Australia’s Josh Giddey was selected with the number six pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Friday’s NBA Draft, but the question remains: how will he fit in the Thunder’s line-up?
Giddey was rumoured to be selected at Pick 7 by the Golden State Warriors, who had him on their draft board. Memphis was also a team thought to be interested in the Aussie prospect, holding Pick 10 after completing a trade earlier in the week which allowed them to move up in the draft.
However, the Thunder could be one of the best destinations for Giddey, currently in the midsts of a rebuild.
At the conclusion of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Thunder hit the reset button, trading away all-star duo Paul George and Russell Westbrook in exchange for Chris Paul, young players and a war chest of draft picks. After exceeding expectations in 2019-20, the Thunder moved Paul to the Suns, now fully buying into the rebuild.
This season Oklahoma finished with the tied-fourth worst record in the NBA with 22 wins and 50 losses, which earned it the sixth selection in the lottery.
With Oklahoma far from ‘win mode’ and and more so focusing on developing its young core, Giddey fits into the success timeline perfectly.
Giddey will be afforded the opportunity to make an impact immediately, likely to be given big minutes from the onset.
Head coach Mark Daigneault will want the ball in Giddey’s hands due to his high-level passing ability and IQ, which was showcased this past season in the NBL where he averaged 7.5 assists a game.
Giddey’s passing is his best attribute, where due to his size he is able to see over the defence and anticipate where his teammates will be, throwing pin-point dimes to cutters and open players on the perimeter.
He also is an excellent player in transition where his court awareness and vision are on full display, executing touchdown and lead passers to open runners for fastest break buckets.
The Thunder were ranked seventh in pace last season, and therefore Giddey’s skills in transition are a perfect match.
Giddey fits the mould of the way the NBA is moving with big point guards who can rebound, pass and score. Players like Luka Doncic, Ben Simmons, Lamelo Ball and even Lebron James are examples of this and offer match-up nightmares for the opposition.
How Giddey fits in OKC’s guard rotation
Another affordance of being selected by the Thunder is Daigneault’s willingness to play three guard line-ups.
This was often the case last season with a combination of George Hill, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Theo Maledon starting.
Giddey’s versatility will be well suited to Oklahoma’s three guard line-up as he showed an ability in the NBL to play both on and off-ball.
This will be key with players like Gilgeous-Alexander and Kemba Walker also on the roster, who will also have ball-handling duties at times.
It allows Dort to focus more on his strengths on defence rather than having to carry a large offensive load, as was the case late in the NBA season.
The pairing of Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander has the potential to be one of the best young backcourts in the league, and will cause headaches for opposition when trying to game-plan how to match up with them.
It is clear that Oklahoma City General Manager, Sam Presti wants to build a core around the two of them and sees the duo as the future of the Thunder’s backcourt.
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Where he will need to improve
While Giddey does have weaknesses in his game, such as his defence and three-point shooting, these are skills he will be given time and plenty of opportunities to develop through the next few seasons in Oklahoma.
Giddey has the ability to become a competent NBA defender due to his size, however needs to be given time to grow into his body.
Having the opportunity to go head to head with players such as Walker and Gigelous-Alexander – one of the craftiest young players in the NBA – on a daily basis will help him develop his defensive skills.
Giddey has already shown he has been working on his long-range shooting in the off-season as was showcased in the Boomers exhibition game against Nigeria where his form was notably improved.
While it’s still a small sample size, the signs of improvement are positive and Giddey will need to be competent from the three line with the Thunder’s pace and space offense.
Oklahoma ranked 13th last season for three point attempts per game, and players such as Dort and Bazely averaged 11.5 attempts between them yet only shot 34% and 29%, below league average.
Giddey will be expected to take some of the deep shooting load off his teammates, and will need to be somewhat efficient from the paint.
His athleticism may be exposed by faster opposition, however his size, basketball IQ and ability to dictate the pace of the game could be enough to limit this weakness.
The ability to affect all areas of the court will have Giddey well suited for the NBA, where he will be able to consistently contribute whether that be by scoring or passing.
Oklahoma City Thunder and Australian NBA fans should be excited for what the season ahead holds for Giddey, and how his skills will transition on the NBA level.
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