While the breakout season of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the Oklahoma City Thunder has understandably grabbed the spotlight, his backcourt partner Josh Giddey has also made significant strides this year.
Through 57 games this season, he is averaging an impressive all-around line of 16.1 points on 48.5% field goal shooting, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.
Giddey, the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, already plays with the calm and collected demeanor of a multi-year veteran. His ability to read and anticipate opposing defenses has vastly improved this year and has led to some incredible passes that only a handful of other players could ever pull off.
The passing toolkit of Giddey is quite reminiscent of another slick-haired guard, two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash. The storied career of Nash provides Giddey with a road map to success as a player with a similar style.
The latter is actually ahead when comparing them at similar points in their career. Nash was a late bloomer who only became an NBA All-Star in his sixth season at the age of 27. He wound up winning his first of two MVP awards at the age of 31 and was still an All-Star up until his age 38 season.
Meanwhile, Giddey is only 20 years old and is still seven months away from turning 21. He could conceivably make it to the All-Star team as soon as next season if he and Oklahoma City can continue their upward trajectory in the next campaign. Although it is clear that Giddey is ahead when comparing their sophomore seasons, matching Nash’s late career achievements will not be as easy.
One key factor in Giddey’s swift rise is the focus of the Thunder on their rebuilding process. Their front office remains keen on improving their draft lottery odds rather than winning games at the moment and this has clearly helped accelerate the development of the Australian guard. He can make mistakes without worrying about the repercussions which has allowed him to thrive.
The month-on-month improvement of Giddey this season has been striking and it is most evident with his traditional point guard statistics.
Giddey’s turnovers have consistently declined from 3.4 per game in his 16 November games to just 2.5 over 11 appearances this February. His assists have seen an uptick as well, going from 5.6 to 6.1 over the same period. Through three March games, he has made an even bigger leap as he has averaged 9.7 assists and only two turnovers.
Furthermore, one major difference between Giddey and his predecessor Nash is that the former is almost half a foot taller at 6’8. This gives him an innate edge as it allows him to see above the defense and post up smaller defenders. Given that the average NBA point guard stands at around 6’3, Giddey’s height advantage is an advantage for Oklahoma City on most nights.
It is only a matter of time before the rebuilding process of the Thunder is complete as the maturation of Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander will inevitably bring in more wins.
They have already played themselves out of the top odds for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes as their 29-34 win-loss record is still closer to the top seed (14 games behind) than the bottom of the standings (15.5 games ahead). It is likely that they would have had a few more wins too if their focus this year was to win as they have made some decisions that trade off their present for the future.
Regardless of where they end up this season, the future is bright for Oklahoma City. Giddey is a big part of this and is the type of player that can be a foundational piece for any team. This round of tanking is almost complete for the Thunder and it is only a matter of time before their talented backcourt captivates and dazzles the wider NBA audience.