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NBA Draft 2021: Josh Giddey Scouting Report

Aaron breaks down Giddey’s game and makes a case for the Magic drafting the emerging Australian guard

Nigeria v Australia Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Nineteenth century French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously coined the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Upon embarking on one of the more critical off-seasons in recent franchise history, the Orlando Magic organization is once again finding itself in a familiar situation: change (and lots of it).

Orlando’s top executives, led by Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond, made franchise direction-altering moves this past March, trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic (nine seasons with the Magic), starting forward Aaron Gordon (seven seasons with the Magic), and starting wing Evan Fournier (seven seasons with the Magic) prior to the league’s trade deadline. After appearing in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons from 2019-2020, Orlando’s front office decided to change the organization’s course - at least partly due to the significant knee injuries suffered by Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac (which caused the Magic to fall considerably in the Eastern Conference hierarchy).

If that wasn’t enough change (or maybe because it was too much), the Orlando Magic organization will also be searching this offseason for their sixth head coach in the last eight years (Editors note: the Magic have their man, hiring former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley as the fourteenth head coach in franchise history) . On June 5th, an announcement was made that the team and former head coach Steve Clifford had “mutually agreed to part ways”. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-2012, compiled a 96-131 record leading the Magic over the last three seasons. It is widely believed that the Orlando organization’s new blueprint- with so many young players on the roster - doesn’t align with a veteran coach such as Clifford’s timeline.

So here we are, with a turned-over roster full of 20-somethings, and a new head coach set to lead the organization into its next chapter. But with so much change, why do things in Orlando still feel the same?

The draft. Once again, the Magic organization is embarking on a critically important draft - and they have to get things right. The mainstays from recent Orlando past are gone, the team is in full rebuild mode, and much of what the franchise has done over the last year hinges on hitting a homerun during this draft process.

So I’m back for my fourth consecutive offseason, putting together a series of scouting reports on players the Magic will likely be targeting, either with their first round pick or Chicago’s pick (which Orlando acquired in the Vucevic deal). Some important dates in this process to keep in mind between now and the end of the summer are: June 21st-27th (the NBA Draft Combine), June 22nd (the NBA Draft Lottery), and July 29th (the NBA Draft).

In this series, I have compiled scouting reports that include film observations, loose player comparisons, talking points, Magic-specific potential fits/needs, and more. Next in this series is a rising international prospect - Australian guard Josh Giddey.

Josh Giddey:
10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists
(32.1 minutes per game)
50.6% TS%, A/TO ratio: 2.25
Height/Weight 6-8/205
Wingspan 6-7.5
Standing Reach N/A

Eye in the sky: Film study

-Can provide a lot of value initiating pick-and-roll offense; has ability to use awareness and mix up tempo to either create for screener or get downhill
-Incredible passer off the dribble, can make all the passes with either hand
-Eyes are always up, sees plays developing and passes people open (similar to a quarterback in football); size helps seeing the floor as well
-Off the charts offensive IQ; makes cross-court passes, advanced reads, understands floor balance/spacing very well for a prospect his age
-Crafty ball-handler; doesn’t possess elite speed, but uses change of pace dribble (and body) to gain advantages over smaller defenders; did show ability to spilt pick-and-roll with the dribble
-Is going to need to prove that he can consistently knockdown jumpers as defenders go underneath screens (while defending him)
-Uses his awareness and IQ to make an impact on the boards; a real threat rebounding & pushing the ball, creating primary and secondary break opportunities
-He’s just 18, but he needs to put a lot of work adding strength/muscle to his frame. Will he be strong enough to defend wing players in the NBA early in his career? Quick enough to stay in front of NBA guards?
-Shooting mechanics don’t look broken, results were very inconsistent; his lower half needs a lot of work (quickness, stronger base, balance) - could help his shot

His game resembles...

