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PODCAST: Giannis, MCW, Delly and everyone else you might call a “Point Guard”

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Bucks fans, rejoice: We’re just three weeks away from real, live preseason NBA basketball.

To get you ready (and sufficiently hyped) for training camp, we’re ramping back up to daily podcasts this week as we take a look at the Bucks’ point guards (today), shooting guards (tomorrow), small forward (Wednesday), power forwards (Thursday) and centers (Friday) in detail.

In today’s focus on point guards, we dig into the numbers to see if the Point Giannis experiment actually helped the Bucks’ offense last spring, how Jason Kidd might balance the competing skillsets of Michael Carter-Williams and Matthew Dellavedova, and whether Tyler Ennis and his fellow young guards have hope of actually playing point guard this season:

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  • Point Giannis delivers plenty of points. There’s little doubt that using Giannis Antetokounmpo at the point is one of the more intriguing positional experiments we’ve seen in the NBA in quite a long time. And while it doesn’t have a clear record of winning games (much less championships) just yet, there is evidence that Point Giannis did do the most crucial things point guards are supposed to do: he helped his team score lots of points, and score more of them than opponents. As discussed on the podcast, of the Bucks’ ten most frequently used lineups after the all-star break, nine of them outscored their opponents (the one exception was an MCW lineup, natch) and eight of them scored more than 106 points/100 possessions (Milwaukee averaged 103.2 overall and netted -1.9 after the break). The common thread in all of those good lineups was Giannis, suggesting that building around the Greek Freak is more than just fun — it’s a great strategy, too:
  • Matty vs. Michael. The fact that Antetokounmpo won’t defend point guards means there’s still an opening in the starting five for a nominal point guard, but the job requirements require decidedly less point-related activities. While Dellavedova is more limited with the ball, he was an elite catch-and-shoot guy playing off some fella named LeBron; on the flip side, MCW needs the ball to be effective and has a harder time adding value when he’s standing on the perimeter watching opposing defenders sag off him. So why sign a guy because he’s an ideal complement for Giannis and then not play him with Giannis?
  • Second unit salvation? Bringing Carter-Williams off the bench might not make him dramatically better — his splits were fairly comparable in both starting and bench roles last year — but on paper it certainly feels like a more practical use of his talents. Besides, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad career move; if MCW wants the ball, he’ll probably want to be on the court whenever Giannis isn’t, and staggering them is far easier if he’s coming off the bench, right? In theory, sure. But that’s easy for us to say on the interwebs and probably much harder for a coaching staff to sell — especially to a guy just two years removed from a rookie of the year campaign that likely had MCW dreaming of superstardom.
  • Owning the future requires paying for it, too. Maybe the weirdest part about MCW’s present in Milwaukee is the difficulty of making him fit in the team’s longer-term future. Based on current cap space projections, there really isn’t room to pay MCW even Dellavedova-type money beyond 2017 unless the league’s cap projections end up being very conservative (possible) or other contracts (read: one of Miles Plumlee and John Henson) are moved first. So while we’ve often mentioned that the Bucks don’t have to trade MCW this year — he’s at worst a solid backup who’s paid less than $3 million this year — the Bucks will have to make some kind of decision on his future by next summer. Considering the scarce cap resources that the Bucks will have to work with once Giannis and Jabari get their hypothetical monster extensions, is a non-shooting PG really the guy you’re going to spend money on?
  • Time for the kids? The presence of Giannis, MCW and Delly would seem to leave little opportunity for Tyler Ennis or Malcolm Brogdon to show off their point guard skills this season: that would seem especially bad news for Ennis, who has yet to see consistent minutes since leaving Syracuse in 2014. It might also be less than ideal for the Bucks, who will probably want to get a better sense of what Ennis and Brogdon can do prior to potentially parting ways with MCW. The compromise would be finding minutes for them as the fourth guard — a topic will get into a bit more in our discussion of shooting guards on Tuesday.