It is only the preseason but Australian guard Josh Giddey has picked up where he left off his record-breaking rookie NBA season, putting on a show against the Denver Nuggets.
Giddey was one assist short of a triple double as the Oklahoma City Thunder took a 112-101 win on Tuesday, finishing the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
While obviously an incredibly small sample space, Giddey also impressed with his shooting, going 2-for-2 from 3-point land and 6-for-11 overall.
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Giddey has been working with renowned NBA shooting coach Chip Engelland, who was signed by the Thunder in the off-season, and had said he was seeing immediate improvements.
“Confidence is one of the biggest things,” the 19-year-old told foxsports.com.au, describing Engelland as a “genius”.
“I think that was one of the things for me last year. I missed a shot, I start overthinking things but Chip is different to any other coach I’ve ever had in the way he approaches [it].
“He’s not trying to change my whole shot or make one big difference. It’s just little things, it’s taking it day-by-day and making sure there’s always carryover from some different sessions.”
Giddey had three turnovers early in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game but quickly settled into his rhythm without fellow guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who suffered a knee injury during a recent workout.
The Australian earned extra attention in defence from the Nuggets and that will continue to be the case in his sophomore year given teams may have been unprepared for just how good he was last season.
It will particularly be the case if Gilgeous-Alexander misses more time but Giddey stood tall in the wake of that extra pressure in a strong sign of how he will handle the step up.
Meanwhile, Tre Mann also looks set to take a leap this season after also impressing in the Tuesday’s game with 17 points to go with two assists.
Mann showed up to Oklahoma City media day having noticeably bulked up during the summer, telling reporters it was a “focus” of his.
The 21-year-old averaged 10.4 points last season, primarily playing off the bench, but popped off a few times when thrown into a starting role as injuries hit.
As for Denver, Jamal Murray impressed in his first game in 539 days, scoring 10 points to go with two assists as the guard shot 4-for-7 from the field in 15 minutes.
Murray had been on the sidelines since suffering a torn ACL in Denver’s 2021 playoff series loss to Golden State.
The 25-year-old had said during training camp he was taking it “one day at a time”, although Nuggets coach Michael Malone was certainly liking what he had seen from Murray.
“He’s got that confidence back, he’s got that swagger back,” Malone said.
“Seeing him in our gym, playing with that confidence and chirping, has been fun to watch.”
Michael Porter Jr. also showed promising signs in his first game in 331 days, having undergone the third back surgery of his career in the summer.
The Nuggets forward shot 5-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-4 from deep, as he finished with 12 points from just 14 minutes.
Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had 15 minutes on the court and while managing two points and three assists, he made his presence felt on both sides of the floor with five defensive rebounds and two steals.
Zeke Nnaji led the scoring for Denver with 15 points from the bench to go with six rebounds.
Australian Jack White did not get any minutes for the Nuggets off the bench.