38. Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder
Danilo Gallinari is still better than people realize. He is in his third season of posting a 60-plus true shooting percentage, a 35-plus free-throw-attempt rate and a 40-plus three-point-attempt rate, and he's top 70 all time in career offensive box plus/minus. James Harden and Chauncey Billups are the only players with more such seasons.
This distinctly modern game has been a staple for Gallinari for years, but it has been particularly effective alongside Chris Paul with the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the two vets share the floor, OKC score at a blistering rate of 120.1 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile).
And while CP3 rightfully gets most of the praise for the Thunder's better-than-expected attack—even Gallo said, "I think he's the best leader that I've played with."—the Italian forward deserves plenty of credit.
Paul spreads the ball around more than most floor generals, but Gallinari is still his top assist target. And when CP3 plays without Gallo, that offense plummets to a below-average 109.3 points per 100 possessions.
That impact has a lot to do with the shooting that forced defenders to watch him outside, but Gallinari brings a lot more offense to the table. His pump-fake-and-go game is top-tier. And he's one of the game's best at identifying disadvantaged defenses and actually moving into a drive before the catch. He's not the most explosive athlete, so even those plays didn't often end with wide-open layups, but he draws plenty of fouls that way. His uber-efficient attack is a critical part of the Thunder's success.
On the other end of the floor, he has a harder time overcoming his weaknesses. He's often caught flat-footed on the perimeter. And he doesn't rebound a ton, despite being 6'10". Both contributed to opponents scoring 8.0 more points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, a defensive rating swing that ranks in the fifth percentile.
But even with that deep of a hole dug defensively, Gallinari's plus-6.6 net rating swing still ranks in the 85th percentile. That's how much of an impact his offense makes.
31. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
All the tricks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander flashed as a rookie have proved to be but a prelude. He is no longer a young prospect ahead of schedule. He's one of the NBA's most underrated scorers.
Gilgeous-Alexander has made great use of the extra license the Oklahoma City Thunder have bestowed upon him. His three-point clip is down, but he's stayed above 35 percent while creating more of his own opportunities. Under 10 percent of his made treys came without assists last year. That number has soared up to over 43 percent this season.
Exchanging looks at the rim for longer twos is often frowned upon, but the in-between game suits Gilgeous-Alexander. He's knocking down 45.0 percent of his mid-range jumpers (83rd percentile) and splashing in 45.9 percent of his floaters.
Endorsing his shot distribution is even easier when it comes with a rising free-throw-attempt rate. He has added more changes in pace and in-and-out dribbles to his repository and is much better at finishing through contact from outside the restricted area.
Others will be lower on Gilgeous-Alexander until he brings more oomph as a playmaker. His opportunity is finite beside both Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, but he continues to look more like a hybrid wing than a combo guard. Oklahoma City's offense has sputtered whenever he plays without Paul, and he's tallied just 109 possessions as the official point guard.
As is, though, Gilgeous-Alexander can be the second-best offensive player on a ridiculously good team. And he doesn't necessarily need to approximate floor-general value when he's so darn useful at the other end. He can make life hell on both guard spots and even wing-sized whatevers. The Thunder haven't shied from using him on Ben Simmons- and Brandon Ingram-types.
His All-Star peak isn't just in play. It feels inevitable.
13. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
Every so often a superstar's decline is not just exaggerated but invented. It is talked about as a matter of fact when, in reality, it has yet to begin.
Such was the plight of Chris Paul entering this season. The Houston Rockets treated him as the less valuable player in their trade for Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder tried to reroute him upon arrival. Some of this recurring reservation was precautionary. Paul is an undersized point guard (6'0") on the verge of turning 35 and owed $85.6 million over the next two years. Time is a friend to neither his ability nor price point.
Viewed against those concerns, Paul's situation was still overblown. Even when presented with the disclaimer that the Thunder might keep the core intact past the trade deadline, they did not begin the year as a consensus playoff contender. That aloofness is atypical of a team built around a fringe top-10 player.
Just so we're clear: Paul absolutely remains a fringe top-10 player. His 17.7 points and 6.8 assists per game don't leap off the page, but they come on tough-to-fathom efficiency. He is posting the second-highest true shooting percentage of his career and has been Kevin Durant automatic from mid-range, where he's connecting on 53 percent of his looks, another personal best.
Paul continues to take great pleasure in cooking bigs off the dribble when they switch on to him, and he is still a defensive bulldog. Even more impressive is the extent to which the Thunder thrive by leaning on him. Their offensive rating improves by 13.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the second-largest such swing among anyone who has logged at least 250 minutes. (Of note: Danilo Gallinari, his teammate, is first.)
This dependence carries over to crunch time, where Paul leads Oklahoma City in usage rate by a country mile. He's slashing 53.5/36.0/93.8 in the clutch, which is just silly. Among every player with similar usage who has made at least five crunch-time appearances, only Joel Embiid owns a higher true shooting percentage, which is even sillier—and the core reason why the Thunder are 29-13 in clutch contests.