Josh Giddey

NBA Announces Player Pool For Rising Stars Event

The NBA officially unveiled the 28-player pool for this year’s Rising Stars event on Tuesday, making the announcement via the NBA App. The following players made the cut:

Rookies:

Sophomores:

G League players:

As was the case last season, the Rising Stars event will consist of four teams and three games. The seven G League players will comprise one team, coached by longtime NBA guard Jason Terry. The other 21 players will be drafted to three squads coached by former NBA stars Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Deron Williams.

The four teams will be split into two first-round matchups and the winners of those two games will face one another for the Rising Stars championship. The two semifinals will be played to a target score of 40 points, while the final will be played to a target score of 25 points.

All three contests will take place on Friday, February 17 as part of All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City. The NBA’s full press release with more information on the event can be found right here.

Thunder Notes: SGA, Giddey, Bazley, Micic

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.

Community Shootaround: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are often pointed to as an example of a team boldly and blatantly tanking, yet they were in the playoffs just three years ago. In the past two seasons, they’ve gone 22-50 (tied for the fourth-worst record) and 24-58 (fourth-worst outright).

Entering 2022/23, external expectations were low. Oddsmakers had their over/under win total at 22.5, and 54.2% of our voters took the over — not exactly a resounding majority, but a majority nonetheless.

As ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes (Insider link), Oklahoma City has been on fire lately, going 11-5 over the last 16 games. At 22-23, the Thunder are now in a virtual tie for the No. 7 seed in the West with the Timberwolves, Clippers and Warriors, and only trail the Jazz by a half-game for the No. 6 spot.

They are now 12th in the league with a plus-1.1 net rating, per NBA.com, with the league’s 10th-ranked defense. Lowe believes the Thunder are “in the play-in race to stay,” and thinks they might be a playoff team for years to come if they’re able to slide in this year.

Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a prime candidate to be a first-time All-Star, has led the way. But the Thunder have talented players across the roster, and have found success with a rangy, switchable lineup featuring Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, rookie wing Jalen Williams, and Kenrich Williams or Mike Muscala at center.

According to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, Giddey’s level of play has been noteworthy during the hot streak — he’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 6.6 APG on .531/.364/.920 shooting over the past 14 games (31.3 MPG) — and his coach has taken notice of the 20-year-old’s improved finishing ability.

He’s definitely physical in driving,” head coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s definitely showing up. Early in the year, I thought he was just trying to shoot over people, and now he’s taking space up. Then when he creates that kind of space and his size and strength, he’s getting stuff around the basket. He’s getting a lot more lately.”

The Thunder have a treasure trove of draft assets at their disposal, and their recent second overall draft pick, big man Chet Holmgren, hasn’t even played yet (he’s out for the season with foot surgery). Things are definitely trending up in Oklahoma City.

We want to know what you think. Do you agree with Lowe that the Thunder will be in the West’s play-in hunt for the rest of the season? Head to the comments and share your thoughts on the Thunder’s outlook for the second half of ’22/23.

Southwest Notes: Walker, Morant, Rose, Johnson, Daniels, Giddey

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hopes Kemba Walker can be a dynamic offensive presence for the team, as he told Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

We wanted to add some flexibility to our offense,” Cuban said. “Like last year at this point, we have great shot quality, particularly from the three, but we have struggled to make enough of them. Kemba will give (head coach Jason Kidd) more offensive flexibility.”

Townsend adds (via Twitter) that Walker’s contract, which hasn’t been officially signed yet, will be for the veteran’s minimum, as that’s all the Mavericks have to offer — they’re over the salary cap and used their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign JaVale McGee and give second-rounder Jaden Hardy a three-year deal.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant views Derrick Rose as a trailblazer for athletic point guards, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He really made it to where people believe in guys like me,” Morant said after recording 27 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in Sunday’s victory over the Knicks. “Coming in, athletic guards, I felt like he was pretty much the one who kind of made it more famous. With how acrobatic his finish is, his touch around the rim, and how explosive he was. Coming in, he was my comparison. It’s crazy to be out there on the floor sharing a court with him.”
  • Spurs forward Keldon Johnson had a mature approach to being benched last week, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I was letting myself down, my team down, my coaches down,” he said. “I just knew I had to play better.” Johnson signed a four-year, $74MM rookie scale extension in the offseason that begins in 2023/24. He’s averaging a career-high 20.4 points per night through 19 games.
  • Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels and Thunder guard Josh Giddey could make history on Monday. If they both play in their matchup, they would be the first NBA Global Academy teammates to play against each other in an NBA game, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The two Australian point guards have been friends for several years and competed together for the Global Academy in Canberra, Australia, Mussatto notes. Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin, another lottery pick, is the third Global Academy alumnus to make it to the NBA.

