Jason Kidd's decision on Tuesday to name Giannis Antetokounmpo the Milwaukee Bucks' starting point guard for next season shouldn't come as a shocker.
At 6-foot-11, the lengthy and skilled forward has often dominated since taking over playmaking duties midseason, and at the tender age of 21 he's the sort of unique talent that we haven't seen on a basketball floor in years — or maybe ever. Racking up four triple-doubles — tied for the most by a Bucks player in a single-season — over the last month speaks volumes about Antetokounmpo's innate talents as a primary ball handler and have clearly made an impression on his hall of fame head coach.
"We're going to go forward with him handling the ball, and you can call him point guard, point forward, point center, however you want to look at it," Kidd told the media following Tuesday's practice, "but with him having the ball and the pressure he puts on the defense and his ability to find guys has been a plus for us.
"We'll finish out these last eight and then also look forward to training camp and him handling the ball."
However, amidst all of the excitement about Kidd officially handing the keys to his 21-year-old rising star, questions emerge regarding its effect on the Bucks' roster plans moving forward, what influenced Kidd to break the decision with eight games remaining in a disappointing Bucks season, and what it means for Kidd's injured former pupil, Michael Carter-Williams.
The first question revolves around what Point Giannis means for the broader task of defending opposing point guards. While moving Giannis to the role of initiator piles all sorts of pressure on Bucks opponents, creating mismatches and the haunting duty of checking a player of his skill when attacking the rim, the question of who on the Bucks roster should guard opposing point guards remains. Despite throwing a huge shadow over opposing point guards, Antetokounmpo doesn't guard points and is only occasionally defended by them -- an arrangement that Kidd prefers moving forward.
We've rarely seen Antetokounmpo defend point guards for obvious reasons. While he may be capable of checking smaller guards on the perimeter, Giannis is best utilized closer to the basket and against larger players, particularly given the Bucks' general lack of size and rim protection. Though it's not gotten as much press as his offensive exploits, Antetokounmpo has mostly defended power forwards in recent months, allowing Jabari Parker to shift to the wing with greater regularity. While that's often left Parker to defend dangerous wings one-on-one, it's also enabled Antetokounmpo to use his length, quickness and defensive instincts closer to the basket and in pick-and-roll situations, two areas where Parker has struggled.
Ironically, the most versatile point guard defender under contract for next season is Carter-Williams, the former point guard of the future who is now recovering from hip labrum surgery. He's always had the size and potential to defend opposing point guards well, but three seasons into his NBA career he still hasn't show that ability on a consistent basis. Finding someone to check opposing point guards -- and hopefully provide additional perimeter shooting as well -- could be an area the Bucks address in the draft, through a trade or in free agency, but as of right now it's an open question, particularly with Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo — the two Bucks who have filled that role since the break — both hitting unrestricted free agency this summer.
Speaking of Carter-Williams, his future in Milwaukee remains cloudy at best just one year removed from the deal that also sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee to Milwaukee and a protected Lakers first round pick to Philly. After MCW missed the summer of 2014 due to shoulder surgery, last summer was supposed to be the offseason for Kidd — a future Hall of Fame point guard who also once struggled with developing a jumper himself — to refine Carter-Williams' mechanics and decision-making while instilling the sort of confidence that would help the 24-year-old build on a stop-and-start spring of 2015 with his new club. Instead, Carter-Williams struggled to find consistency with his shot or overall game, losing his starting spot in both November and February as fans quickly began to look for other solutions to the Bucks' point guard position.
So now what? Kidd's idea to groom Carter-Williams is seemingly ancient history, with Giannis now deservedly replacing him as the anointed playmaker of the future. There's certainly plenty of work for Kidd to do in tutoring Antetokounmpo on the finer points of running an offense, but the results to date are nothing if not encouraging. And while plenty could change in the coming months, announcing a path forward provides Giannis a clearer direction for his future while simultaneously helping Kidd wash his hands of the Carter-Williams experiment. If nothing else, a news cycle centered around Antetokounmpo's emergence is more pleasant than one revolving around MCW's disappointment.
Not that any of this clarifies the former Syracuse star's future in Milwaukee. Carter-Williams may never have developed into the guard Kidd envisioned, but demoting him twice and (probably) attempting to shape him into their next-best bench contributor is unlikely to sit well with him, no matter how positive he'll attempt to be. It might have been easier to deal with Knight's unhappiness at shooting guard rather than Carter-Williams' unhappiness off the bench, though in the long-term the Bucks may not need either.
Speaking of which, Carter-Williams isn't the only big name whose days in Milwaukee might be numbered. The Bucks quickly discovered that Greg Monroe isn't an ideal fit for a roster that has struggled to defend, though simply understanding what does and doesn't work is also a good thing. Beyond the murky futures of MCW and Monroe, they also face critical questions about their bench, what they do with a mid-lottery pick and whether they extend Kidd and GM John Hammond this summer. Even though the Bucks didn't live up to expectations this season, they got some answers during it. Now with Antetokounmpo primed to lead the way, they'll spend the next few months addressing a few more.