Joe Ingles - Mike Schmitz (ESPN) loves this comparison, made it multiple times during his film study session with Giddey. Both Aussies possess above-average basketball awareness, can make passes off the dribble, and understand angles when initiating pick-and-roll offense.
LaMelo Ball - There’s a decent amount of crossover here, even if Giddey (perhaps) lacks as high of a ceiling as Ball. Both players share very similar measurables (6-6 to 6-8, 180-195 pounds), both played in the NBL (National Basketball League, Australia) prior to coming to the NBA. Ball averaged 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the NBL, Giddey averaged 7.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists. Ball is better defender (much better?) at this point of their respective careers.
Spencer Dinwiddie/Jason Williams - I was tempted to use Rubio here (vision, creativity), but I think Dinwiddie makes some sense as well. Giddey has incredible vision, more advanced at this stage of his career than even a veteran like Dinwiddie. But both players have similar bodies and fall into the ‘combo guard’ category. Dinwiddie isn’t the most efficient shooter in the league, but he makes the right plays initiating pick-and-roll offense more often than not. Williams was nowhere near as tall as Giddey, but he played with similar flair (and then some). Both players had/have incredible vision and can see angles/passing lanes before they develop. Williams was a wizard with the ball in his hands, he was so damn fun. I can’t imagine Giddey (or anyone for the matter) will have a career highlight montage at the level Williams enjoyed.

Best games/films of the season...

March 11th vs. Brisbane: 19 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds
May 1st vs. Brisbane: 15 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds
May 9th vs. Sydney: 11 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds

Video Credit: The Scouting Rapport

Video Credit: Tremendous Upside

Resume and By the numbers

  • Basketball without Borders participant (2019)
  • NBL Rookie of the Year (2021)
  • Led the National Basketball League in assists as a rookie (7.6 assists per game)
  • Has played in a few qualifying and exhibition games with Australia’s Senior National Team, but did not make the final roster heading to Tokyo this month (is an alternate)
  • Pulled down seven or more rebounds in a single contest in 17 of 28 games this past season
  • Dished out seven or more assists in a single contest in 20 of 28 games

Talking Points

1) Vision and pick-and-roll promise

With Giddey, the discussion begins (but doesn’t end) with his passing potential. Maybe it’s his plus-size for the lead guard position, perhaps it’s his basketball IQ (it’s probably a little bit of both). Regardless, Giddey is the top passer in this class, and possesses a lot of upside as both a lead distributor and a pick-and-roll initiator. In a similar fashion to teenage phenom Ball in the previous year, Giddey led the NBL in assists as an 18 year-old rookie last season.

It takes some players years into their careers to truly understand floor-spacing. Giddey has advanced awareness of teammates and where they are on the floor at all times in his game already. Being roughly a half a foot taller than most defenders certainly helps Giddey’s vision, but his ability to distribute the basketball goes much further than that. He can make passes off the dribble with either hand. He’s adept at drive-and-kicking to teammates, finding open men in the opposite corner, wrap-around passes from the baseline, etc.

Because of his elite ability to distribute, Giddey projects to be an above-average pick-and-roll initiator in the NBA. Professionally, he’s already shown (in the NBL) how impactful he can be using screens. He can turn his shoulders, use his size/height, and get to the basket. But of course, he’s most lethal setting up the screener. Giddey regularly found the roll-man playing for Adelaide last season, sometimes with passes that didn’t seem to be there to the naked eye.

Lastly, a big part of Giddey’s offensive attack is changing-up pacing and tempo against opposing defenses. His handle is solid enough to split defenders, he uses hesitation dribbles to create advantages coming around screens, and he can get opponents into situations where they have to leave their man for just enough time to create a passing lane. Mastering pick-and-roll action, setting up defenders by controlling pace, and understanding floor-balance are things young lead guards entering in the NBA have to develop a feel for - Giddey’s already got it.

2) How will he stack up against NBA athletes?

My biggest concern with Giddey is his subpar athleticism. He’s going to encounter incredible run and jump athletes on a nightly basis in the NBA, and he’s going to have to rely heavily on his awareness, knowledge of spacing, and floor-balance to be able to hold his own. He’s just not a great athlete. I think he will eventually develop into a competent team defender, mostly due to his understanding of pace, the floor, and the game in general. I worry about Giddey’s feet, his ability to get low in his stance and slide (he plays upright quite a bit), and just his overall potential success keeping the best guards in the world in front of him.

