Josh Giddey, coming off a strong rookie season, had high expectations heading into his sophomore year. At the start of the year, he failed to meet expectations, with him being benched early in the year. Giddey just struggled to provide value when he had poor shooting stretches. Fast forward to the end of December and Josh is having the most efficient scoring month of his young career for a multitude of reasons.
A major point of emphasis for Josh heading into this season was improving his 3-point shot. In 2021, he was the worst shooter among players who attempted over 100 3s, shooting a uninspiring 26.3%. After his game against the Spurs on November 30th, Giddey’s 3-point numbers dipped below last seasons mark, shooting 25.5% on 2.9 attempts a game.
After the game, Josh elaborated on the process.
He has previously spoken in detail about his confidence in the Thunder’s shooting coach, Chip Engelland and how he is keeping his mentality straight. The mantra for Giddey has been shoot the right shots and do not let results affect the process.
Since that game, Giddey is in the midst of his best shooting stretch of his career. For the month of December, Giddey is shooting a ridiculous 48.1% on 3.1 3PA per game. Before December, Giddey has never shot better than 34% over any 10 game sample.
This chart from Cleaning the Glass articulates Giddey’s improvement nicely.
The shot looks noticeably better compared to last season. He is getting a lot more backspin on the ball and is using his guide hand more effectively; the motion is more natural rather being a push shot.
His lower body and shot base do seem stronger but there are still inconsistencies to work through and solve for Giddey. It will take a while to get further shooting data as Giddey’s low shooting volume (1.2 FTA, 2.8 3PA, 0.2 MIDRANGES) means that there is not a whole lot of evidence. However, the early results are very encouraging after a slow start to the season.
Inside the arc
Inside the arc, Giddey is having his best month of the season too. His improvement has come from a few different factors but I think the best way to begin is with his cutting ability. Josh Giddey is leading all guards in field goal attempts per game off cuts at 1.5 a contest. He’s shooting a highly efficient 57.1% on these looks.
The scoring off cuts is not the main attraction or value driver for Giddey but, with how well he is moving in space, his cutting can create untraditional advantages against the defense. He needs every advantage he can get as opposing defenses do not pay much off-ball attention to his shooting. The improved off ball play, from his recent shooting surge and cutting ability really highlights his potential playing off SGA.
What I have been most excited about is that Giddey is starting to assert his size more. It felt like the first few months, he was becoming too reliant on long floaters with little separation off screens as his only method of “self creation”.
The last few weeks, he has looked a lot sharper, starting from his footwork and the contact he is creating. He has loved this little bump floater downhill or his one-two step post up into a 5-8 foot floater against a smaller defender.
When you are not a bursty or evasive ball handler like Josh, you need to be a really good strength creator to find consistent scoring and this month he is flashing his power more than ever. He added 10 pounds this summer and Josh stated that he is “feeling more comfortable” in his new frame in pre-season. Mark Daigneault mentioned that Giddey is expected to become “really big” & that his frame is really suitable to “carry on more weight”.
Another area Josh has improved is his ability to get deeper in the paint when located with the ball on the perimeter. Off the catch or in the pick and roll, Josh is getting deeper in the paint than he was at the start of the year. He is getting more rim attempts and an uptick in efficiency.
In December, his FG% on drives is up to 49, a noticeable increase from the 46% he had in the first portion of the season. A lot of this has to do with his shot distance being a foot less and Giddey being less reliant on the 5-10 foot floater he became dependent on.
I think most of the improvement can be attributed to his handle, he is shielding off defenders a lot better and is not allowing himself to get cut off as easily. His handle which was previously quite loose is not getting exposed as much.
He is picking up gaps and lanes to drive into; he is also more comfortable with the coverages he has received this year.
The final layer for Josh’s uptick as a scorer, inside and out, is his transition play recently. Josh Giddey is tied for 5th among guards (Shai’s #1!) points in the paint per game at 10.5 and his proficiency in transition is a big reason.
He is tied for 26th in the NBA in transition points per game (Shai’s #2 again!) and he is utilizing his size and touch to capitalize on OKCs high pace offense, 3rd in the league. Josh is shooting an efficient 56.8% on transition shots, making the most of his 6’8 frame.
The aggression is eye-popping, whether it be him taking a hard low-dribble to the basket or a crossover to get a angle over the defender, he is playing with more urgency and it is showing.
Earlier in the year, a lot of these takes would end with him taking a long floater or forcing a reset at the key. Giddey is now driving through defenders and getting his way to the hole. It is almost as if he has mentally reset as a player.
Despite the uptick in aggression, something to be monitored is Giddey’s free throw rate. Throughout his career, it has stayed at a remarkably low rate, currently sitting at .110 for the season.
This is a skill that can, and will, be improved on as he adds weight and finds more consistency attacking the rim. It is probably Giddey’s most consistent scoring weakness at present. As he gets another offseason to add weight and fine tune his skills, it is something you hope to see him add to his game next season. It would go a long way to improving his overall efficiency & scoring consistency while his shotmaking is still being refined.
Outside of his surging stretch as a scorer, Giddey’s recent chemistry with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been awesome to watch. SGAs been more active as a cutter and Giddey’s has been a willing facilitator. In less than half of the games, Giddey has assisted SGA only 4 times less then last season. He is starting to find SGA in positions where Gilgeous-Alexander can beat the defense more often.
To compliment his recent aggression as a scorer, Giddey is playing patiently as a passer when he gets downhill. He waits until the defense rotates, applies pressure and then delivers the ball. The off ball movement by the Thunder has been awesome as of late and the movement supports Giddey and Shai’s vertical playstyle, giving them more reads on every attack.
Even with his scoring limitations, Josh’s size and quickness is just enough to force movement by opposing team’s low-man and that movement leads to scoring opportunities for his teammates. It is finessed, polished playmaking from Giddey and we are starting to see those flashes more frequently.
Another extra wrinkle is the recent high-post passing from Josh. With his size & vision, it could be an effective way of maximising his value while his scoring threat improves. In a limited four play sample over the last 2 games, Josh has delivered 3 passes that resulted into a basket or free throw attempts.
His added juice as a transition scorer has paired well with his pre-existing transition passing. He is awesome at drawing the defense up the middle which results in an easy basket. Giddey’s size allows him to access interior passing angles at will and he is very good at dissecting a defense in these situations.
A few of Josh Giddey's interior passes today pic.twitter.com/fFSEcuLyO0— TF (@ThunderFocus) December 28, 2022
Defensively, Josh has done a better job recently too. His screen navigation and speed when defending smaller, quicker guards remains an issue but he is mainly tasked with guarding off-ball wings in Daigneault’s system. So far, he has played this role well.
There are stretches where he over-helps and his lack of core strength is still evident but for a sophomore who still has more physical developing to do, I think he has done rather fine. The question going forward will again be, what defensive role will suit the team and Josh best in the long-term as the rest of the roster fills out?
As of now, it seems more than likely that Josh will spend a lot of time away from the ball. If Giddey fills out and gets significantly bigger, guarding 4s will not be out of the question.
Through 10 games, Giddey’s total December averages sit at:
• 14.9 PPG (season-high)
• 9.2 RPG (season-high)
• 5.8 APG (season-high)
• 48.1 FG% (career-high)
• 48.4 3PT% (career-high)
• 83.3 FT% (career-high)
• 53.9 eFG% (career-high)
Suffice to say, Josh Giddey is playing pretty darn good.