When Adam Silver came to the podium for Oklahoma City’s sixth pick last season, a presumptive board of prospects came to mind. Josh Giddey was not one of them. Fast forward ten months, the decision to nab Giddey in the lottery paid its dividends. As for Giddey, it made his NBA dreams realized for what had been an facinating path to the league.
In an ESPN Australia special, Josh Giddey spoke with NBL legend Andrew Gaze on his journey playing in the NBL and the ins and outs of being drafted by the Thunder.
Coming out of the NBA Global Academy, Giddey has garnered some steam at the collegiate level as a potential prospect. With Division-1 offers from St. Johns, Rutgers, Colorado, and Arizona, the cards were in place for him to become a Colorado Buffalo. However, after lengthy discussions and some recent success stories, he took the NBL route.
“That decision between college and the NBL was a tough one,” said Giddey. “A lot of thought went into it. I was pretty set on college after I took a visit at Colorado and I was ready to commit there. Then, I came back and obviously watching what LaMelo [Ball] and R.J. Hampton did in the league, it kinda – the league had a lot of eyes and attention on it, and it was shown to be a legitimate pathway to the NBA. So, I thought at that time it was going to be a [better] decision for me just cause of the attention the league was getting.”
With the Adelaide 36ers, it took some time for Giddey to climb the depth as with NBA veteran Donald Sloan pegged as the day-one starter, he began his NBL tenure as a bench piece. That changed after a month of play, however, as Sloan’s departure from the franchise allowed for Giddey to climb the depth chart, start, and finish his rookie campaign as the NBL Rookie of the Year, averaging 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.4 assists.
In joining the 36ers, Giddey had his sights set on an NBA contract. But, due to his low profile to begin the season, he was actually planning to play two seasons in Australia before attempting to make the NBA. However, due to his major stock shift he left after one season.
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“I knew coming into the NBL that I wanted to get to the NBA, whether it was this year, next year,” said Giddey. “But as I said, I didn’t know what my role was going to be, how many minutes I was going to play, and I came in pretty open-minded about the situation. And as you said, start of the year, I was maybe second round, probably not even on draft boards or whatever. And then, as the year went on, I started creeping higher and higher. But start of the season, I was thinking – you know the Next Star deal is a two-year deal, I was thinking I was gonna be there for both of them. But, towards the end of the year, things started to pick up and bit and I became in the first-round conversation and then the lottery, and things started to move [quickly.] So, I knew by the end of the year I was going to be drafted, I didn’t know where. I guess from the start of the year to the end, it was a pretty big difference in my mindset going forward.”
After accepting an invitation to the greenroom, Giddey’s mocked projection fell anywhere from the “6-to-18 range,” as he put it. He was right on the money with that mock-up, and his name came sooner rather than later, going to Oklahoma City at Pick No. 6. From that point on, it was all business.
“We got on the jet the next morning to OKC,” said Giddey. “As soon as we landed we got a tour of the place, got my locker, got my gear, and got straight into it. They don’t mess around – straight into practicing, straight into working out. At that point, a lot of guys weren’t there. They were back home doing their own thing. But all us rookies and new guys and second-year guys were all there in the gym. So, things move fast, I love the city, and I was excited to start working with them.”
Following a rookie season in which GIddey averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists for the Thunder, it’s safe to say his willingness to work translated.