The backcourt pairing of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey has looked much smoother in its second season together, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The Thunder‘s young guards were still working out ball-handling responsibilities when Giddey suffered a season-ending hip injury last February. They’ve learned how to complement each other this year and are a major part of why OKC is in the playoff race at 23-24.
“When you’ve got two guys that really want to get it right, it’s less about their games, it’s less about their fit,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “It’s more about, do the players want to work to get right? And in this particular case we have an entire team, it’s not just limited to Josh and Shai, (of) guys that want to get it right. I think that’s what you’re seeing over time.”
Giddey is averaging 16.0 PPG in his second NBA season and has become more dependable as an outside shooter, raising his three-point percentage from 26.3% to 32.8%. He’s also taking advantage of the opportunities created while defenses focus on Gilgeous-Alexander, who ranks fifth in the league in scoring.
“Shai could have 40 points every night if he wanted to,” Giddey said, “but he’s unselfish, he gets off the ball, he makes players around him better.”
There’s more from Oklahoma City:
- Although the Thunder look like legitimate playoff contenders, any moves that general manager Sam Presti makes before the trade deadline will be focused on the future rather than securing a postseason spot, Mussatto states in a mailbag column. Mussatto sees Darius Bazley as the most likely candidate for a trade because of his limited offensive game, and he speculates that the team won’t re-sign Bazley in free agency this summer even if he’s not dealt away.
- Fans shouldn’t count on seeing Serbian guard Vasilije Micic in a Thunder uniform next season, Mussatto adds in the same piece. Although the 29-year-old continues to excel in Europe, it’s not clear if there’s a role for him in Oklahoma City. Micic wants a chance at regular playing time if he comes to the NBA, and Mussatto suggests that he might be more valuable to OKC as a trade chip.
- The Thunder have a strong case to finish as one of the top six teams in the West, contends Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. Oklahoma City is 8-3 in January and just one game out of sixth place. The Thunder and Nuggets are the only teams that rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive ratings for the month.