On Sunday, the Thunder played a high-scoring matinee contest against the New York Knicks. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was amazing as per usual but the story of the night belonged to Josh Giddey. Giddey finally broke out of his funk and notched another triple-double in Madison Square Garden.
He is the first person since Wilt Chamberlain to have consecutive triple-doubles in one of the NBA’s most storied arenas. Giddey played aggressively from the off and scored a season high, 24 points.
Giddey changed the emphasis of his scoring game by employing the floater more often and found a lot of success as he finished over Knicks’ defenders. Giddey’s floater is polished and deceptive.
His floater looks like a delicate, chipped lob pass and the disguised intention of shot causes uncertainty for the defense. The defense is caught between contesting Giddey or dropping back to protect the rim against a back-line cutter. The moment of indecision from the opposing defense gives Josh the time and space to score the ball.
Giddey’s floater improves floor-spacing and opens up the rest of his scoring game. When Josh is playing within himself, the opposing big can sag all the way back and sit at the rim safe in the knowledge that Josh will not shoot from distance.
It becomes very difficult for Giddey to find efficient offense if he cannot score at the rim. He is shooting 34.4% from deep this season which is closer to league average but Giddey is still a low-volume option from this shooting zone. He knocks down the occasional long-ball but Giddey is not yet a marksman.
The floater brings the opposing big out of the charge circle and gives Giddey more opportunities to find cutters along the baseline. Aaron Wiggins is a sneaky cutter who will slip behind the defense’s sight-line and walk his way into an easy basket.
Josh Giddey’s passing game has been a little underwhelming so far this season. His struggles stretching the floor have meant that opposing teams pack the paint when Giddey is surveying the floor from the perimeter. This then means that Giddey cannot find cross-court, defense-splitting passes easily and the ball circulates around the arc without puncturing the defense.
An aggressive scoring approach forces the defense to respect Giddey’s shot-making and means that they have to play Josh honestly. Once that happens, the equation of the game changes for Giddey. He no longer has to thread the ball through the eye of the needle into his teammates, Josh then has the time and space to generate good scoring opportunities.
It is a virtuous cycle and one that Giddey needs to buy into more often. His partnership with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becomes easier if the defense respect his scoring threat. We have talked countless about how the pairing between the two players is imperfect but the game becomes easier if Giddey can consistently find Shai for catch and shoot jumpers.
When Josh is playing passively, the defense is not moved with any speed and remains within their set scheme. The gaps hat he needs to exploit are small which makes the passing opportunity high-risk. Giddey is a game manager at the point who will not take unnecessary risk in his playmaking.
This is not to say that Giddey plays safe all the time but that he plays the game logically and assesses the success rate of each option when he is on the court. In this regard, Josh Giddey has more in common with Steve Nash than he does with a guard like Derrick Rose.
The Steve Nash comparison is particularly apt in this example. Nash was a pass-first point guard for the first five years of his career. He was a decent, if unremarkable player. Through Don Nelson’s insistence, Nash became more comfortable with scoring the ball and recognised that scoring was not an inherently selfish action.
Once that aggressive scoring mindset was baked in Nash’s mind, his career blossomed. Steve Nash became an All-Star and never looked back. He then went on to become an MVP in 2005 and 2006 under Coach D’Antoni who empowered the Canadian to take shots early in the offense.
Pass-first players have to be aggressive scorers in order to truly maximise their value. Giddey’s floater is the first step in developing that approach and turning Josh into a top level shot-creator.