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Josh Giddey is driving hard across the top of the free-throw line and his home crowd at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena hold their breath.
The Australian Boomers guard is dribbling with his left hand and his Venezuelan defender is sliding as fast as he can to keep him from getting to the basket.
Josh Giddey executes his signature spin move against the LA Clippers in 2021.
Stronger elite players would keep driving and try to out-muscle the defender to the basket, while more agile types may hop backwards and look for an open shot.
But Giddey does neither. Instead, he turns blindly to his inside going from his left foot to his right and switching the ball to his right hand at the same time.
His footwork on this play is slower than usual, but it’s effective nonetheless as he lays the ball up at the basket leaving his defender powerless to stop him.
“Oh Giddey. He spins into the lane. The pirouette has them applauding in unison here at Rod Laver,” commentator Brenton Speed says as Giddey jogs back.
Spins can be very tricky moves to complete at the game’s highest levels as it can easily become a turnover if the player loses control of their feet or the ball.
But for Giddey, it’s become one of his most devastating weapons for Oklahoma City against NBA defences, and he will deploy it for the Boomers at the FIBA World Cup, which tips off on Friday night with Australia taking on Finland in Japan.
“My favourite move now is probably the spin move,” Giddey told GQ in June this year.
“I’ve started doing it a lot when I get into the paint – spin move into a floater.”
What’s a spin move?
A spin move involves a player spinning around a defender, usually in the key area, and taking a shot. Under the rules of the game, a player can’t take more than two steps after they stop dribbling the ball, so it is easy for a player attempting to spin to overstep, lose balance and travel.
But when it’s done correctly, a player quickly spins around or away from defenders and leaves them in two minds before scoring.
A spin move is a little different to a drop step, which is when a player backs down an opponent close to the basket, then steps around them and shoots the ball.
It’s also different to a spin dribble which is when a player is dribbling and quickly spins and keeps dribbling.
When did he start doing it?
Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze played most of his NBL career alongside Giddey’s dad Warrick at the Melbourne Tigers, and he also coached Josh over a number of years at Melbourne Tigers’ junior club.
Gaze remembers Giddey’s evasive skills from his earliest days, but admits he tried to temper some of his moves at under-12 or under-14 level as he was taking too long to bring the ball up the court.
“He’d get the ball in the backcourt and start dribbling and rather than just blowing by a defender, it was almost like he would wait for the defender and then change directions,” Gaze recalled with a laugh.
“I can remember it was something we were trying to get out of his game, at least in the backcourt – just blow by the defender, don’t get in a war with them as we are trying to advance the ball up the court. He had a propensity to do that, even when it wasn’t in his best interests but as he progressed, it’s something that is innate to him, he just has a feel for it, he uses it to his advantage in traffic or to get the defence off balance and get to the rim.”
Why does he do it?
A spin move is hard to prepare for and Giddey does it from a variety of angles or parts of the key which further catches defenders out of position.
It can also take more athletic or explosive players unawares as the spin takes him away from the defender or pins his back against their body.
A prime example of this came against the LA Clippers in the 2021-2022 NBA season where Giddey spun around 213-centimetre centre Ivica Zubac to score.
In the NBA, he often follows the spin move with a “floater” which is a high, arcing shot which rises beyond the reach of shot-blockers before falling into the basket.
“He can do it tight to get to the rim, he can do it slower and go to his float game. It’s an elite move,” Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman said.
At 203 centimetres tall, Giddey’s body naturally protects the ball as he spins and then either shoots or passes, but Gaze said it was his skill as much as his height that helped.
“We would be underselling his skill sets if we said his success was purely based on his size,” Gaze said. It’s important, but there are plenty of 6′9 guys sitting behind desks working on computers, not on an NBA floor.”
How will it help him at the World Cup?
Boomers coach Brian Goorjian has handed Giddey a big role as the starting point guard and main playmaker with the team needing both his passing skills and a healthy number of points as well.
International play is different to the NBA in several ways, including that defenders can stand around the basket and don’t have to move away like they do in the US league.
Giddey used his spin move several times in the three warm-up games in Melbourne, and he will certainly be ready to unleash it when the FIBA World Cup begins on Friday night.
Josh Giddey’s spin has become a fan favourite.Credit: Getty Images
Vickerman loves how Giddey uses his spins as a way to attack defences.
“He always sees the whole floor before he spins, so he knows where that next help defender is going to come from so he can make that pass if needed,” Vickerman said.
“I just love how he is spinning and being aggressive at the rim.
“You cut him off and he is aggressive, there isn’t a retreat dribble to get space, it’s keep aggressive and use it as an attacking weapon.
“After seeing that, I talk to my daughters and tell them – if you are cut off, just go ahead and make that aggressive spin.“
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