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Giddey relieved investigation is now over but Thunder future unclear with Aussie guard looming as likely trade option

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Expert
25th May, 2024
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Josh Giddey may have played his last game for Oklahoma City as the Australian rising star faces an uncertain future heading into the off-season.

It was an unusual season to say the least for Giddey. 

On the court, his progress didn’t quite stagnate but after improving rapidly in his first two seasons in the NBA, his third-year returns were a disappointment. 

His plateauing performances were not an issue for the Thunder as they stormed to the top of the Western Conference and with rookie centre Chet Holmgren and forward Jalen Williams two of the NBA’s breakout stars for the season, OKC’s young squad looked like they could defy expectations to make it out of their bloodbath of a playoff bracket.

They swept New Orleans in the first round and Giddey was a key performer, casting aside concerns about his outside shooting to help destroy the Pelicans. 

But in the second round, Dallas also laid off him and his shooting went cold. 

OKC’s plus-minus cratered when he was on the floor and his minutes dwindled to the point where he lost his starting spot by game five for the first time since his rookie season. 

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Despite the efforts of MVP runner-up Shai Gilgeous Alexander, they were rolled inside six games by the Mavericks. 

It’s tough to say it was a disappointing season for the Thunder given they fielded one of the most inexperienced line-ups in the NBA and they won 17 more games than the previous year to finish with a 57-25 record.

But it was a lacklustre finish to a campaign which had promised so much and the franchise now faces serious questions about which road to take in order to go further in the post-season. 

And central to those discussions is whether they persist with Giddey. 

His middling form early in the season was put down to off-court matters. 

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 14: dJosh Giddey #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks as Derrick White #9 of the Boston Celtics looks on uring the second quarter at TD Garden on November 14, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Josh Giddey dunks. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

He was accused in the pre-season of an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl in the pre-season from a dalliance two years ago but was ultimately not charged after Californian Police investigated the matter and were “unable to corroborate any criminal activity”. 

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The NBA announced this week that its investigation into the matter had closed. 

Rival fans booed him whenever he touched the ball early in the season and although that subsided, he never quite got going as expected, or hoped, by the Thunder. 

Giddey told reporters this week that he had endured plenty of difficult times during the season as the off-court issues added to the stress of being a starting point guard for a contending team.

“There’s been a lot. There’s been days where you don’t feel like getting out of bed for a number of reasons. I’m just lucky to have people around me that care and were there for me,” he said.

“Mentally is the part that gets overlooked the most for any player. It’s so easy for people to see what’s happening on the floor but not see what happens behind the scenes and there’s so much more to a person than basketball.”

When it comes to Giddey’s limitations as SGA’s backcourt partner, the easy criticism is to say he needs to learn how to shoot better. But does any critic honestly think he’s not trying to get better, working on his shooting mechanics so the weakness in his game won’t be so glaring.

He has the luxury of being able to work with legendary shooting coach Chip Engelland and his three-point percentage has risen from a woeful 26% in his rookie year to 32% then 34% last season. His true shooting percentage, which measures overall efficiency of all shots he takes, is up to 54.7%, which is only slightly below the league average.

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For some players, they never become great outside shooters but that doesn’t mean they won’t become an elite scorer. 

Giddey has the height and speed to get into the paint but his percentages inside were also mediocre so a team like the Thunder, with elite offensive threats like SGA and Holmgren, won’t allow him that luxury unless he gets more reliable with drives to the cup. 

His passing was again on point and with Gilgeous-Alexander happy to defer ball-handling skills to Giddey most of the time so he can choose when to dominate, their backcourt partnership theoretically should work.

Giddey or Lu Dort can take on the defensive assignments to lessen the burden on their All-Star leader but successful teams very rarely have two players on the court who are anaemic attacking options. 

And when it comes to crunch time and OKC need a defensive stopper, Giddey is very good but Dort is one of the best in the league. 

Heading into the off-season, OKC have just about every option under the sun available to them about whether they try to fast-track their trajectory to the trophy or play it slow. 

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They have a bonanza of draft picks from the Paul George trade to the Clippers, which also landed them SGA, and other deals in recent years involving Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder brought in Gordon Hayward from Charlotte as their draft deadline deal this season in a move which did not move the needle at all and ultimately only served to prove that the former All Star is now a spent force after years of injury-riddled bad luck.

OKC hit on their first-round pick last year with Cason Wallace, who had a very encouraging rookie season and could be a more complementary option at point guard than Giddey. 

The 21-year-old Australian is due to receive $US8.3m next season if the Thunder keep him on the books but he is also eligible for an extension from his rookie deal if the Thunder want to pony up for an upgraded contract.

Williams and Holmgren will definitely get huge extensions in the coming years so the Thunder could be reluctant to commit to Giddey and definitely won’t be offering max money.

There should be several high-profile stars on the trading block in the off-season so Giddey is the most likely Thunder player thrown into a return package after his turbulent season revealed he looks like the odd one out in GM Sam Presti’s melting pot of young talent.

And although Giddey views OKC as his “home away from home”, a fresh start in a new location may be a blessing in disguise where another team could fill the floor with shooters around him so his weaknesses are not exposed and his strengths are maximised.

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