Josh Giddey is blossoming before the eyes of the NBA world – and the US media is taking notice.
Giddey produced one of his best games yet in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, matching his career-high with 28 points plus nine rebounds and nine assists to just miss out on his seventh career triple-double.
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As highlighted by The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto, Shai Gilgous-Alexander also had 28 points, but SGA “looked comfortable deferring to Giddey, who was the most forceful player on the floor.”
It continued the Aussie’s blistering form in recent weeks where he’s taken his game to another level – most notably offensively – and helped the Thunder surge into the brink of the play-in tournament.
Over his last 10 games, Giddey has averaged 20.3 points per game, 7.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists, while since December 1, he’s shooting over 50 per from the field, 40 per cent from three-point range (3.4 attempts) and 90 per cent from the free throw line.
After an up and down start to the season including some calls Giddey was in a sophomore slump, there’s now a genuine argument he’s the premier sophomore of the entire draft class.
The 20-year old has scored 20-plus points in eight of his last 12 games including three in a row – after only doing so in three of his previous 26 games this season.
This improved offensive explosion is what’s really elevated his game to another level, rounding out the 6-foot-8 player’s already talented skill set.
This was on show when Giddey scored seven-straight points for OKC in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn to kickstart its comeback win as the Thunder rained in a barrage of threes.
For Locked On Thunder’s Rylan Stiles, this current hot streak from Giddey might just be his new floor.
“Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop … he’s been phenomenal and sensational,” Stiles said of Giddey.
“But I feel like everyone’s holding their breath like: ‘When is this going to come back down to reality?’ This might just be the new reality. The sample keeps getting bigger, bigger and bigger. This might just be who Josh Giddey is.
“A really clutch player who can step up for you and score, grab really clutch rebounds to keep possessions alive or end possessions, put on a passing clinic – Josh Giddey might just be this good.”
Giddey’s offence – in particular his shooting – was a big focus coming into the season after only knocking down 26.3 per cent of his shots from downtown in his rookie campaign and working closely with NBA shooting coach Chip Engelland over the off-season.
Not only has he improved his three-point stroke to 34.2 per cent on 3.2 attempts over the course of this season, he’s also utilising his big frame better by attacking the rim and playing with more aggression offensively.
So confident is Giddey now attacking the paint, he even gave the ‘too small’ signal to Nets big man and NBA shot-blocking leader Nic Claxton during Monday’s game after finishing over him in the paint.
“He’s just confident,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Very confident. He knows what he brings to the table, and when he’s kickin’ your butt he’s gonna let you know.
“Josh has been really good. He’s being aggressive, he’s making the right play, he’s playing super efficient basketball. The kid works hard and he has the mental (game) for sure.”
And while Gilgeous-Alexander’s dominant All-Star calibre season has earned so much plaudits for leading the highly competitive Thunder, it’s Giddey recent surge that’s really propelled this team into play-in – and thus playoff – contention.
Playing the role of the second star the Thunder still lack, if you will.
Thunder pundits aren’t the only ones talking up Giddey too, with the national US media also impressed.
‘Big Guy’ Giddey growing in confidence! | 00:29
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor believes Giddey has the potential to become a bona fide superstar if he can continue to develop his current offensive production, going so far to predict he’s capable of making All-NBA teams.
“We’ve talked a lot about SGA. You know who else is special? Josh Giddey, he’s really coming along,” O’Connor said on The Mismatch Podcast.
“He’s been talking very often – ever since training camp way back in October – about the stuff he’s been doing with Chip Engelland.
“Going into detail about some of the little things they’ve done with his hand, moving his thumb off touching the ball as he releases it in a certain weird way he was doing it before. The mental aspect – the next shot mentality – not worrying as much.
“I’m buying it because Giddey has always had touch near the basket. He’s always had touch on those weird little lay-ups, floaters and leaners … it’s just the shot has never worked.
“The fact he’s hitting over 90 per cent of his free throws (since December) in addition to hitting pull ups from mid range in addition to hitting three-pointers off the catch. If he continues – whether it’s 40-plus per cent or whether he settles down at 36-37 per cent – this dude has All-NBA teams in his future.
“He’s already a magnificent passer and he’s such a good headsy defender. He’s always in the passing lanes and a great help defender.
“Giddey, SGA and Chet Holmgren as your current big three with all your other young talent … and future picks, they have a mountain of draft picks coming up. This team’s future is bright.”
Indeed, as exciting as Giddey and the Thunder’s current play is, the promise for the future is scary.
Currently sitting just three games behind the fifth-seeded Mavericks, OKC has so much room to grow with Giddey and gun rookie Jalen Williams both just 20 years old, Gilgeous-Alexander only 24 (and contracted until 2027), plus the looming return of Pick 2 draftee Chet Holmgren next season.
That’s before you factor in OKC’s bounty of draft picks and the potential for it to add more pieces through trade and free agency.
Given their current form, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has plenty to think about with regards to starting to shift from a rebuilding team to a side with genuine playoff ambitions.
“I’m just going to say it now – I absolutely cannot wait to watch the Thunder next season. I think they have a chance to make a huge leap next season,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe Post.
“Josh Giddey is figuring it out … they have a funky little Shai-Giddey-Dort-Jaylin Williams (line-up) out together and it’s like four big wings and a centre switching and causing havoc. The ball is moving and they’re fast and athletic.
“They’ve got obviously a million draft picks still to come and Holmgren hasn’t played. I think they’re set next year to start winning in a real way. To be in the play-in mix should be a given for them, they’re going to be good.”