Josh Giddey’s scoring surge is making waves in the US media.
The Aussie continued his hot form with a 20-point performance in the OKC Thunder’s win over the Washington Wizards Saturday (all times AEDT), marking a fifth game from his last seven he’s scored 20 or more points.
Prior to this current run, he’d only had three games this season with 20-plus points.
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It’s been boosted by Giddey’s improved his stroke from downtown – where he’s now shooting 34.9 per cent on the season – including 45.8 per cent (1.5-of-3.4) from his last seven contests.
The 34.9 per cent is higher than Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, Jaylen Brown, Pascal Siakam, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Green, Terry Rozier, Jordan Poole, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby this season.
His three-point shot was a big focus moving into his sophomore campaign after going at 26.3 per cent from beyond the arc last season and working closely with renowned NBA shooting coach Chip Engelland over the off-season.
As Thunder beat writer Clemente Almanza highlighted, Giddey is shooting 45.1 per cent from three on 3.4 attempts in 15 games since the following quote on December 1.
“Good things don’t happen overnight. These things take time and usually when you’re changing something you’ve done for years and years, there’s going to be some backwards steps before there’s forward steps,” he told media.
“So I’m trusting Chip. He is the best in the business at what he does. Confidence is unwavering, you know – being selective, taking the right shots – but whether they’re in this year, next year or whatever, just trusting what he has in place because he’s done it for so long. His record speaks for itself.”
Speaking after the win over Washington, Giddey said “it’s good to see improvements” in his three-point shot, but that he’s “still a long way from where I want to be.”
It’s important to note even if Giddey hasn’t officially arrived as a three-point shooter yet, he’s making progress and has significantly improved from his rookie season.
Extrapolate that trend to the rest of the 20-year old’s career – which is only 88 games in – and he has scary potential factoring in how well-rounded the rest of his game is.
His recent hyper efficiency of 45.1 per cent three-point shooting is also likely to have some regression too, but looking at the bigger picture, Giddey’s ability to continue honing his craft will be critical to his long-term prospects.
Forbes’ Nick Crain further dug into exactly where Giddey has found ways to improve his outside shot.
“Just 20.3 per cent of his points come from deep, which is one of the lowest on the team, and his 3-point frequency is just 22.1 per cent this season. This is down from 31.8 per cent last season, meaning he’s letting the shots come to him,” Crain wrote on forbes.com earlier this week.
“To further quantify this, 93.9 per cent of his made triples this season have been assisted, so he’s really picking his spots and taking shots in rhythm rather than forcing looks.
“Giddey is shooting 40 per cent from deep on unguarded catch-and-shoot looks, which leads to optimism about the mechanics overall. Even when he is guarded more heavily, he’s converting on 36.7 per cent of his catch-and-shoot attempts. Simply put, Giddey is taking good 3-point shots and allowing others to set him up for success. He’s shooting 38.8 per cent on spot up triples in which he doesn’t take a dribble.”
However, Crain pointed out that Giddey still has improvement as a self-creator on the perimeter – currently shooting 23.5 per cent on threes off the bounce and 22.2 per cent from deep as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
“Regardless, Giddey is generating 1.098 points per possession on his 3-point attempts and is much improved this season over last. While he likely won’t continue the efficiency we’ve seen since the start of December, it’s promising for his long-term outlook,” Crain added.
“If Giddey can maintain the 34 per cent mark he’s currently at from deep throughout the rest of the season, the upside as an offensive prospect will be off the charts.”
Giddey has also improved as a free throw shooter in a sign of long-term upside with his outside stroke, going at 90.9 per cent since the start of December.
Again, this number is likely to regress, but it’s all about flashes and promising signs for the future.
Shooting aside, Giddey is doing a better job of being aggressive and attacking the rim – and thus getting better shots.
After all, he’s a 6-foot-8 guard, so it makes sense for him to place more emphasis on getting into the paint.
“He is doing a much better job of using his body to get all the way downhill, to attack the defence and attack the goal as a way to shield and help himself finish at the rim,” Locked On Thunder’s Rylan Stiles noted.
Basketballnews.com’s Nekias Duncan detailed Giddey’s drives per game are actually down (11.3) compared to his rookie season (11.9). But he’s attacking with more purpose, attempting 5.6 shots from drives this season compared to 4.6 last campaign.
Furthermore, he passed on 49.7 per cent of his drives last season, which is down to 38.5 per cent this campaign.
“First, the handle is a little tighter — though you still wouldn‘t confuse him for an And-1 legend. Early nail help doesn’t thwart him as easily as it did last season, which has allowed some of those early kick-outs or strips to turn into deeper drives,” Duncan wrote.
“Beyond that, the added strength — and the way he’s channelling that strength — has led to more fruitful attacks. Though Giddey is a tall ball-handler, he almost always attempts to gain lower ground on his defender. If he’s able to get a hint of leverage, he often uses his shoulder to create space inside… Giddey is attempting to win on drives.”
Giddey even spoke about this shift in his game after the win over Washington.
“I struggled a bit early on to adjust to how teams are adjusting (to guarding me),” he admitted.
“Just making an emphasis of getting downhill and to the front of the rim and using my size a bit more.
“I used to shoot a lot of floaters, but trying to get downhill all the way to the rim now … trying to make the right read, be physical and get into (opponents’) bodies. I’m trying to draw fouls, it’s something I’ve got to get better at.
“Just trying to make the right read – whether that’s getting downhill, shooting the right shots or making the right pass – doing what the team needs.”
It’s meant Giddey’s assist numbers have dropped from 6.4 per game as a rookie to 5.4 this season, but he’s become a more efficient overall player for the betterment of the team.
In addition to the 5.4 assists, Giddey is now averaging 15.4 points per game (shooting 47 per cent from the field and 78 per cent from the line), 1.1 triples and 7.9 rebounds on the season in 30.8 minutes – down from 31.5 minutes last campaign.
Giddey’s teammates and coach Mark Daigneault have also had plenty of praise for him, including Jalen Williams noting the Aussie looks more comfortable on the court.
“He’s shooting really well from the 3 as well — not to jinx him. He just looks a lot more comfortable in our rotations and I think we’ve kinda finally figured out where everybody is gonna be,” Williams said, per Almanza.
Daigneault said Giddey was “smoothing his game out” and “has a nice blend to him right now”.
Meanwhile superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said it’s “fun playing with Josh” for his capacity to consistently find open teammates and make the right play.
Despite all the promising signs, The Athletic’s John Hollinger wants to see more from Giddey.
While acknowledging his improved shooting numbers and elite rebounding and passing, Hollinger noted the youngster still struggles to draw fouls (averaging 1.5 free throw attempts per game) – as Giddey himself spoke about – and has a ways to go on the defensive end.
“Giddey remains limited by the fact that he doesn’t draw fouls and nobody is scared of his shot — at least yet — and he still doesn’t bring much to the table defensively. Giddey also needs to be ball-dominant to be effective, which is not always great when it pushes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander off the ball,” Hollinger wrote in theathletic.com.
“He’s a good player already, and he’s 20, so let’s not get too pessimistic. But as with the rest of this class, there has been no capital-B breakout.”
There’s clearly room in Giddey’s game to grow and elements that need to be ironed out, but the former Pick 6 is still one of the most promising players in the league.
Perhaps most importantly, you consistently hear genuine drive and motivation when he speaks about his endeavours to continuously improve and become a genuine star.
Development is the key here, and folks in the US are taking notice of that progress.
Originally published as ‘Off the charts’: Key move behind Giddey explosion… and how it could unlock scary potential – US View