2019 has been a big year for Josh Giddey, arguably the top Australian prospect in the class of 2021. In a matter of months, he rose rapidly on the college recruitment radar, capturing the attention of college coaches and NBA scouts with a string of outstanding performances.
If we had to sum Josh Giddey's game up, a lazy player comparison might be Luka Dončić. The Melbourne-born Giddey --whose father is Melbourne Tigers legend Warrick Giddey-- is a 6’7 point guard who fills the stat sheet with ease. Like the Dallas Mavericks star, he's a reliable ball-handler with great passing instincts. And unlike his father, the younger Giddey is a reliable shooter from 3-point range, both off the dribble and on the catch.
Currently based at Canberra’s NBA Global Academy, Giddey’s rise began at the U18 national championships in April. While putting up impressive numbers, Giddey guided VIC metro to the title. He averaged 20/8.3/6/2.9 (points/rebounds/assists/steals) throughout the tournament while shooting 55% from the field and 38% from 3. Giddey even saved his two biggest games for last; he had a monster triple double against NSW Metro in the semi-final (23/16/12/3 splits) and closed the deal with 31/9/4/5 against SA Metro in the final.
The U18 Junior championships were just the beginning. In July, Giddey was a standout performer on a winning team at the NBA Academy games, which featured prospects from 7 NBA academies. Two weeks later, the point guard put a show on in front of NCAA D1 coaches at the NCAA College Basketball Academy in Houston.
The story doesn’t stop there. Giddey subsequently headed to New Caledonia, putting on the green and gold. He led the junior national team to victory in the FIBA U17 Oceania championships, with two impressive performances against New Zealand. In the group stage, Giddey dropped 26/5/7/3 (points/rebounds/assists/steals) against the Kiwis with just 2 turnovers. He then backed it up in the final, finishing with 25/8/5/6 and again only 2 turnovers.
It’s a shame we haven’t seen more of Giddey in FIBA play. Dante Exum and Ben Simmons burst onto the scene in that arena, at the 2012 FIBA U17 championships. As Giddey will be too old to compete at the U17 championships next year, his next opportunity to appear in an international FIBA tournament will be at the U19 championships in 2021. Hopefully, he will get a chance to compete at the Nike Hoop Summit while eligible.
American colleges have taken note of Giddey after a whirlwind 2019. His most recent offer came from Arizona, where fellow Australian Josh Green currently plays. Offers from St. John’s, Colorado, Rutgers and TCU are also on the table. In a July interview with 247 sports Giddey said he will “more than likely go to college”, but it may not be a sure thing.
The NBL is emerging as an alternative pathway for NBA draft prospects, especially with the advent of the new Next Stars program. R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball are two potential lottery picks recently recruited by the NBL. Following impressive preseason performances, both have seen their draft stock rise. Their outcomes in the 2020 draft, as well as those of past prospects such as Terrance Ferguson and Brian Bowen, may influence Giddey’s decision.
Tamuri Wigness and Mojave King are two Australian prospects in a similar situation to Giddey, with all three born in 2002. Wigness, who recently played for the Brisbane Bullets in the NBL preseason, has already turned professional and hired an agent. King on the other hand is “leaning toward attending college”.
Giddey has options at his disposal - right now, there's no need to rush a decision. His basketball journey is rising fast, but it's barely begun.