic aren’t among the NBA’s top 10 players this season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs. Luka Doncic stats 2023-24

  Gilgeous-Alexander Doncic
PPG 31.0 33.6
RPG 5.7 8.1
APG 6.3 9.1
SPG 2.3 1.4
BPG 0.8 0.6
FG% 55.2 48.5
3FG% 32.6 38.0
FT% 89.2 77.8

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