Josh Giddey just surged into top NBA rookie contention. Here’s how he can usurp four rivals

Josh Giddey’s latest masterclass has catapulted him into the NBA’s Rookie of the Year conversation.

The Aussie star on Monday (all times AEDT) surpassed LaMelo Ball to become the youngest player in league history to notch a triple-double at 19 years of age and 84 days.

Giddey amassed 17 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists — the latter an OKC Thunder franchise record and tying the NBA assist record for teenagers alongside LeBron James and Zach LaVine — against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

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According to EliasSports, Giddey also became the youngest player in NBA history to lead all players in points, rebounds and assists in a game — joining Doncic as the only other player to do so as a teenager.

Giddey has now averaged 10.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per contest this season — numbers that stack up with the best of the premier rookies. Plus his game is arguably one of, if not the, most well-rounded of the lot.

His latest performance came without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s expected to miss multiple games for the Thunder after entering Covid-19 protocols. And this is where Giddey will really get his chance to shine, much like Franz Wagner has under similar circumstances in Orlando.

Giddey in action against the Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

The NBA Awards are as much about storylines and narratives as anything else and what people are talking about.

Monday was Giddey’s day in that sense that the NBA world was enamoured by his impressive triple-double explosion.

So if Giddey can even come close to emulating his efforts against Dallas several more times amid an open Rookie of the Year pool, he’ll continue to earn massive plaudits and surge higher into the award discussion.

It came in Giddey’s return from a four-game absence from being in the NBA’s health and safety protocols amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in the NBA that’s affected all of the premier rookies’ seasons so far.

And while there’s been several impressive rookies, they’ve all missed chunks of the season, and as a result, no one has truly stood out.

This is reflected by last week putting Wagner No. 1 in its latest Rookie Power Rankings despite Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Toronto’s Scottie Barnes dominating the conversation for much of the season. No disrespect to Wagner, but it shows just how open the Rookie of the Year race has become.

Wagner has missed just one game this season and really flourished recently with so many teammates sidelined.

Josh Giddey has surged into top NBA rookie contention.Source: FOX SPORTS

Averaging 15.8 points and 1.4 triples per game on the season, Wagner’s numbers have increased to 23.2 points and 1.8 threes over the last fortnight.

Meanwhile, Mobley, the favourite for Rookie of the Year, has only played 28 of a possible 37 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 14.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest.

What separates Mobley from the rest of the pack is his genuine impact on the team winning, helping the Cavs rise to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, whereas his rookie counterparts’ teams languish much lower in the standings.

Elsewhere, Barnes has played just twice since mid-December due to a knee issue and Covid protocols, but been extremley effective on the court and arguably the biggest surprise package from the rookie class.

He’s averaged 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds. 1.1 steals and one block in 27 of a possible 33 games for Toronto.

Former Pick 1 Cade Cunningham remains one of the Rookie of the Year frontrunners despite only appearing in 25 of 34 games this season for the Detroit Pistons.

Cunningham, who’s set to return from a four-game protocols absence, has a great opportunity to really take over in Detroit with Jerami Grant (thumb) sidelined for several more weeks.

A modern prototype point guard standing at 6-foot-8, Cunningham has put up 15.3 points, 2.1 triples, 6.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Melo’s CLUTCH 4 point play | 00:22

As good as all these guys have been, the Rookie of the Year race isn’t as clear cut as it’s been in previous seasons with one or two obvious frontrunners.

And with the season only just approaching its halfway mark, whoever heats up from here could take pole position.

Giddey has runs on the board too. He claimed the NBA’s Western Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November alongside Mobley in the East.

Furthermore, Giddey last month became the third teenager in NBA history to notch at least 100 assists and 100 rebounds in his first 20 games, joining James and Ball.

And through his first 10 games, Giddey was one of only 16 NBA players since 2001 to average at least nine points, six rebounds and six assists. Plus in his first month, the Pick 6 had two games with at least nine rebounds and nine assists, joining James as the only rookie to do so.

So what does this all mean? Well, it’s all there for him to become a genuine Rookie of the Year contender. While Giddey’s body of work doesn’t quite yet seriously rival Mobley or Barnes’, he’s not that far off.

But looking ahead, there’s a real opportunity for Giddey to elevate his game to another level. We saw it on Monday and we know what he’s capable of.

With Gilgeous-Alexander sidelined for the interim, the keys in OKC are Giddey’s for the taking. The NBA world, particularly those from down under, will be watching him make his stamp.


By Malvi