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'I don't lack confidence': How Josh Giddey is making waves in the NBA

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How Thunder have freed Giddey's 'risky' passing skills (1:39)

Oklahoma City rookie Josh Giddey discusses the freedom the coaching staff have provided for his creative offensive game. (1:39)

Trailing 103-101 with 8.5 seconds left on the clock, Josh Giddey surveyed the floor on the way to the sideline with an opportunity to tie or take the lead in Dallas.

By his own admission, he was unsure of the set that was just drawn up during a timeout, instead focused on Mavericks defence, scanning the floor for any potential window of opportunity.

"I went out there and before I took the ball, I started observing the play, looking at what the defence was doing and how they were playing," Giddey told ESPN.

"I saw Kenrich (Williams) and we looked at each other. I saw Luka (Doncic) turn his back, Kenrich nodded at me to throw it and I just put it right to the ring and he went there and got it."

That eye contact between Giddey and Williams became a viral moment, with Giddey's pinpoint inbound pass helping the Thunder force overtime and eventually win the game 120-114.

"I was so adamant I was going to get him the ball. It's just reading the play before it evolves," he said.

Just 49 games into his NBA career, the ending hasn't always been storybook, with the conversation about that pass sparking a learning experience from a similar situation just weeks earlier.

"Now that you say that, I remember the week before we were in Dallas, it was the same situation. We ran a play and Shai was meant to pop up to get the ball and I tried to fire it through to (Mike) Muscala, it got deflected and the game was over, and we lost," Giddey explained.

With highlight reel dimes flooding social media on a weekly basis, Giddey can blur the line between looking like a bona fide basketball genius and an overly extravagant risk taker. At just 19 years old, there is an extraordinary confidence that oozes from the Thunder guard, though he credits head coach Mark Daigneault for understanding when to let the rookie roll and when to tighten the leash.

"There is a leash," he laughed. "But that's one of the ends he lets me play freely. Defence he coaches me hard and rightly so, I need to get better on that end. Offensively he lets me play my natural game because a lot of my game is a bit risky naturally.

"Some of the passes I throw are probably not ones that a lot of guys would throw, it's just the confidence I have in myself to deliver those passes. Stuff like that, we're down two and if I miss that pass, the game is probably over. I had to put it right on the money, I trust myself to make those plays and I know what the consequence is.

"Mark coaches me hard, but he lets me play freely and that's what helps me play so confidently and with no fear. I know he's got my back. If I make mistakes, we will get together, watch film and I'll learn from it."

Oftentimes playing on instinct, Giddey's teammates know to be ready for a pass that they may not believe is possible. Earlier in the season in Los Angeles, Giddey sizzled a one-handed bullet crosscourt from out-of-bounds right into the shooting pocket of Darius Bazley who calmly knocked down the corner triple.

"It was the first time I've ever tried that pass and I just threw it to Baze in the corner and he wasn't even expecting it," Giddey said. "I didn't know I was going to throw it until I took the ball, but little things like that, I'm sure they are aware now to just be ready. I don't even know when the ball is coming to them, I throw some s--- that I don't even see happening. The guys know now to have their hands ready."

The passing is natural. Scoring - not so much.

Averaging 12.1 points per game on 41 percent from the floor and 25 percent from three, the learning process to play alongside the dynamic Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, oftentimes off-the-ball, has been an unfamiliar challenge he has embraced.

"I've always been handling the ball. With Adelaide I had the ball in my hands 90 percent of the game. It's different coming here but you have to understand it's the NBA, there is going to be a player like that on every team who is a star," he said.

"Shai is one of the best isolation guys in the league, you can't come in as a rookie and try to take the ball out of someone's hands. We want him to have the ball because so many good things happen when he's making plays. He draws so much attention that it allows other guys to get off as well.

"Hopefully me and Shai can be together for a long time. Our chemistry is already great but the more games we play together, the more time we spend together, that's only going to grow."

With 83 percent of Gilgeous-Alexander's baskets in 2021-22 unassisted, the learning process of how to remain a factor on offence alongside his running mate is ongoing.

"When I don't have the ball, I can stand there and just wait for Shai to have his turn and then I have mine, but we are both learning that the better we can play off each other, the better it's going to be for our team," Giddey said. "We're figuring that out as we go, we're watching a lot of film and trying to find other ways I can be effective while the ball isn't in my hands."

Of course, there will always be the discussion around his 3-point shot, with the balance between facilitating and letting it fly dictated by the coverages he is starting to become accustomed to across the league.

"Some teams go under, some teams play level, some are in drop. Seeing different things is going to make me play different naturally. If teams are going under, making them pay, stepping into a three. The thing with me is that I don't lack confidence, so if I miss 10, I'm going to shoot the next one like I've just made 10 in a row," he said.

"Confidence has never been a problem for me. If they are getting over, I can get downhill, I can step up and shoot threes if they are going under, it's just reading the defence and whatever they are doing I'll adjust my game to it."

In addition to the on-court journey, the constant grind of travel, play, practice is real, with Giddey's 1500+ minutes already dwarfing his 900 minutes in the NBL last season.

After a recent game against the Lakers, Daigneault told the media that Giddey's minutes would be capped at 30 per night for the next stretch of the season in an attempt to maintain his body through its first regular season marathon.

"The access we have to world class treatment, recovery, physios, stuff like that, there's really no excuse to not keep your body in check. Injuries are going to happen but the little things you can control is the important part about staying ready for 82 games of the season. I've been staying on top of that, it's held up well for the first 50 or so games. I can't really complain too much," Giddey said.

"Every morning I'm with my physio, Tony. We check in all the time. Any little niggles that I have, he's the man I go to. We are always just addressing little things, making sure I'm on top of things, so that's probably the biggest part.

"Last year in the NBL I would see a physio maybe once a month if I was lucky, I was always playing through things," he said with a laugh.

"This year we just have so many people that want to take care of you, so I let him do his job and he's been awesome with me."

Throughout the conversation, Giddey at times flashes a smile that gives you the impression he knows he is living a dream. Still just a teenager, he is dazzling basketball fans around the world on a nightly basis. Yet, he is clearly not satisfied with simply making it to the league, discussing his progress over a timeline of months that would typically be years for most.

"Comfort comes with experience. The more games you play, you grow, and you learn and understand the NBA game. The game is starting to slow down for me," he said.

"The first game in Utah, I still remember it really clearly. I was so sped up and hyped and excited to play. Everything was rushing out there, I was going 100 miles an hour trying to get things down but now it's slowing down, I'm playing at my own pace. Outside stuff isn't speeding me up.

"That's the biggest change from game one to right now. A lot of things you just learn over time, picking things up from different teams you've played. Every night is different."

If this is Giddey's mindset after 50 games, it's time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.