When the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Josh Giddey with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, it seemed a curious selection given a week later they would hand Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a five-year, $172 million extension.
The Canadian had established himself as the foundation of their rebuild, but with his name coming up in trade talks over the summer, drafting Giddey appeared to be a potential replacement, however the start to the season has shown how productive the pair can be sharing the backcourt.
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In their 115-103 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, their best performance of the season, the Thunder's two young guards both turned in their best games so far, with Gilgeous-Alexander pouring in 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds on 9-of-19 from the field.
like the defender isn't even there..@shaiglalex | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/FugaI8a4Oz- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 25, 2021
With his 3-point shot not falling, SGA was in attack mode, consistently getting into the paint and he was rewarded for his efforts, going 10-of-12 at the free-throw line. With Giddey pulling the strings, he was free to look for his own shot and score.
"I thought there was a good collaborative rhythm tonight," head coach Mark Daigneault said post-game . "We're optimistic about that partnership... It's going to improve over time."
Sharing the ball-handling duties with Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey was balling, dropping a career-high 19 points, eight rebounds, four steals and seven assists - none better than this defence-splitting bounce pass to Darius Bazley for the dunk.
🇦🇺 @joshgiddey threads the needle #ThunderUp- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) October 25, 2021
🎥 @okcthunder pic.twitter.com/fUfDkj7pDq
"Playing with him is a lot of fun," Giddey said of his combination with Gilgeous-Alexander. "We're still getting used to each other's games."
As the game wore on, so did Giddey's intent to score as he made his way into the paint for a series of floaters, what already looks like his best offensive weapon.
Down the stretch, he had an impressive sequence after a hard foul from Joel Embiid launched him into the stanchion. Gingerly getting to this feet and burying both free throws, Giddey then got a steal on the next possession and hit a corner three, much to the delight of the Thunder home fans.
🇦🇺 @joshgiddey going to work on both ends 😤@okcthunder | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/YBFuaCXpcj- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) October 25, 2021
It's only been three games and there will be plenty of growing pains for the Thunder this season, but they've got something special brewing in the backcourt.
"With rookies it takes time, he will get more comfortable with each game," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "My job is to walk them through that and try to get them as comfortable as they can be."
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