Thunder Exercise Options For Giddey, Mann, Pokusevski

The Thunder have picked up third-year options for guards Josh Giddey and Tre Mann and a fourth-year option for forward Aleksej Pokusevski, the team announced in a press release.

Giddey, the sixth pick in last year’s draft, is now locked into a $6,587,040 salary for the 2023/24 season. He was a member of the All-Rookie Second Team last season and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times. He averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 54 games before a hip issue ended his season in February.

Mann, a part-time starter last season, will earn $3,191,400 in 2023/24. He averaged 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists and ranked among the top 10 rookies in three-point percentage, free throw percentage and points scored.

Pokusevski will make $5,009,633 for the 2023/24 season and will be eligible for restricted free agency that summer. The 17th pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski averaged 7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Giddey, Vanderbilt, Nuggets

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns doesn’t expect to have any issues shifting from center to power forward when he plays alongside new teammate Rudy Gobert in 2022/23. As Towns tells Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports, playing at the four is something he has gotten accustomed to doing over the course of his career.

“The last time I had something like this, obviously I had Gorgui Dieng, I played (power forward) a lot of years in the NBA. Fans forgot that. It’s OK,” he said. “And go back to me in college. This is how I played in college. Willie Cauley-Stein is like 7’2″. I don’t know what they’re missing in that.”

While Towns is far from the league’s most effective perimeter defender, he said he’s looking forward to the challenge of taking on those assignments. The All-NBA big man added that he expects talent to win out as he and Gobert attempt to develop chemistry.

“I think that Rudy’s one of the best defensive players we’ve ever had in the NBA. He has the hardware to prove it,” Towns told Henninger. “I think I’m one of the best offensive players and talents the NBA has ever seen. So putting us together gives us really a whole spectrum of talent to use.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Having appeared in just 54 games as a rookie, Thunder guard Josh Giddey has spent a lot of time in the gym and the weight room this summer preparing his body to withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule, he told Matthew Sullivan of News.com.au. “It’s a long season so taking care of your body is a really important part of being an NBA player,” Giddey said, adding that he feels “ready to go” after missing the end of last season due to a hip issue.
  • New Jazz forward Jarred Vanderbilt spoke to Spencer Davies of BasketballNews.com about his fresh start in Utah, his impressions of new teammate Collin Sexton, and playing alongside Malik Beasley on a third team, among other topics. Vanderbilt said he’s looking forward to getting the chance to “expand and grow” his game with the Jazz.
  • In a mailbag for The Denver Post (subscription required), Mike Singer considers whether the Nuggets could realistically claim the No. 1 seed in the West, examines what the second unit might look like, and explains why the team re-signed Vlatko Cancar rather than pursuing a free agent like Juancho Hernangomez.

Barnes, Cunningham, Mobley Head All-Rookie Team

Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Franz Wagner and Jalen Green comprised this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced in a press release.

Barnes, Cunningham and Mobley were all unanimous selections, receiving the maximum total of 200 points each. Wagner received 183 points, followed by Green with 158. Strangely, one media member left Wagner off their ballot completely, as he received 99 of 100 possible votes.

Raptors wing Barnes, who narrowly edged Cavaliers big man Mobley for the Rookie of the Year award, ranked third in points (15.3) and rebounds (7.5) among all rookies, and fifth in assists (3.5). Mobley was fifth in points (15.0) and led all first-year players in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (1.67) per game.

Pistons guard Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, was first among rookies in points (17.4), second in assists (5.6) and fifth in rebounds (5.5). Magic forward Wagner also had a great year, averaging 15.4 points (fourth among rookies), 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 79 games. Rockets guard Green finished the season strong, scoring 20+ points in 17 of his last 25 games on his way to averaging 17.3 points, second among first-year players.

Pelicans defensive ace Herbert Jones (123 votes) and Thunder floor general Josh Giddey (122 votes) headline the Second Team. Jones averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals (first among rookies) and should at least receive votes for an All-Defensive nod, even if he doesn’t end up making one of the two teams.

In addition to averaging 12.5 points, Giddey was second among rookies in rebounds (7.8) and first in assists (6.4), but he only appeared in 54 of 82 games, having missed the final 23 contests with a hip injury, which is likely why he didn’t receive more First Team votes.

