Stop worrying about Josh Giddey’s fit with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are riding a three-game winning streak and are currently tied for the final NBA Play-In tournament spot. The Thunder just capped off an impressive road trip taking three out of four games and a point away from sweeping the difficult trip. This team was led by Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the two young guards that fans were too quick to judge.

Throughout this past year, since Sam Presti elected to take Josh Giddey with the sixth overall pick, which was a surprise to everyone at the time, the OKC Thunder fanbase has worried about their fit together. Two ball-dominant players, can they complement each other’s styles of play? Will this work?

it led to a lot of fans making too rash decisions and jumping ship on the duo before they even played a season’s worth of games together. Somehow the two players playing well separately began a negative on their pairing. Now, we are finally seeing Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing together with each of them being healthy and taking on bulk minutes, and it is working to perfection.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have found the formula for the Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pairing, and it is paying dividends in the win column after this recent road trip

During Josh Giddey’s rookie season, he swept Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards, and set records, and milestones that compared him to the likes of LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlin, Larry Bird, and other all-time greats. His only flaw was his glaring shooting deficiency and the lack of on-court time with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. When the two did share the floor at times it looked clunky. The one game they truly clicked together (against the Suns after the All-Star break) was the last time Giddey played as a rookie due to his hip injury.

Last season, the duo played just 1,924 possessions together. They were a -10.7, only posting 105.2 points per possession, and the offense when they were on the floor had a 49.5% eFG% according to cleaning the glass.

This season, when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey share the floor the team is a -5.1 (a massive increase from last season), posting 112.4 points per possession, and turning in a 53% eFG%. That is for the entire season, which has only been 1,659 possessions, and those numbers improve even greater since Giddey’s hot streak began in December.

While the two have increased their play on the floor together, Mark Daigneault has also used them to maximize this team. How are the Thunder winning despite the tough schedule this past month, despite the injuries and not playing with a true center? Because they always have a go-to guy on the floor.

The bench boss is staggering Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander so the offense rarely stagnates and they always have a scorer/facilitator to get them out of slumps and extend their leads or chip away at deficits.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays the entire first quarter, six minutes of the second quarter, the entire third quarter, and six minutes of the fourth quarter give or take each game. Josh Giddey, rests at the end of the first and third quarters to play the entire second and fourth quarters.

While it is easy to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the guy given his 30-point-per-game average and the fact he is playing at an MVP level this season, take note of what Josh Giddey has been doing since the start of December.

Since December 1st, Josh Giddey is averaging 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists per game while nearly a steal per tilt on 50 percent shooting from the floor, 40 percent from deep (on three attempts per game), and 91 percent at the line.

Those numbers only improve when you just zoom in on the start of the new calendar year. In the eight games played in 2023, Giddey is averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and half a steal a game while shooting 52 percent from the floor, 37 percent from three (on four attempts), and 93 percent at the free throw line.

Last night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets was a prime example of this pairing working well together and off of each other to carry the team to an impressive victory.

Early in the season, fans and media worried about how OKC could simply try to survive the non-SGA minutes to begin the fourth. Now, they are thriving at times without their leading scorer, which only makes Gilgeous-Alexander’s life easier and the Thunder their closer back.

Against the Nets on Sunday, the Thunder began the 4th quarter down five and with Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench. When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned to the game with six minutes left, the Thunder had the lead and just needed their star to close out the game, earn the save, and push OKC back into the win column.

That is a sustainable and repeatable formula if you believe Josh Giddey’s scoring uptick over the last 20 games to be legit.

It is safe to say this duo can work because it is already working. The second-youngest team in NBA history (only ahead of last year’s Thunder squad), without second overall pick Chet Holmgren, lottery pick Ousmane Dieng, key contributors Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, or Aleksej Pokusevski, are tied for the final Play-In spot and are on an upward trajectory which can not be said for a lot of the teams that surround them in the standings.

This is not even the final form of the Oklahoma City Thunder, or the best they can look on paper, yet they are continuing to find ways to win thanks to the dynamic play of their young guards and the coaching ability of Mark Daigneault.

No matter if this season ends in the Play-in, the outright Playoffs, or the NBA Draft lottery, the future is bright and this duo deserves more respect.

Next. Josh Giddey is playing like a star in 2023. dark