Checking In On Josh Giddey’s 3-Point Shooting Improvement

A cornerstone piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder roster, Josh Giddey’s development over the next few years could dictate just how high the team’s overall ceiling could be.

At 6-foot-9, he’s got elite positional size which makes him an effective rebounder and versatile on both ends. Furthermore, he’s already one of the best passers in the league and is a catalyst for his teammates on the offensive end.

The primary weakness in Giddey’s game entering the NBA was his jumper, especially from deep. As a rookie, he shot just 26.3% from beyond the arc as he struggled most of the year.

That part of his game could make or break his ability to become a star. Will Giddey emerge as a complete offensive player, or reach his peak as a highly impactful role player? The answer will likely depend on his ability to improve as a shooter.

Luckily for Giddey, Oklahoma City hired one of the best shooting coaches in the world in Chip Engelland during the offseason.

For the past 17 years, he had been part of the San Antonio Spurs’ system, where he helped develop Hall of Fame level players like Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker along with rising star Dejounte Murray among others. Thunder GM Sam Presti has ties to Engelland from his days in San Antonio earlier in his career.

As good as Engelland is at helping players improve their shots, these things take time. As such, there was an expectation Giddey could struggle early in the 2022-23 season as he made small tweaks to his mechanics and changed the way he thought about shooting a basketball.

“You have to take steps backward to take steps forward,” said Giddey recently.

This came to fruition during the first part of the season, as Giddey shot just 25.5% from deep on nearly three attempts through the end of November. This was actually a regression from his perimeter efficiency as a rookie.

More recently, we’ve started to see the work the 19-year-old has put in pay off, as he’s shot 45.2% on 3.2 attempts since the start of December. That’s a 13 game sample size in which he’s been one of the better shooters in the league.

With that in mind, there should be an expectation that his efficiency regresses to the mean a bit, and more inconsistent shooting continues throughout the season. Again, making changes to your jumper takes time, so it’s all about the longer term future for Giddey.

Another promising sign is that he’s improved as a free throw shooter, which can often be indicative of upside as a 3-point shooter down the road. Giddey has converted on 90.9% of his free throws since the start of December.

While the raw 3-point shooting jumpers are up nearly 8% for the young guard year-over-year, let’s dig into where Giddey has found ways to improve.

For starters, he hasn’t forced the perimeter game into his offensive shot diet. Just 20.3% of his points come from deep, which is one of the lowest on the team, and his 3-point frequency is just 22.1% this season. This is down from 31.8% last season, meaning he’s letting the shots come to him.

To further quantify this, 93.9% of his made triples this season have been assisted, so he’s really picking his spots and taking shots in rhythm rather than forcing looks.

Giddey is shooting 40% (26/65) from deep on unguarded catch-and-shoot looks, which leads to optimism about the mechanics overall. Even when he is guarded more heavily, he’s converting on 36.7% (11/30) of his catch-and-shoot attempts. Simply put, Giddey is taking good 3-point shots and allowing others to set him up for success. He’s shooting 38.8% on spot up triples in which he doesn’t take a dribble.

While he’s been much improved and has mostly taken shots in rhythm, at some point Giddey will need to improve on the more advanced looks as a self-creator on the perimeter. He’s shooing 23.5% (4/17) on triples off the bounce this season. He’s also struggling as a 3-point shooter as a pick-and-roll ball handler, converting on just 22.2% (2/9) of those attempts.

Regardless, Giddey is generating 1.098 points per possession on his 3-point attempts and is much improved this season over last. While he likely won’t continue the efficiency we’ve seen since the start of December, it’s promising for his long-term outlook.

If Giddey can maintain the 34.0% mark he’s currently at from deep throughout the rest of the season, the upside as an offensive prospect will be off the charts.