Josh Giddey's time in the NBL has come to an end, with the Adelaide 36ers, Giddey's management, and the league shutting down the 18-year-old in order to allow him to prepare for the 2021 NBA Draft.
Giddey played 28 games for the 36ers, who have five contests remaining in the 2021 season but, after a loss to the Sydney Kings on Sunday, are now effectively out of finals contention.
Over the course of his first professional season, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and a league-leading 7.6 assists per game, finishing his time with the 36ers as the favourite to win the NBL's Rookie of the Year award while emerging as arguably the best international player in the upcoming draft class.
Giddey, a 6'9 point guard who was part of the NBL's Next Stars program, is currently the No. 13 overall prospect on ESPN's top-100 rankings for the 2021 draft.
The season has largely been a success for Giddey, who went from a projected mid-second rounder to a likely lottery pick, thanks to the rounded, high-IQ game he was able to show off during his time playing in Australia. The 36ers' pursuit of Giddey, and his subsequent success, helped shift the direction of the franchise after Joey Wright's drama-laden departure. 36ers chairman Grant Kelley and Jeff Van Groningen, the team's General Manager of Basketball, used a Sydney meeting with Giddey in the off-season to secure the teenager's commitment, beating out Melbourne United for his coveted signature. Throughout Giddey's rookie year in the NBL, the 36ers have been among the league leaders in attendance.
"I'm just very, very thankful to Jeff, Grant, [head coach] Conner Henry, [assistant coach] Jamie Pearlman, my teammates, and everyone in the 36ers organisation for allowing me to come in as an 18-year-old and play the sort of role I did on our team," Giddey told ESPN.
"I could never repay the club for what they've done for me and, without them, I wouldn't be where I'm at today, so I give all of the credit to Adelaide for putting me in this position and allowing me to be successful.
"And an even bigger thanks to Grant Kelly and JVG for putting a plan in place for me 12 months ago and putting me in a position where I was able to succeed."
Early-season questions about Giddey's shooting began to subside as his rookie campaign progressed, but it remains a work in progress as he enters the draft; the Melbourne-native shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Giddey's season began with a bang. In just his second game, Giddey posted 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists in an emotional double-overtime win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix, highlighted by a dunk in transition that led to a painful fall on his face.
Giddey would go on to excel for the remainder of his time with the 36ers, alleviating some concerns about his jump-shot during a hot shooting stretch in the Melbourne hub, before finishing his campaign with three triple-doubles, matching Sam Mackinnon's mark for the most by an Australian in an NBL season.
"Josh has been a credit to himself, his family, and the Adelaide 36ers," Kelley said. "We are proud for the part we have played over the past 12 months in developing Josh as a player and a young leader. By this decision today, we are supporting Josh in his quest to become an NBA player, by maximising his potential in the draft. We wish him every success."
Van Groningen added: "Josh has had an incredible rookie season throughout which he's demonstrated the attributes that will propel him onto the NBA stage. He's given everything he can to the 36ers, he's taken on each and every challenge here and will always be part of the 36ers family. At this point though, we want to allow Josh to singularly focus on preparations for the NBA draft. We are with him, we are behind him and we thank him."
The 2021 NBA Draft is set to take place on July 30 (AEST), and Giddey plans to set up a training camp in his home city of Melbourne in the lead-up to that event, and ahead of a potential Tokyo Olympics campaign.
"I'll work out in Melbourne for a little bit; spend time with my friends and family before I head to the States at the end of June," Giddey said. "Then, I'll get prepared for the Boomers camp and we'll see what happens from there, whether it's Tokyo or something else."
The NBL says Giddey's success has increased the interest in the league's Next Stars program, which had already produced the likes of LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton, and Didi Louzada.
"His workload in his rookie season has been immense and given how quickly the NBA Draft is approaching, we are all supportive of Josh taking the opportunity to refresh and prepare for the workouts ahead of him," the NBL's commissioner, Jeremy Loeliger, said.
"At just 18, he has demonstrated that he is an incredible talent and it's not surprising that most experts are predicting he will be a first round draft pick. He became the youngest Australian to record a triple double in the NBL and has impressed everyone with his maturity on and off the court. He is not just a fantastic young basketballer but a terrific young man and he will be a great ambassador for Australia on the international stage.
"His success has only heightened interest in the Next Stars program and we are currently canvassing potential candidates for next season and hope to be in a position to make some exciting announcements soon."