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Examining Josh Giddey's rising aggression

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We should be paying attention to what's happening in OklahomaCity.

I mean beyond the "they own 4,837 picks over the next fiveyears" jokes. A little deeper than the "Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hasbeen a top-12 player this year" take, though it's certainly worthpointing out the fifth-year guard is averaging 31-5-6 on wildefficiency (61.4 TS) and improved defense.

Whether you're looking at NBA.com or Cleaning The Glass (theyfilter out garbage time), the Thunder are, once again, meretenths-of-a-point away from laying claim to a top-10 defense —without a true rim protector.

(Get well soon, Chet Holmgren.)

The offense, while underwhelming statistically (21st in ORTG),has real structure despite a general lack of shooting. It's noteasy to generate quality looks with only one rotation playershooting above league-average from three(35.7%) on at least three attempts (Isaiah Joe, 44.4% on 3.9attempts).

We've crossed over into a new calendar year, and the Thunder areonly two games outside of the final play-in spot. There are goodthings happening here.

On the topic of good things happening, it's worth noting thegrowth we're seeing from Josh Giddey.

He showcased the outlines of an interesting-yet-flawed playerlast season. A 6-foot-8 playmaking wing who may already be atop-six skip passer in the league — and undoubtedly one of the bestinbound passers we've had come through in a minute, as niche asthat sounds — with limited burst and a shaky jumper to boot.

(A fun fact on the skip pass front: per Second Spectrum, onlyLuka Doncic tossed more skip passes per 100 possessions than Giddeydid last season. They rank first and second again so far thisyear.)

The concern around Giddey was fair: as elite of a court-seer ashe is, how much will it matter if he 1) can't puncture defenses tocreate passing windows and 2) shoot well enough to make defensespress up in the first place?

It's encouraging, then, that we're at least getting signs ofthose questions being answered.

Zooming out, GIddey has improved most of his box-score numbersfrom his rookie campaign — and has done so in fewer minutes.

2021-22 (31.5 MPG): 12.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.4 APG (3.2 TOs), 49.2%on 2s, 26.3% on 3s2022-23 (30.6 MPG): 15.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.3 APG (3.1 TOs), 51.1%on 2s, 33.7% on 3s

Zoom in a bit — let's start from the beginning of December — andthe brow starts to raise: 16.7 points (51.9% on 2s, 45.1% on 3s),8.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists (2.7 TOs).

Over his last five games, it looks even better: 20.4 points(58.6% on 2s, 40% on 3s), 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists (1.8TOs).

There's been real intention from Giddey to get all theway downhill. His drives per game are actually down from lastseason — 11.9 in his rookie campaign, 11.3 this year — but there'sbeen more exploration when he attacks. After attempting 4.6 shotsoff of drives last season, that number is up to 5.6 this year. He passed on nearly half (49.7%) ofhis drives last year; that's down to 38.5% this season.

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