Sport One Play: Thunder guard Josh Giddey's no-look pass makes you wonder if he has eyes in the back of his head

22:14  22 january  2022
22:14  22 january  2022 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.

Today, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey takes the spotlight.

Context: Australian phenom Giddey is putting together a very impressive rookie campaign and he continued to build on it in the Thunder's last game.

Even though Oklahoma City was routed by the Charlotte Hornets, 121-98, Giddey still made headlines, going for a career-high 21 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists.

Giddey was previously stuck on 19 points as a career-high, reaching that total four times, yet to eclipse the 20-point mark. And while his scoring was the talking point of the night, it was one of his three assists that caught my eye as worthy of another look.

You know what that means – to the film room.

The play:

Breakdown: Giddey made an impact as a scorer from the get-go in this game, up to 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field at the half. He was trying to keep the Thunder within striking distance in the third frame, attacking off the dribble on a couple of different possessions.

He had one earlier in the quarter where he pushed the ball in transition, got into the paint and knocked down a little one-handed push shot. On the possession prior to the play above, he got a mismatch he wanted, waived off a screener and went right at the Hornets' defender PJ Washington for an easy two.

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Now up to 16 points on the night, with the game still at a manageable deficit of 12 points, the Hornets were probably expecting Giddey to stay aggressive in looking to score. When he grabbed the defensive rebound and pushed the pace in transition on the ensuing possession, both LaMelo Ball and Washington collapsed on him, trying to stop him from getting another easy bucket.

Giddey-One-Play-1 © Provided by Sporting News Giddey-One-Play-1

Being the heady player he is, Giddey realizes if there are two players on him, someone has to be open.

Giddey-One-Play-2 © Provided by Sporting News Giddey-One-Play-2

Look at where he gathers his dribble. With his eyes facing forward, Giddey decides at this moment that he doesn't need another dribble to make a play.

Whether he saw something previously as he was surveying the floor or could just feel his teammate Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the trail man, Giddey uses a sixth sense to set up an easy bucket.

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Without looking, Giddey turns around and throws a one-handed whip pass – something we've seen from the savvy rookie many times before – and delivers a strike right to Robinson-Earl, who knocks down the open 3-ball.

Watch it again at full speed now.

It's beautiful.

Why it matters: Well, for one, it's a really freaking cool pass.

But it also matters because it shows the many different ways Giddey can keep opposing defences guessing. Even in a game where he is on his way to a career-best in scoring, he's still looking to playmake for his teammates with his peripheral court vision that never turns off.

Giddey was always seen as the best passer in his draft class and that has certainly been deemed as true through the first half of his rookie season, proving there is no pass he isn't capable of making. Whether it's one-handed or two, righty or lefty, stagnant or off of a live dribble, looking or not, Giddey has a gift in being able to thread the needle and find passing lanes that most players might not even see.

His 6.3 assists per game and 250 total assists leads all rookies, but those numbers also place him in the top 20 amongst the entire league in those categories. For comparison, he has more assists than stars and known playmakers like Ja Morant and LeBron James.

Giddey has also been a jack-of-all-trades during his rookie campaign, packing nightly box scores with averages of 11.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

His 299 total rebounds leads all rookies – even more than Rookie of the Year frontrunner Evan Mobley. His nine double-doubles also leads the rookie class, and he and No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham are the only rookies to record a triple-double this season.

As the Thunder look to build around star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the future, they've found the perfect running mate to set the table for him in Australian guard Josh Giddey.

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