The Oklahoma City Thunder played their cards close to the vest
when they selected Josh Giddey at No. 6 overall in the 2021 NBA
Draft. As GM Sam Presti explained after drafting Giddey, he first
discovered the 19-year-old Australian point-forward while
quarantining during the G League Bubble. Locked in his hotel room,
Presti endlessly flowed through tape on Giddey and fell in love
with him as a prospect. It turned a lot of heads and draft night,
but Oklahoma City felt very comfortable with their intel on Giddey
and his potential upside.
“I went down to the G League Bubble this year and we had to
quarantine. And I was down there with our Blue team,” Presti said
after the 2021 draft. “So, I had four days to sit in my room and
that was the first time I really dug into a lot of his film. By the
time I left my room, I had a pretty good feel for (Giddey), I
think, because I piled up a bunch of games when I sat in
As of late, Giddey has proven to be not only one of the best
prospects with early returns from this year’s draft class, but his
tantalizing ceiling continues to show up more consistently. Heading
into the All-Star break, Giddey has recorded three triple-doubles
in a row. Giddey only needs one more triple-double to break Luka
Doncic’s record for most by a player under age-20.
Oklahoma City was always an ideal scenario for Giddey, mainly
because he can have a full-on focus for his player development in
an environment where they know plenty of work is still to be done.
Winning is not the priority for the Thunder right now, and that’s
totally okay because Giddey’s recent play is a positive all by
itself, overcoming the immediate on-court win-loss total.
During his rookie campaign, Giddey is averaging 12.4 points, 7.8
rebounds and 6.4 assists. The efficiency numbers are definitely
cringe-worthy at a measly 47.8 True Shooting percentage, but the
6’8” Australian’s recent surge is showing true signs of growth for
an Oklahoma City team needing another promising player alongside
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander long-term.
Speaking of Gilgeous-Alexander, he’s missed the Thunder’s last
11 games with an ankle injury heading into the All-Star break. In
the meantime, Giddey has taken on a bigger role and began to show
real untapped potential as an all-around offensive fulcrum. Giddey
averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists on a 52.4 TS% as
the Thunder slid into the break as a real contender to chase for
the No. 1 overall pick.
The one very promising note on this latest stretch of play from
Giddey revolves around his usage and overall efficiency as a
scorer. Before Jan. 28, when SGA went down with his ankle injury
giving the offensive keys to Giddey, the rookie’s TS% was at 46.3%
on a 21.2% usage. Since taking over as the Thunder’s primary
option, Giddey’s usage rate jumped 2.9% while his True Shooting
percentage climbed from 46.3 to 52.4.
It’s going to take awhile for Giddey to hit his potentially
perennial All-Star ceiling, but what’s happening lately has to give
Thunder fans hope this long standing, creative rebuild attempt from
Presti will pay off soon enough.
Giddey at this point in time looks like a steal for the Thunder.
Creating an ultra unique backcourt with Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey
brings a nice changeup of funkiness and creativity within the flow
of an offense. Giddey is simply an aesthetically more pleasing
player when he’s running the show.
Where Giddey lacks in overall speed and athleticism, he
certainly won’t pop during games as an off-the-ground guard, the
Aussie makes up for it with innately high basketball IQ and maestro
abilities running a coach’s system. Giddey makes pocket-passes pop
up out of nowhere. He can set up the corner pocket pass with
precision by manipulating defenders with his eyes to open up the
The swing skill set for Giddey will ultimately be his
floor-spacing acumen. Shooting only 26.7% on threes, Giddey’s
penultimate outcome as a prospect seems capped. However, in
Oklahoma City, he’s becoming insulated by SGA’s All-Star-level
scoring and versatility, plus the fireball off the bench in rookie
combo guard Tre Mann as well. Looking down the road a few years,
Giddey as the set-up man for the Thunder’s offense with plenty of
shooting and defensive versatility surrounding him sounds like a
winning recipe. Incredibly enough, over OKC’s last 11 games, they
are a plus-point team with Giddey on the court (0.1 NetRtg).
If Giddey is able to find a consistent shooting stroke within
the next few years, his ceiling seems way up there for star-level
modern guards. If the last three games are any indication, Giddey
could be a triple-double machine soon enough. That type of player
brings winning value instantly, making an organization more
comfortable placing him within the "untouchable" tier.
Gilgeous-Alexander is already there, but Giddey might be joining
him, if he hasn't already.
Nobody knew how long this rebuild attempt from Presti in
Oklahoma City would truly last. Would it go longer than the failed
attempts in Phoenix with Ryan McDonough and Philadelphia with Sam
Hinkie? That firm is still unknown, but the timeline is starting to
form together a little bit for the Thunder.
Gilgeous-Alexander already raised the Thunder to at least a
competitively competent team when he’s on the court. Giddey’s
recent ascension adds another piece to the puzzle for the Thunder,
laying out when exactly they could jump and push that war chest of
future draft capital in for a win-now star play.
Oklahoma City slots in at No. 4 in the reverse standings, which
is right at the cut-off mark for the consensus top four prospects
on BasketballNews’ Big Board: Jabari Smith (Auburn), Paolo Banchero
(Duke), Jaden Ivey (Purdue), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga). If the
Thunder stay within that range come draft night, they add another
blue chip talent to the pool of an already strong bunch
The upward trajectory of Giddey has me rightfully giddy to see
him and Gilgeous-Alexander share the floor once again after the
All-Star break. If this backcourt can show real winning promise
over the final stretch of games for OKC, we could finally be seeing
the arrow point up for the organization after a decade-long stretch
of sustained playoff appearances beforehand.
Looking to go to the hottest concerts, sports,
theater & family shows near you? Get 100% guaranteed tickets to
more than 125,000 live events from TicketSmarter, the official
ticket marketplace of BasketballNews.com.