The NBA playoffs are supposed to be the most exciting time of the year but this year’s post-season has not yet reached any great heights.
Josh Giddey is looking anything but giddy despite being a teenager in the NBA.
The bright lights of the world’s biggest and most intense basketball competition can be a daunting place for any player irrespective of their age but the Australian point guard has been cool, calm and collected plenty of accolades in his first 27 games.
He won’t win rookie of the year honours – that will likely go to Cleveland phenom Evan Mobley or perhaps No.1 pick Cade Cunningham if he can continue to improve after injury hampered his start to the season.
However, Giddey is out-performing expectations with Oklahoma City, putting to bed any doubts about the Thunder blowing the No.6 pick with the Melbourne-born playmaker who won NBL rookie of the year last season at Adelaide.
If you go purely by the numbers, Giddey’s rookie season has been fantastic.
But that doesn’t tell the tale of the talented Boomers squad member who turned 19 only a couple of weeks before the NBA season started.
When rookies are on struggling teams they can put up impressive statistics that exaggerate their impact and skew expectations way too high.
Michael Carter-Williams was another point guard who filled up the box scores at the start of Philadelphia’s controversial tanking plan known as “The Process” in 2013-14. He tallied 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals over 70 games for the 76ers, who put out a roster designed to lose plenty of games to increase their NBA Draft lottery odds.
MCW has never had a season with such output since and after being traded to the Bucks the following year, he has bounced around the league at Chicago, Charlotte, Houston and Orlando as a back-up.
That scenario looks highly unlikely for Giddey. He’s averaging 10.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists and slightly under a steal and a block per game.
Josh Giddey on his near triple double and if he knows he has an opportunity to be the youngest ever to get a triple double pic.twitter.com/HYRTO1mctX
— Andrew Schlecht (@AndrewKSchlecht) December 19, 2021
But it’s the way he’s running the point, the calmness when harassed by defenders, the court vision he’s demonstrating in making passes that has NBA pundits salivating and Thunder executives celebrating.
Tall for a point guard at 203cm, he uses his height to his advantage to send the ball over opposite numbers on offence and deflect passes or affect shots at the defensive end.
Last week he nearly had his first career triple-double but only tallied eight points after an off shooting night. But he more than made up for that with career-highs in assists (10) and rebounds (18) as the Thunder eclipsed the LA Clippers.
Unfortunately he didn’t break the record for youngest player to register a triple double, held by none other than the previous year’s winner of the NBL rookie of the year during his Illawarra Hawks stint, Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball.
Giddey, as always, was unflustered. He said after the game he was aware he was close to a triple double but did not realise he would have broken the record. He’s still got a couple of months to do so – you wouldn’t bet on him not doing it the way he’s going.
He scored 19 in the upset win over Memphis earlier this week and the team that had some experts in the pre-season predicting they could challenge for the worst record in NBA history is now a respectable 11-19.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 2, 2021
They made it a three-game winning streak on Thursday by downing Denver 108-94 with Giddey’s contribution an ever-reliable 14 points, three assists and five rebounds.
Giddey’s value to the Thunder also lies in the fact he complements backcourt partner Shai Gilgeous-Alexander perfectly. SGA is on track to become an All-Star in the next season or two so OKC now have the building blocks with those two, plus defensive forward Lu Dort, for a contending team of the future.
They will never be able to attract a big name to such a small market in free agency so they are likely to play the long game and continue building through the draft.
The Thunder are sitting pretty on the largest stockpile of future draft selections in NBA history – they relieved the LA Clippers of several first-round picks and swaps in the Paul George trade a couple of years ago and have also turned the contracts of Chris Paul, Russell Westbook and Steven Adams into draft capital.
They picked four times in the 2021 draft and over the next five years currently have 36 up their sleeve – 19 of which are in the first round.
Eyebrows were raised when the Thunder took him at No.6 when most mock drafts had him going outside the top 10 but it has proven to be a wise investment.
This all adds up to a bright future for the franchise and allows Giddey a few seasons to build on his craft before the team is in serious contention.
Friday: Hawks @ Sixers, 11am AEDT
There are no games Down Under on Saturday so start your weekend early with this budding rivalry – Atlanta knocked Philadelphia out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season and the 76ers still haven’t fully recovered from the fallout.
Sunday: Warriors @ Suns, 9am AEDT
The first of the five-game marathon is Hawks v Knicks at 4am, then there’s Boston v Milwauke at 6.30 but the best match on the schedule is in the middle when Golden State head to Phoenix. Brooklyn are in LA to face the Lakers at midday and if you still haven’t had enough basketball by then, you’re a true sicko and the Mavericks v Jazz clash at 2.30pm will put you into hoops heaven.