The day everyone has been waiting for has arrived: Tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks will start Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard. Per Charles F. Gardner of the Journal-Sentinel:
“In the open court, he’s special. In the half court, we need to find ways to make sure that he can help his teammates and also help himself.”
The bonus for Kidd and the Bucks is the increased confidence the second-year player is getting from being put in such a primary role. Wherever he plays during the season, the experience should be a huge benefit.
Sure, it’s only an exhibition game. And yes, Brandon Knight is sitting out with a groin injury suffered in Saturday’s loss. But still, Giannis at point guard is what this season’s dreams are made of. It’ll be exciting to watch Giannis make plays for his teammates and interesting to see how assertive he is both with the ball and verbally as the team’s decision maker on offense, but mostly it’ll just be fun to watch Giannis operate with the ball in his hands.
One thing that really stood out in Saturday’s loss was Milwaukee’s lack of players with special athleticism. They have a lot of guys who are capably athletic, but aside from the likes of Larry Sanders and probably Brandon Knight, Giannis is the only guy who can really wow on a physical level. That matters quite a bit. The Bucks looked overwhelmed and slow at times against some of the speedier, more aggressive lineups that the Chicago Bulls trotted out on Saturday. Even a player who may be the most talented Buck, Jabari Parker, had trouble navigating through Chicago’s swarming defense. He couldn’t move quick enough to get through it or jump high enough to get over it.
Those are the kinds of things that Antetokounmpo’s very specific set of skills allow him to do. He seems to find the cracks in defenses and stretch his rangy arms and legs through the open spaces. He’s captivated basketball fans to a degree no Bucks player in recent memory could even approach, largely because of some of his jaw-dropping moves that only a man with his combination of explosiveness, length and quickness could pull off. And he’s mixed that strength with some very obvious guile, in the form of clever Euro-Steps and heady passes.
The more Giannis has the ball in his hands, the more he’ll be comfortable on the court and the more the game will slow down for him. Once the game slows down, he’ll be able to make better and better decisions. And we’ve seen Giannis make some pretty awesome decisions already. It looks like Jason Kidd is excited as anyone about the decisions he could be making with another split second or two of improved processing time.
So tonight, he’ll get another shot with the ball in his hands.