For all the shattering records and notable reel passes, one big question mark still hangs over Josh Gedi’s first season in the NBA – every novice faces off.
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Marc Denault never doubted the Jedi, but admitted there was always one mystery surrounding the best odds.
“You just never know, when you guys are in coach, when they start facing adversity what that looks like,” he said, speaking at his end-of-season press conference.
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For Jedi, while the junior season ended with a thigh injury, that moment was more mental than physical. It was the product of non-stop games and travel, something the Australian didn’t encounter while blazing at home at NBL.
When the shots didn’t fall, old Josh Jedi would let her get to him, struggling to put the missing buckets behind him. But this Jedi was different – he quickly answered the question mark that Dinault had.
“His level of courage and aggressiveness in the face of failure is really impressive for a young player,” said the Thunder coach.
“He tends to be competitive. There are a lot of times when you see young players, they get shy and are afraid of failure when they have setbacks. He is willing to fail and I think that bodes well for him going forward.”
Oklahoma City has never been the kind of franchise that quiet off seasons have, at least recently, making moves at the trade table and draft board in a long-running rebuild.
But Giddey’s historic junior season has given Thunder fans reason to believe, that the Aussie along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the building blocks for something better.
If that’s no cause for hope, the Jedi already has one eye on the summer, which he said is the period when the players “separate themselves”. And how exactly does the Jedi plan to break up with himself?
Well, talk to foxsports.com.au Late last week, Jedi said that “shooting” and “getting into the weight room” would be “big focus points” for him.
“I hope these two things open up different things for me and make me a much better player,” he said.
Shooting in particular could be a “big swing factor” for Jedi, after he shot just 26.3 percent from 3-point ground in the junior season.
There were a lot of things the Jedi did right last season, notably joining Oscar Robertson as the only other player to score three straight doubles in three straight pairs in the junior season.
Despite this, the Jedi did not receive a single vote in the Rookie of the Year poll, something the Australian admitted was “disturbing to see”.
“It was disappointing…not even getting one third vote,” he said.
“That’s what it is. I’ve tried the same thing with the state teams, so I’m used to it, and I can feel it. At the end of the day, that’s not all for me, winning the Rookie of the Year award. It’s been fun to see but we’ve progressed Now I’m excited for the second year.”
As for the second year that could seem, one of the most interesting off-season facts to follow is Giddey’s pairing perimeter with Gilgeous-Alexander.
The duo forged a deadly partnership before a Jedi thigh injury forced him to stay on the sidelines for the rest of the year. It was just as Deniault hinted that the Australian had an increasing role in the attack alongside the 23-year-old Canadian.
This means that both Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander will need to find ways to influence the game off the ball, highlighting once again why shooting is a “swing factor” in Australia’s sophomore season.
“Obviously we can manage a team ourselves but it will be important for us to do it together,” Jedi said earlier last month at his Thunder press conference at the end of the season.
“Finding ways to affect the game off the ball, whether that’s cutting, or sorting, or whatever.
“As the season goes on, it’s gotten a lot better, game after game. I think two ballplayers don’t fit in naturally and those things take time. I think if you look at all the great duos around the league, they don’t start out as the best. They have to work and it takes. It’s years of experience.”
Gilgeous-Alexander himself said similarly while praising Giddey’s “level of confidence” as his best quality.
“I think you see the guys in the NBA – Steve, Draymond, Damien Lillard, CJ [McCollum] at one point, [Jusuf] your light [Nurkic] A bit — it’s really hard to protect tandems and both of the examples I gave you have been together for a long time.”
“It takes time to be that good and the earlier Josh and I attack, the better we are and the better this team will be.
“he is [Giddey] Not the most skilled player or athlete in the NBA. He may be the smartest, but he’s not the other two. But he does it every night. He’s very confident in himself.”
And the franchise is so confident in him, that even in his rookie year, Jedi said he’s been in constant contact with both Daigneault and Thunder GM Sam Presti.
“I have a good relationship with Sam and Mark,” he said.
“We talk a lot. There are no secrets in our organization. The direction we are heading is really positive. Everyone wants to win.
“The earlier it starts, the better. We are all going in that direction. I love Shay, he’s a great guy, the chemistry between us is just growing.”
Jedi said the chemistry was at its best right after the All-Star break in a 124-104 loss to Phoenix, sparked by a meeting he had with Gilgus Alexander and Denyault the day before.
“We sat and talked about a few things and the next day we played with Phoenix and that was the best I felt there,” he added.
“Obviously I didn’t play again after that for the season but knowing from there, the things picked up from there, makes me excited for this season. Obviously we are both better with the ball in our hands, it’s no secret. In that Phoenix game, it was clear That we’re really starting to figure that out and moving forward it’s only going to get better.”