Here are both All-Rookie teams in full, with their voting point totals noted in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

2021/22 All-Rookie First Team:

2021/22 All-Rookie Second Team:

Ten other rookies received votes — you can view the full voting results right here. Among the group that missed the cut, Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga (47) was just behind Duarte, with Kings guard Davion Mitchell (28) the only other player receiving a significant number of votes.

Thunder Notes: Dort, Bazley, Giddey, Salary Cap, Draft

The Thunder are interested in reaching contract extension agreements with Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley but only if the price is right, GM Sam Presti told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto and other media members on Monday.

“They’re both great guys,” Presti said. “I want to hear what they’re thinking, and I need them to understand we have to also balance the interest of the team as well.”

Presti indicated extension talks with Dort haven’t begun, Mussatto tweets.

“We’ll definitely have a conversation on that,” Presti said. “I don’t know when those conversations will pick up. We’ll have some different options. I don’t want to get into all of them.”

Here are some other highlights from Presti’s annual end-of-season press conference, via Mussatto:

  • Dort (shoulder), Bazley (knee) and Josh Giddey (hip), among others, didn’t finish the season due to injuries but Presti expects everyone on the roster to be ready for training camp.
  • The Thunder will play in two summer leagues, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski will play in Salt Lake City.
  • The Thunder have only $54MM on the books for the 2023/24 season and will continue efforts to keep their salary sheet clean leading up to a new CBA in the summer of 2023.
  • If they’re not playing meaningful games as next season progresses, the Thunder plan to once again go into development mode as the season winds down. “We’re not just trying to figure out how to win two more games next year,” Presti said. “We could do that, but that solution doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best long-term solution for the team.”
  • There’s a slim chance the Thunder could hold onto all four picks it currently possesses in the draft. “One thing I don’t think has been explored enough in the NBA is just drafting everybody and then figuring it out,” Presti said.

Josh Giddey Out For Rest Of Season

Thunder rookie Josh Giddey won’t play any more this season because of soreness in his hip, tweets Oklahoma City reporter Rylan Stiles.

Coach Mark Daigneault made the announcement during a session with reporters before tonight’s game. Giddey hasn’t played since February 24, and Daigneault said the “return-to-play portion” of his rehab process would last longer than the two weeks that are left in the regular season. Giddey told the team that he has never experienced problems with the hip before, Daigneault added.

“It’s a tricky injury,” Daigneault said. “A little unpredictable, whereas Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a bone, a break, it’s more predictable.”

Giddey, the sixth player selected in last year’s draft, will end his first season with averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in 54 games. He was selected to participate in both the Rising Stars tournament and the Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month four times.

Daigneault offered two other medical updates, saying Robinson-Earl will definitely be back this season (Twitter link), and he plans to talk to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander about his status. Gilgeous-Alexander has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury, and Daigneault said, “The game to game thing is not sustainable.” (Twitter link)

Western Notes: Giddey, Westbrook, Williamson, Jones

Thunder rookie Josh Giddey will miss at least two more weeks due to hip soreness, head coach Mark Daigneault said, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). Giddey has missed the team’s last four games, but Daigneault still hopes the 19-year-old can return at some point this season.

“We’re trying to balance development but also being cautious and being wise… We’re learn a lot more in a couple weeks here,” he said, as relayed by Clemente Almanza of OKC Thunder Wire (Twitter link). “See how he responds with the treatment he’s getting now.”

In 54 games this season, Giddey has averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists, shooting 41.9% from the floor and 26.3% from deep. Oklahoma City is 20-43 and will likely give more playing time to Tre Mann, Theo Maledon and others in his absence.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • In his latest article for Substack, Marc Stein cites one league source who believes it’s “impossible” that the Lakers bring back Russell Westbrook next season due to current tension levels. Los Angeles ranks ninth in the Western Conference (27-35) and has lost eight of its last 10 games. Westbrook has averaged 18.1 points per game on 43.3% shooting from the floor, which is slightly below his career average.
  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson will rejoin the team when it returns from its road trip next week, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. New Orleans will play Denver on Sunday and Memphis on Tuesday. Williamson is progressing to full-weight bearing activities and his future timetable remains unclear.
  • Despite being a rookie, Pelicans forward Herbert Jones already appears to be one of the NBA’s best defenders, Christian Clark of NOLA.com opines. Jones’ defense was a major reason why Jazz star Donovan Mitchell scored just 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting on Friday, with the Pelicans winning by 34. “Herb, you just expect it from him almost,” head coach Willie Green said. “That’s what he does. He doesn’t say much. He just goes out and does his work. What he’s doing, we don’t take for granted. It’s hard to guard the best player every single night.”