Giannis the point guard fizzled as Jabari the post player sizzled and the Bucks lost another practice game

Giannis getting tips from a guy who used to play point guard in the NBA. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
Giannis getting tips from a guy who used to play point guard in the NBA. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)

The much ballyhooed, highly anticipated, totally gripping idea of Giannis Antetokounmpo starting at the point guard position turned out to be … not very interesting. Milwaukee’s positionless, talented sophomore played 23 fairly uninteresting minutes split across a variety of roles in Milwaukee’s 106-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night.

Giannis finished with four points, while missing all five shots he attempted and connecting on all four free throws he attempted. His five attempts were the second lowest among all participants for Milwaukee. The majority of his time at point guard was spent dribbling the ball over half court, dropping it off to a big that had come up to the high post, then cutting through Cleveland’s defense while the ball was swung in the other direction. Rarely did the ball seem to return to his hands. It wasn’t the attacking, interesting fourth quarter Giannis we saw in Chicago, but a more passive version, for reasons that are unclear.

Did the Bucks want to work on getting offense in the half court out of the high post? Did Cleveland’s defense not allow for as much penetration, given some of the looks they were throwing at Milwaukee? Only the Bucks really know. Or at least I don’t know. So I won’t speculate.

There were a handful of occasions in which Giannis passed, cut and did get the ball back and at least a few times in those scenarios, he looked to Jabari Parker coming across the paint, posting up in the low block. Parker looked very good out of the post on Tuesday night. Once, he caught against the very well-regarded Shawn Marion and put a spin move on Marion that led to an easy dunk.

Another time, he caught at the top of the key and spun on rookie wing Shane Edwards, which led to an and-1. Parker appeared very polished and more explosive than I thought he looked against Chicago. Of course, he was catching in the post more often, which seemed to help him offensively. His footwork seems pretty good for a guy his size and he has a quickness or strength advantage over most players that have been matched up with him on the block this season.

In the most recent Bucksketball Podcast, I brought up some concerns about Parker’s athleticism. I think I’m mistaking jumping high for being athletic, which is probably a stupid mistake to make. While Parker doesn’t appear to be a world class leaper and doesn’t have point guard quickness, his strength was very impressive on Tuesday. On one dunk, he had to bring the ball through another set of hands and didn’t even flinch. He has a solid grip and his knowledge of how to use his body and stay on balance will serve him quite well in his NBA transition.

Parker finished Tuesday night’s game 7-12 (4-4 FT), for 18 points. He’s scored in double figures in all four Bucks games and Tuesday night was his first game with a shooting percentage higher than 40%. Progress.

Other quick notes:

  • Zaza Pachulia continues to pass the ball well. This was a strength of his last season – he posted a career high 16.3% assist rate. He had three assists on Tuesday and Milwaukee seemed to go out of its way to get the offense running through him at times. Maybe that’s not a great long term strategy, but it’s nice to have a guy who can pass out of the high post. He could really help provide spacing alongside John Henson or Larry Sanders.
  • O.J. Mayo had 13 points on 5-8 shooting ((1-3 3FG, 2-2 FT). He looked like a good shot-maker and a capable complementary player. His hand-eye coordination was impressive on an especially difficult pass he had to catch from Jerryd Bayless and put up as a layup in one motion. He did it and his finished on the opposite side of the hoop.
  • I hardly noticed this during the game, but Jared Dudley finished 5-5 from behind the arc. The thing I noticed more with him was how quickly and willing he was to swing the ball to open shooters. Combining shooting with a willingness to keep the ball moving could be crucial to Dudley’s value this season.
  • Kevin Love remains great.

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  1. What I saw in this game is that without good play at point guard, the Bucks are going to be utterly boring and abysmal — borysmal — to watch this season, slow and sluggish on offense — sloggish — especially in crunch time when defenses stiffen.

    I’ll continue on my lonely championing of Kendall Marshall, who didn’t play as much as a second last night, and so the offense was clunky and clumsy — clunksy — depending mostly on the twisting fortunes of individual shooters getting hot, as well as the opposing team’s disinterestedness or disorientedness on defense.

    While Kendall wasted away on the bench, we saw a long stretch in the second half of only veterans on the court: O.J., Ers, Zaza, Jared and Jerryd. I know it’s the preseason and all, but, still, this lineup brought back so many bad memories of mediocre veterans past sucking up time that could be used to develop young players.

    I respectfully take issue with Jeremy’s repeated emphasis on these being “practice games.” What these are to me are valuable opportunities for the Bucks to grow as a team, especially our young guys. So far these opportunities are being wasted.

    The thing about Kendall is that his playing time is not only important for himself; it’s also about him facilitating opportunities for all of his teammates to move the ball around, to get good shots, and to gain an energy that lifts the Bucks on both sides of the court.

    If we don’t start getting all of that going now, look for dreary and dismal — drismal — outings when the non-practice games begin, with the frustration culmninating in lackluster and lousy — lacksy — finishes.

    I was really excited about a season of youthful enthusiasm and growth for the Bucks, but now I’m getting concerned about an ugly and stagnant — ugnant — mess that will be almost unbearable to watch.

    • Agreement.

      Watching Bayless shepherd the offense alongside Mayo and Dudley was not appealing and quite a bummer. Hopefully that’s not something we’ll see too much during the regular season.

    • I’m not so sure Kendall’s the ass-kicking point guard you’re championing him to be. Players can and do get over-looked, but I think there’s a reason he went from Steve Nash’s successor, to D-league hero, to dumpster fire Lakers’ point guard, to waived (all be it with intentions of being re-signed) dumpster fire former Lakers’ point guard, to cheap-o contract point guard on the worst team in the league. I’d like to see him get more minutes, too. But if he can’t earn minutes over a position-less Knight, crummy Nate Wolters, and Jerryd Bayless, then maybe he’s not actually all that good. Kidd knows point guard play better than you or I, wouldn’t we think he could make that decision competently? I’m confident, however, we’ll find out what he’s made of — Trust that Kidd will be diligent enough to be sure of it.

      • Good point about not assuming that Kendall is necessarily and absolutely going to be the answer for the Bucks at point — although I like what I’ve seen in him quite a bit.

        Also, we don’t have anyone else on the team adept at getting the other guys involved in the offense, so it’s Kendall or bust.

        As far as Jason Kidd, I wish him well, but I’m not assuming that he knows what he’s doing. Great players often make lousy coaches.

        So far this preseason I’m mystified by Kidd’s allocation of playing time, including his insistence on keeping Ers on the court during a 4-20 shooting fiasco, and not finding at least a little time for Johnny OB in the last couple of games.

        There’s also the note by imi in the comments below.

        I’m more than a little nervous about investing so much control of the future of the Bucks in a guy with so little coaching experience and player-personnel experience.

        Why hasn’t Kidd played Kendall more this preseason? Then we could all see for ourselves at least a little of what Kendall has to offer, as well as any deficiencies.

        This not only baffles me, but frustrates me. Kendall is still a really young player, and he could really use the experience. This preseason is the perfect time to give the recent lottery pick a good look, and a good opportunity.

        My hunch is that he has his ups and downs, but that he ultimately excels and becomes a key member of the Bucks — if he gets a chance.

  2. The thing we all noticed about Giannis was his nervousness playing as a starting PG. The other thing and most worrying was that there was no plan how he or his teammates should play. No tactics at all. And i blame Kidd for that. It was as if he just told him that he was gonna play the Pg spot and nothing more. I saw no screens at all so he could attack the rim or play pick and roll. No mismatches in the paint. Nothing!
    The team was just not prepared to get the benefits of Giannis playing at PG.