'It's gotta be built around him' - Boomers set to rely on Giddey at World Cup

Goorjian on Giddey's Boomers role: 'It's like Andrew Gaze' (2:47)

Boomers coach Brian Goorjian discusses what he's seen from Josh Giddey's NBA development, and the guard's pivotal role that he's looking to build around. (2:47)

Brian Goorjian is unapologetically leaning all the way into Josh Giddey.

There's no talking around it, or tip-toeing through the conversation surrounding putting such a significant burden on a 20-year-old.

Sure, some coaches might treat that player conservatively -- choose to shy away from fully embracing a young point guard going into one of the two major international tournaments on the basketball calendar, with the expectation of one-upping a bronze medal finish at an Olympics -- but don't expect that from the Australian Boomers' head coach.

"One of the decisions made: when he's on the floor, we're gonna put the ball in his hands a lot," Goorjian told ESPN, as his team prepares for the 2023 FIBA World Cup at the end of August.

"He's a huge piece of this moving forward. Not just this, but it's like an Andrew Gaze, as far as the Boomers. What he is, and as we get him with the group, and as it expands, a lot of it's gotta be built around him."

Let's rewind two years, to the Boomers' Tokyo Olympics selection camp in Irvine, California. The then-18-year-old point guard was the youngest member of that extended squad, and thought he had done enough to earn a spot on Goorjian's final 12-man team.

Instead, he was the final cut. He didn't join the Boomers in Tokyo, so he didn't get to be part of the team's bronze medal winning campaign. But, his time at that training camp wasn't in vain. He left a lasting impression.

"Mate, we saw," Jock Landale told ESPN.

"I think we were all looking around at each other at that time, saying, 'wow, this guy, he'll be ready to roll when his number's called'.

"He's 20, but he's turned himself into a physical guard that's really tough to guard, and seeing him perform in the NBA this year, and how he uses his body to overpower smaller guards, that's a massive advantage for us. Being able to post Giddey up, for example, is an unreal advantage...

"Giddey sets the standard of, eventually you're gonna be the guy for this program, and he's an unselfish player, so that sets the standard straight out of the gates: he's already embodied the Boomers mentality, and our culture, just through how he plays. It's gonna come naturally to him, and he'll fit in really nicely."

To be fair, this isn't some wild gamble. Giddey showed over his first two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder that he's one of the best young point guards in world basketball. He followed up an impressive rookie season with an even better sophomore year, averaging 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game; one of the most prolific NBA seasons ever produced by an Australian.

Those two NBA campaigns have been closely monitored by Goorjian and the Boomers' coaching staff.

"A lot of film has been watched," Goorjian said.

"How does OKC use him? He's had a great career with them already and, this year, another level. You're watching it and you're going, 'how do they use him?'. He does have the ball in his hands a lot, and he's an unbelievably good passer, and he has unbelievable feel, and he's big.

"With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, he's got the ball in his hands a lot too, so you go through passages of play where [Giddey] doesn't and he's still very effective; off the elbows, off the post. He's good in the corners; they can get it to him and then he finds people."

The Boomers went through a stylistic evolution over the Tokyo Olympics campaign; the nature of the players coming through the program meant a shift in how the team played.

The roster was more athletic, longer, and bigger on the wings. Goorjian recognised that, embraced it, and built a team that had an increased focus defensively, with the ability to push the ball better than any Australian team that's preceded it.

"That athleticism side of it, around him, is really helpful, but also we need guys like (Chris) Goulding, who can shoot the ball," Goorjian said.

"That's one thing you saw with OKC, they put around him guys that can catch and shoot, because he'll find them. I see that as exciting. you're adding a piece now... that is completely different. He's a guy that can make all those guys better. He's a piece we didn't have in the last one. He's something we're gonna build around."

An elite, playmaking point guard was something missing from the Boomers' most recent Olympic team, and there's a sense that a player like Giddey could be the key to unlocking an entire new level for Goorjian's group.

Imagine Patty Mills, one of the best scorers in the international game, playing next to a point guard like Giddey who can create advantages and distribute in an elite way in the half court. There's also the opportunity for a partnership to develop between Giddey and Jock Landale; a pick-and-roll duo that has the potential to be among the most potent in the entire tournament.

The Boomers also have a host of high level wings -- from Josh Green, to Joe Ingles, and Matisse Thybulle -- who can shoot the ball and fill spots in transition, and now have the benefit of having someone at the one-spot who excels as a passer in the open floor.

"He's a young guy, but he plays in a mature way," Green, who was on the Boomers' bronze medal winning team, told ESPN.

"I think that's important going into a World Cup, being able to have a mature point guard who's able to handle situations like that. We have a lot of weapons everywhere. He's gonna be able to utilise those, and be able to pick and find. I'm excited. It's not too often you have a country that has the amount of young players - our core - moving forward, so to be able to start at this age, and be able to run with him, I'm super excited."

Mills, of course, remains the Boomers' focal point from a scoring perspective. He's been the team's most potent offensive player over their last few major campaigns, and has led Australia by example, both on and off the court; he's still, without a shadow of a doubt, the Boomers' leader. But Goorjian understands how valuable it is to have a high-level point guard at one's disposal. In another universe, that person was supposed to be Ben Simmons, but he relinquished that opportunity; regardless of those circumstances, Giddey's place as the heir of the role of head of the Boomers' snake became more and more obvious with every passing day.

Goorjian knows how important it is to lean into Giddey's talent, because he's the rising tide that can lift all boats: making the most of Giddey's talent is the key to getting the most out of everyone else.