The majestic passing of Josh Giddey has wowed NBA fans around the globe this year. The 6’9 rookie out of Australia has already showcased why Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder took a leap of faith and selected him with the 6th overall pick in 2021. Giddey is not without flaws, but he does one thing better than any other rookie. That thing is passing. He is so advanced that it’s not outrageous to put him up there with some of the better passers in the league. But why? But how? Let’s look at what makes him such a special passing talent, with a focus on his pick and roll playmaking.
This possession has Darius Bazley stepping up to set the screen for Giddey but, instead of making contact with Facu Campazzo, he slips into the short roll and thus opens up a split-second window for Giddey to feed it into him. This is also a pretty big defensive mishap from Nikola Jokic–why in the world is he up so high to cover a pick and roll with Giddey as the ball handler? Giddey is many things, but a shooter is not one of them. Nonetheless, the rookie does a great job hitting Bazley with the bounce pass through the tight window.
The next is something I desperately wanted to highlight: the pick and pop connection between Giddey and fellow rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a pleasant development this season. JRE is second only to Luguentz Dort in assists received from Giddey, and 35% of his assists to Robinson-Earl are above the break 3s on the pick-and-pop just like this:
Exhibit B: JRE sets the step-up screen, forcing the defender to have to go over the screen when they would usually go under. JRE gets open and has the uncontested three ready to go:
Exhibit C: Just for the fun of it. Watch how Giddey just drags the defense with him off the drive ahead of the kickout:
There are three things Josh Giddey loves more than anything else. His hair, his TikTok account and the one-handed swing pass:
JRE rolls to the basket here after setting the screen for Giddey, and James Harden seems so certain that the ball is going to find its way inside that he sags off Dort in the corner to help. But Giddey recognizes this in an instant and finds Dort with a Classic Josh Giddey Pass ™.
The pressure Giddey’s advanced passing puts on the defense is evident here. First off, Darius Garland goes over the screen and stays attached to the side of his body; Jarrett Allen is playing high up in order to trap him. Then you have Dylan Windler helping off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and down in the paint is Evan Mobley, playing all the way off a 43% three-point shooter in Mike Muscala just to help on the Giddey-led pick and roll. Give Giddey’s teammates space like this, and he’ll find them.
Tight Windows and Trickery
What a read. Giddey attacks the basket off the pick and roll and gets stopped by the 7’3 Kristaps Porzingis. No problem whatsoever for the Wizard of Aus. It’s probably Jalen Brunson’s job to cover the rolling JRE here, but Ty Jerome had a bit of daylight and he instead opted to sprint out to cover that opening. This led to a defensive miscommunication with Josh Green who also left the paint to run after Jerome, leaving JRE wide open in the paint. Giddey makes the quick read and threads it through the gap for the easy two.
Every team that scouts the Oklahoma City Thunder knows that the floater is Giddey’s go-to move on offense. So the manipulation that Giddey performs on Kevin Love here is impressive:
Love is in drop coverage as Giddey comes off the screen set by Kenrich Williams. Giddey shifts his eyes to the rim and picks the ball up as if he is going to let the floater fly. Subsequently, Love leaves his feet to contest the shot which in turn leaves Williams open for the easy two off of the dump-off.
As soon as Giddey leaves his feet, former OKC Thunder Taj Gibson knows the ball is going to Derrick Favors, the roll man. Or is it?
Randle dropping to help on Favors leaves Bazley wide open on the left wing, ready and waiting to knock down the three. How Giddey made this read, I could not tell you. I’m as confused as you are, but impressed nonetheless.
I’m sure you have seen this already, but I am going to make you see it again. It’s brilliance.
One-point game in overtime, at the world-famous Madison Square Garden. Giddey spins right into the body of Mitchell Robinson for what would become a turnover for most, one that could turn the tide and lose the game for Oklahoma City. But this isn’t most players; this is Josh Giddey. He adjusts his body and drops it off through a minuscule gap for a Favors slam. Not bad from the 19-year-old Melbournian.
At such a young age, Giddey’s passing is already comparable to some of the best in the game. He does so much more than make standard reads, with an innate ability to create something out of nothing and manipulate the defender with his eyes and pass fakes. Shooting be damned, Giddey can hoop. As he starts to put his scoring game together–he has shown flashes of on numerous occasion–his game will advance to the next level. One thing’s for sure, we will be watching one-handed swing passes and marvelous entry passes from Josh Giddey for a long time to come. Sam Presti is kicking back in his rocking chair, laughing at the naysayers. He has certainly earned the right to do so.