Josh Giddey’s game translates, now what?

We were all critical of Sam Presti’s decision to draft Josh Giddey with the sixth overall pick of this summer’s NBA Draft. Many believed the Thunder should have selected one of many talented players instead of, or before, Giddey. Based on what we’ve seen through four preseason games, there’s a reason why Presti’s the king, and we’re the sorry people.

Although four preseason games where the Thunder aren’t getting the best effort from opposing teams makes for skewed results and opinions, if you know the interworkings of basketball, you know that Josh Giddey has ‘it.’ What ‘it’ is, I’m not sure. But he’s got it. It’s all in the way he conducts himself on the court and the comfortability in which he handles the ball. He’s also comfortable running the offense. He isn’t the best shooter from long distance, but he’s capable of hitting big shots, and the brighter side is the fact that he’s young, just turning 19 on Oct. 10.

Additionally, he’s built for the NBA, literally. At a legitimate 6-foot-8, he’s a true point guard and plays as such. His court vision is superb and undoubtedly the pinnacle of his skill-set, along with his passing.

Speaking of his height, he uses that height and his overall size stupendously, capable of finishing through, over, and past defenders. This preseason, there have been a few instances where he’d maneuver his way around smaller perimeter defenders, take contact from larger post defenders, and finish at the rim with relative comfortability. He also has created an early habit of taking smaller guards to the basket and scoring over them due to his size. Again, his overall repertoire is atypical of a rookie, let alone a rookie as young as he is (19 on Oct. 10).

When comparing him to other rookies, how good is he?

It would have been hard to choose Giddey this summer over Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, or Jalen Suggs, but he’s right up there with everyone else and his numbers, for the most part, are better.

Giddey averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists during the preseason in only 28 minutes per game. Giddey also shot 52.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.

Contrary to what seemingly every NBA analyst and fan forecasts for this talented rookie class this season, when bringing up Rookie of the Year candidates, you have no choice but to insert Giddey as a legitimate contender. He seems to understand the game better than every rookie except Cade Cunningham. Unlike other rookies, his game is highly polished, probably due to his successful campaign in the highly competitive Australian NBL.

LaMelo Ball, a 6-foot-7 point guard, won the Rookie of the Year award in the same league after the 2019-20 season, then parlayed that into a Rookie of the Year campaign with the Charlotte Hornets last season. Ball’s most impressive attribute? His ball-handling ability, court vision, and passing, just like Giddey.

The Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be good this season. That’s set-in-stone, and even if they are good, the team will likely sit their impact players, which will include Giddey.

Usually, the Rookie of the Year award is given to the rookie with the most significant impact on a trending team. Not a team destined for the very bottom of the Western Conference. But who knows? Maybe Presti will be captivated by the Giddey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort trio and let the boys play. Weirder things have happened.

Regardless, I predict Giddey will average in the same ballpark as his preseason numbers. Does 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists sound good to you?

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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