Bucks vs. Magic Preview | Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tobias Harris benched in battle of lottery hopefuls

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The two worst teams in the league face off in THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

013/14 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(8-37, 4-19 road)
vs.
Orl
(12-35, 9-14 home)
January 31, 2014
Amway Center | Orlando, FL
6:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Jameer Nelson
Nate Wolters SG Victor Oladipo
Khris Middleton SF Arron Afflalo
Ersan Ilyasova PF Glen Davis
Larry Sanders C Nikola Vucevic
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.6 (26th) Pace 94.1 (16th)
98.6 (30th) ORtg 100.5 (27th)
109.1 (27th) DRtg 106.9 (18th)

On the MagicOrlando Pinstriped PostMagic Basketball

Benched! Unfortunate fact: Giannis Antetokounmpo's production has taken a hit in recent weeks (39% true shooting this month), and with three guards in the starting lineup for Orlando tonight he's been taken out of the starting lineup for the first time in six weeks.

Drew's comments before the game suggest this is a matchup decision rather than a true "benching," largely driven by the Bucks' inability to check Arron Afflalo when they visited Orlando in mid-November. Of course that's not to say some fans won't be pissed off about it for the next few hours. But hey, at least Nate Wolters is getting some love, right?  Right?

Drew was quick to point out that Giannis will be the first option off the bench tonight, so it's probably not time to start freaking out about Caron Butler taking all of Giannis' minutes. Afterall, it's Wolters who is effectively taking Giannis' spot in the starting lineup and it seems likely that Giannis will get a good chunk of minutes one way or the other.

As for the broader question of Giannis starting, I'm a bit torn on the matter. In the grand scheme of things, developing Giannis is job #1 right now, and he needs to play to do that. And while I've never personally been a big fan of running Giannis at the 2--he struggles mightily with screens and it seems obvious that SF is his natural position--starting him there has been a convenient way to shield Giannis from overly physical competitors and keep him starting. Moreover, once you put a guy in the starting five it's hard to undo it without making him look bad, so Drew probably knows he's a bit stuck.

But ultimately the most important thing is getting Giannis consistent minutes without burning him out, and whether he starts or not is something of a secondary question. I've never been too worried about whether he's starting or coming off the bench so long as he's playing 25+ minutes; playing against second units is generally easier and there's less pressure as a reserve, even if you're playing major minutes and closing games. For a 19-year-old who was playing in the Greek second division last year, that's not a bad thing.

And with Giannis struggling at times lately, it's only natural to wonder if he's hitting the wall a bit--both physically and mentally. The whirlwind of hype and expectations that's encircled him over the past months is a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a kid living in a new country by himself for the first time his life. As oldresorter brought up in the game thread on Wednesday, it might be good for Giannis to have a couple weeks off to recharge. But it's difficult to imagine the Bucks backing off his minute significantly when there's more to be learned and the team's entertainment value is so tied to him playing big minutes. He'll keep playing, and hopefully he works through his recent inconsistency sooner rather than later.

Tobias, too. The Bucks aren't the only team that is benching their promising young forward tonight: Tobias Harris will also come off the bench for Orlando, though I'd hazard that Jacque Vaughn's rationale is a bit tougher to defend. Harris is only a week removed from putting up 28 points and 20 boards in a win over the Lakers, but with a three-guard starting lineup and Nik Vucevic returning in the pivot, Vaughn opted to start the immortal Glen Davis over Tobias at power forward. Sure!

As you've no doubt tried to forget, Harris destroyed the Bucks with 30 points and 19 rebounds the last time he faced his former team in Orlando last spring, and this seems like exactly the kind of game where he could erupt again--vs. his former team with Ersan Ilyasova guarding him--but he'll have to do it from the bench tonight.

Nasty Nate. Speaking of rookies: Alex Boeder served up a rather timely look at Wolters, Brandon Knight and the Bucks' performance at different times in the shot clock today, and hours later Nate is in the starting lineup in Orlando.

I like Wolters and want to get a more extended look at him for the rest of the season, though I'm not sure Knight's ball-dominating tendencies make Nate a great complement to him. Anytime Nate is in the game I'd want him running the offense, both because he's good at it and because he's not going to add much of any value as a spot-up shooter off it.

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