Defensively, he has a couple things working against him (other than a lack of athleticism that is). His zero to sub-zero wingspan (6-8 with a 6-7.5 to 6-8 wingspan) is still long enough to make some kind of impact defending opposing point guards (but will he be able to slow them down and slide his feet?). But a 6-8 wingspan is just average for a wing defender (not horrible, not remarkable). Who will he be able to defend?

And like just about any other 18 year-old prospect embarking on their NBA career, Giddey is also in dire need of adding muscle to his frame. I actually think he’s got a solid frame, already over 200 pounds and seemingly able to add additional weight/muscle as time goes on. But it’s going to be a struggle for a while (for Giddey) defending faster, quicker, stronger players (getting through screens, holding ground, possibly boxing out, etc.).

Making a case for the Magic to draft Josh Giddey in the ‘21 NBA Draft

Does Giddey fit the Weltman/Hammond archetype? Not really
Would taking Giddey in the lottery be considered a BPA/value selection? Not for the 5th pick, and not really for the 8th either (according to most mainstream boards)
Would Giddey provide the Magic with depth in a needed area? Yes

For me, this pick (from Orlando’s perspective) would be all about luxury. What I mean by that is, at least on the surface, it doesn’t appear that Giddey is a player the Magic absolutely need.

But man, he would be so much fun. And I’m a big believer in the value he could potentially provide to any team, regardless of backcourt players already on the roster. I’m sure Giddey is a player that has had the ball in his hands on the court his whole life. But at 6-8, I think he could easily play off the ball alongside other point guards in the NBA as well. Giddey could play off the ball alongside Fultz, as a lead guard alongside RJ Hampton, and could even allow a coach to mix-and-match in the backcourt alongside Cole Anthony (Anthony plays the “1” on defense, off the ball on offense; Giddey initiates offense, defends the opposing “2”).

The obvious value being, with so many developing players on the roster trying to find themselves, that Giddey’s passing could make NBA life that much easier for anyone/everyone else.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what Orlando will ultimately choose to do (more wishful thinking, what I would do). Giddey has a couple things working against him when it comes to playing in pinstripes: a) he doesn’t fit what Orlando’s management group has looked for in the past AND b) his industry perceived draft-range doesn’t exactly matchup with where Orlando is drafting.

The Melbourne native possesses incredible positional size, and that is certainly something the Orlando franchise values. He’s also one of the youngest prospects in this class, and the Magic have never been an organization to shy away from taking a player who needs a few years to develop. But Giddey’s game is a skill-game (passing, vision, IQ, awareness), and under Weltman and Hammond, the Magic have shown more of an inclination to value players with length, above-average athleticism, and defensive versatility. Those traits happen to also be some of the exact concerns scouts have about Giddey (at least to begin his NBA career).

As of July 20th, ESPN lists Giddey as the eleventh “best prospect available” in the 2021 class. Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer) also ranks him eleventh on his latest big board (Ringer 2021 NBA Draft Guide), while Sam Vecenie (The Athletic) actually has Orlando selecting Giddey eighth overall in his latest mock draft (published June 22nd).

Taking Giddey fifth is highly unlikely (although I’m not exactly enamored with some of the other options, unless someone falls to Orlando), but he very well could be in play with the eighth pick. I think many in the industry might still view Giddey coming off the board in the top ten as a bit of a reach, but I certainly wouldn’t.

Again, it’s not like the Magic are absolutely in dire need of a point guard (I mean, they drafted one in the first round last year as well). And Fultz will be back this upcoming season at some point, whether it’s in January or beyond. But Giddey is absolutely brilliant with the basketball in his hands, arguably the top passer in this draft class (and he can play off the ball as well). Who wouldn’t want to find room for a 6-8, 18 year-old prospect like that?

Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.

Also, check out Aaron’s other scouting reports in this series: Scottie Barnes, Franz Wagner, Keon Johnson, Moses Moody, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, and James Bouknight.