Mark Daigneault fully supportive of Josh Giddey amid struggles against Mavericks

Through two games, Josh Giddey’s struggles against the Dallas Mavericks have translated from the regular season to the playoffs.

In 28 total minutes, Giddey is an eye-popping minus-27. This includes being a minus-20 in a career-low 11 minutes in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Game 2 loss.

The Mavericks have exploited Giddey’s weaknesses of being a non-shooter. It puts him in an awkward spot of trying to create off-ball looks that simply haven’t worked.

Despite this, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault refuses to back away from his starter. The Coach of the Year winner spoke about Giddey’s performance at length, stating the sample size of being a positive outweighs the sample size where he’s a negative.

“In terms of what I’ve seen, I’ve seen three years of Josh Giddey and he’s a very good player and a very important player to our team,” Daigneault said. “In Game 4 in New Orleans, I don’t know that we close that series if he’s not hitting shots in the fourth quarter…

“I think it’s important with every player — good, bad, whatever — zoom out and see the big picture and the big picture is he’s been a very productive player for a long time. He’s 21 years old. He’s gonna be a very productive player for a long time moving forward.”

It sounds like the Thunder will stick with Giddey as a starter for an important Game 3 matchup against the Mavericks. Beyond that, who knows how many minutes he logs.

Daigneault has talked ad nauseam about sticking to his rotation philosophy of going deep into his bench despite the jump in intensity in the environment during the playoffs.

“Last night, I made the best decisions I could to try to help us win Game 2. Tomorrow, I’ll make the best decisions I can to help us win Game 3,” Daigneault said. “We’ll see how the game unfolds tomorrow. As it relates to every decision I make, I can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow. But I can tell you that Josh is a very important part of what we’re doing.”

As the series progresses, the Thunder could face a difficult decision with Giddey and others in the rotation. The playoffs usually shorten rotations but through six games, OKC hasn’t been forced to fall in line with that conventional wisdom.

If the Thunder falls behind in their second-round series to the Mavericks, Daigneault might be forced to make drastic adjustments for pure survival.

In the regular season, the Thunder made the right call by riding out Giddey’s struggles. They ultimately didn’t affect the final results of games as OKC finished with the top seed and 57 wins.

The trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren afforded the Thunder the luxury to work it out with Giddey, who’s adjusted to a new role.

To OKC’s credit, it paid off with a strong finish to his season. Giddey played a pivotal role in the Thunder’s sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. But the level of competition has multiplied tenfold in Round 2.

Against the Mavericks, the Thunder likely doesn’t have the same margin for error with Giddey’s struggle. As the series progresses, that wiggle room will slowly disappear. If the 21-year-old doesn’t quickly turn it around, this might not be the playoff series for him.

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire