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Josh Giddey's rise to the NBA draft, and why Golden State fits best
Giddey is set to be Australia's latest NBA lottery pick, and the Warriors will give him the best chance to reach his full potential.
Credit: Russell Freeman Photography
Things have moved quickly for Josh Giddey in the last couple of years. The Melbourne product parlayed a standout junior career into an NBL Next Stars contract, which only accelerated his ascension towards the NBA draft lottery.
Giddey is poised to follow in the footsteps of Luc Longley, Andrew Bogut, Danté Exum and Ben Simmons as a lottery pick, placing him in the upper echelon of 2021 NBA draft prospects. With the lottery order set in stone and the draft less than two weeks away, it's time to now cast an eye towards Giddey's potential destinations as he kickstarts a career in basketball's top league.
But first, a bit of background. The 19 year old passing wizard was regarded as a second round curiosity by most NBA draft experts prior to the 2021 NBL season, where he enjoyed a meteoric rise to the lottery with the Adelaide 36ers. Giddey’s lone NBL season initially didn’t get off to the best of starts as he shared the rock with Donald Sloan, a veteran point guard with NBA credentials on his resume.
However, when Sloan was abruptly released by the 36ers just six games into his NBL career, Giddey was unofficially handed the reins by Adelaide coach Conner Henry. The Next Star needed some more games under his belt before he truly got going, as he shot 38% from the field in his first twelve games, and made just two of his first twenty three-point attempts.
Giddey’s season took a dramatic turn for the better in early March when Adelaide faced the Illawarra Hawks. The NBL rookie logged a then-season high 37 minutes, and went on to play 30+ minutes in 14 of his next 15 games - a sign that Henry needed him out there to win games.
After that fateful game against the Hawks, Giddey shot 48% from the field and 35% from deep over his next 14 games, while flirting with a triple double on a nightly basis; he averaged 12.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 9.5 assists during that stretch. The 6’9 point guard ended up leading the league in assists with 7.6 per game, a figure that left him well clear of last year’s leader Scott Machado - who averaged 7.0 assists.
Throughout this rich vein of form, Giddey became the first Aussie in NBL history to log back-to-back triple doubles, and shot up to the lottery range of mock draft boards. His breakout season ultimately came to a halt in a May 16 loss to the Sydney Kings, where the 36er shot 2/11 from the field and seemed to lose a bit of the momentum which was driving his charge up the draft rankings.
Giddey, in consultation with the NBL and his management, made the wise move to shut down his season at this stage and prioritise NBA draft preparations. At that point in the season, he had more to lose than he had to gain by playing, after already earning the adulation of NBA draft analysts.
As it currently stands, numerous major media outlets (below) have the Victorian sitting around the 10th pick, give or take a couple of places.
Josh Giddey Mock Draft Rankings - As of July 16, 2021
Bleacher Report: 12th
USA Today: 12th
The Athletic: 8th
Sports Illustrated: 8th
This puts Giddey firmly in the lottery, and well within reach for one particular Western Conference heavyweight holding both the seventh and 14th picks - the Golden State Warriors.
Which NBA team is the best fit for Giddey?
Although his shot improved dramatically throughout the 2021 NBL season, Giddey is very much an on-ball point guard. To play the Aussie off the ball — or even worse, off the bench — would be a waste of his playmaking gift, which is really what separates him from other prospects.
The Golden State Warriors have two of the NBA’s best off-ball players in Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, potentially giving Giddey the freedom to do what he does best - dish out the rock. Having Thompson, Curry and Giddey on the court at the same time may present some challenges on the defensive end, but the offensive possibilities are tantalising, with the 18 year old surrounded by elite shooters.
Looking at the other teams in the back half of the lottery, most would be unable to accommodate Giddey’s presumed desire to orchestrate the offence. The Orlando Magic, who hold the 8th pick, already have two young point guards in Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony, with the latter being drafted just last year.
Similarly, the Sacramento Kings (pick #9) already have a franchise point guard in De’Aaron Fox, while the New Orleans Pelicans (pick #10) may bring back coveted free agent Lonzo Ball. The Charlotte Hornets (pick #11) would have been a great destination for Giddey one year ago, but LaMelo Ball has claimed ownership of that team after making his own leap from the NBL.
Conventional wisdom would suggest the San Antonio Spurs, at pick 12, may be the ideal home for Giddey due to their history of developing international players. However, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White are expected to spend plenty of time on the ball next season, potentially leaving Giddey starved of important touches.
The Indiana Pacers hold the 13th pick, but once again Giddey would become an afterthought on this team in terms of offensive possessions. With Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdom and Domantas Sabonis racking up the assists for Indiana, there simply isn’t enough room for a rookie like Giddey.
That leaves the Warriors, where Curry and Draymond Green currently handle most of the playmaking duties. With Giddey on board, Green would likely be the one to cede some touches, while Curry continues carrying the scoring load and breaking three-point records. Obviously it isn’t that simple in reality, but from a quick glance, the Warriors seem like the ideal destination for a rookie point guard who needs the ball in his hands.
It’s widely expected that Golden State will trade at least one of the picks, if not both, to acquire a star player while Curry is still in his prime. However, with the team holding picks at #7 and #14, both within Giddey’s expected range in the back half of the lottery, there’s a reasonable chance he ends up being a Warrior.
Giddey is currently enjoying an introduction to the Australian Boomers’ Olympic camp, where he recently recorded 14 points, four rebounds and three assists in a warmup game against Nigeria. Although he won’t play in any official Olympic matches, barring injury, it’s good to see a future cornerstone player wearing the green and gold.