After getting his feet wet in Vegas, Giannis Antetokounmpo got his first real chance to play (non-summer league) point guard under Jason Kidd in Saturday's home loss to the Bulls. And with Brandon Knight still dealing with a groin injury suffered against the Bulls, word from the Cousins Center today is that we're going to see more of it on Tuesday in Cleveland:
Jason Kidd said he will start Giannis Antetokounmpo at PG on Tuesday. Middleton, Parker, Ilyasova and Pachulia the other starters vs. Cavs.— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) October 13, 2014
#Bucks guard Brandon Knight has a strained right groin. He missed practice Monday & won't make the trip to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) October 13, 2014
#Bucks center Larry Sanders also missed practice Monday. He won’t travel to Cleveland due to an illness.— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) October 13, 2014
While the results from Saturday's experiment were encouraging, it wasn't necessarily what you might have expected. For all of Antetokounmpo's natural tendency to pass first, the main benefit of Giannis handling the ball--both Saturday and in Vegas--has been the increased opportunities it's afforded him to attack the rim and finish. Playing off the ball, Antetokounmpo is still learning how to pick his spots: When to attack, when to cut, and when to shoot off the catch.
But as the team's primary ballhandler he seems a bit less encumbered, as though he's less worried about making a mistake and just playing. That was certainly the case in Vegas, though even preseason NBA basketball represents a major leap in quality from summer league. And while Giannis' performance on Saturday reiterated that he's still at his most dangerous on the break, we also saw him twice finish in the paint after starting a halfcourt possession on the perimeter--once on a nice crossover through the middle, and the second on a sweeping hook after posting on the left block. For a guy who had his share of deer-in-headlights moments as a rookie, that's a big deal.
Still, as fun as all of this is, we shouldn't necessarily assume that the Bucks' jumbo lineup will be part of Kidd's regular plans going forward, at least not when Knight (groin) and Nate Wolters (ankle) are 100%. Via Charles Gardner:
"We're a team that we really don't have a go-to guy yet," Dudley said. "So for us, we have to be a great screen-setting team. We have to be a team that knows the offense and knows how to execute and swing the ball.
"It was tough once (Brandon) Knight got hurt and Giannis was trying to play (point guard). We hadn't done that yet. We were out there just freestyling."
In other words, the Giannis-at-PG lineup is for now like most every other Bucks lineup: A work in progress, and something worth experimenting with while Kidd gets a feel for exactly what he has at his disposal. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a broader opportunity for Giannis to develop his ever-evolving skillset in game situations, a luxury he only had in fits and starts a year ago. So while he's unlikely to ever become a point guard in the truest sense of the word, developing his skill as an offensive initiator will help no matter what role he fills. Consider it all part of the process--and a reminder that the process itself can be pretty damn fun.