Why Giddey can fill the shoes Ben Simmons never could

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When the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Josh Giddey sixth overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, many eyebrows were raised over the 18-year-old Aussie’s selection out of the NBL.

Draft analysts predicted a late lottery selection, but Thunder general manager Sam Presti saw something more in the six-foot-eight guard than other prospects such as Jonathan Kuminga and Franz Wagner.

Rival fans quickly found damning drafts of the rookie calling him “bad at basketball,” but that was all but refuted during his freshman year in the league.

After becoming the youngest player to record a triple-double in the league, he recently followed that up with three straight triple-doubles, one of which came in the backyard as OKC recorded a shock overtime win over the Knicks .

Giddey managed to insert himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation despite the incredible seasons of Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley, both of whom played key roles in their respective teams’ pursuit of the playoffs.

Although Giddey’s case doesn’t boast a great team record, his unique skills make him the most skilled rookie in this class.

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

An important aspect of Giddey’s skill set is his passing, which is head and shoulders above any rookie. He leads rookies in assists per game with 6.4, 1.2 more than second place and 2.9 more than third.

Although on the face of it that number doesn’t justify the proclamation of an elite level passer, he ranks 16th in assists per game in the league despite OKC ranking 30th in goal percentage on the field and three-point percentage.

It’s certainly not a far-fetched reality to see Giddey leading the league in assists one day once OKC is able to surround him with adequate shooters.

His passing ability is made even more impressive by his size and six-foot-eight frame. While some analysts may see height as a hindrance when looking to create, Giddey’s height allows him to scan the ground and thread the needle to his teammates.

Comparisons have been drawn with Nikola Jokic’s playing ability at his height. Jokic generally likes to create more in the post compared to Giddey who runs the ground in the half court.

To put it quite simply, the league hasn’t seen an elite player grow to his height and age since Lebron James’ early years in Cleveland.

His height also allowed him to be one of the best incoming passers in the league. So far this season he has found open teammates from the finish to great effect, with two examples coming to mind.

First, finding a Kenrich Williams rolling in the basket to force overtime in the garden just days ago and a slingshot pass over Anthony Davis to find Darius Bazley open for three in a famous win against the Lakers.

Giddey also established himself as Oklahoma’s leading rebounder despite being in the guard position. Although none of the centers on OKC’s roster could establish themselves, Giddey had 7.8 boards per game, which is the highest in OKC, just behind Mobley for rookies and fourth in the league among the guards.

Despite his relatively lean build, Giddey’s ability to read the game puts him in excellent positions to collect offensive and defensive rebounds like no other guard his age.

The biggest criticism of Giddey’s game at this point is his scoring and three-point shooting, two areas where he has improved throughout the season.

Earlier in the season, he posted an 0-10-10 stat line in a win over the Pelicans, which showcased his rebounding and passing skills but amplified his early-game struggles. season to score.

He has since followed that up with three 20-plus-point games, including 28-11-12 against the Knicks, and is sixth among rookies in points per game.

Although he’s struggled with his three balls this season, he’s certainly not afraid to let it go behind the arc. His four attempts per game rank him third in OKC and sixth among rookies.

He also has eight games with three or more points, showing he can hit volume shots from behind the arc.

Only time will tell on the ability of his three-point shot, but his career is not dependent on his development unlike previous top prospects in Australia.

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Many lazy comparisons have been made between Giddey and former OKC superstar and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, and while they both pose a triple-double threat, neither play a similar brand of basketball.

Westbrook is known for playing full throttle with an all-or-nothing approach that has both helped and hindered his legacy. Giddey uses a much more unique and meticulous skill set that allows him to dictate the tempo of any match.

His unusual vertical dribbling style has seen comparisons to the great Jerry West, but the most fitting comparison is Rajon Rondo.

Giddey and Rondo share many strengths and weaknesses in their game, but unlike Rondo, Giddey is only 19 and has over a decade of NBA basketball ahead of him.

If Giddey were to elevate his shooting and shot creation, there are potential comparisons between him and generational talent Luka Doncic.

Do I think Giddey will win Rookie of the Year? In short, no. Mobley and Barnes had an impact on winning teams and ultimately it will separate them from Giddey.

But that won’t overlook the fact that Giddey is the most qualified rookie in the league and has an incredible NBA future ahead of him.

Giddey has the potential to become Australia’s greatest NBA player, hopefully filling the shoes that Ben Simmons never could.


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