If mistakes are the portals of discovery, summer is the perfect time to make them. Every player and team enters each offseason with several goals in mind, many of which hinge on whether or not certain skills can be developed and honed before the coming season kicks off. But training and practice performance only matters so much; if those additions and improvements can’t be made in-game, they’re all for naught. With that reality in mind, Summer League play has become something of a test lab for the league’s young players. And what was our favorite experiment among a host of many? Giannis Antetokounmpo, point guard.
No other Las Vegas Summer League image looms larger in our minds than this one: The Greek Freak lining up to jump tip; easily winning the Bucks possession; and retrieving the ball from a teammate to initiate halfcourt offense.
The results of Antetokounmpo’s time at point guard were mixed to say the least. Though he averaged 17.0 points per game on solid shooting numbers, Giannis also committed 18 turnovers against just seven assists over four games. For every one time he impressively split a double-team and aggressively attacked the rim after receiving a high ball-screen, Antetokounmpo made an errant pass or lost his dribble on three more occasions.
And that was fine. It was Summer League play, after all; it’s not like the Bucks were planning on using Giannis on the ball so frequently come the 2014-2015 season.
In an interview with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Antetokounmpo confirmed that he’d be playing some point guard this season and says the guidance of coach Jason Kidd and special advisor Gary Payton will be instrumental to growth at his new position.
“I’m not going to say I was shocked by it,” Antetokounmpo told Basketball Insiders when asked about the move to point guard. “It’s something that I feel comfortable with and I’ll play wherever Coach wants me to play, especially when it’s Coach Kidd who thinks that I can play point guard. That makes me feel like, ‘I can play it. I can play point guard.’ I’m going to try my best and just listen to Coach. I’ll do whatever Coach says to do and I’ll get more comfortable.”
“Oh man, it’s really important and nice, since they’re some of the best point guards in NBA history,” Antetokounmpo said of Kidd and Payton. “Not only are they great point guards, they’re great basketball players and can help us all basketball wise. Whatever they say, that is what I’m going to do. I’m so happy to have guys like them as I figure out the position and to have them teach me. I’m really excited.”
Don’t be fooled by The Greek Freak’s diction, though – he won’t play point guard full-time this season. What’s far more realistic is that Kidd will afford him the freedom to grab a defensive rebound and set the offense himself, and that he’ll be used as a playmaker in general with greater frequency than his rookie season. Milwaukee isn’t grooming The Greek Freak to be Magic Johnson.
Instead, the Bucks are simply trying to maximize his vast array of raw tools by hoping he develops into a legitimate secondary ballhandler – or perhaps even more. That makes sense considering Antetokounmpo’s natural gifts, the young roster surrounding him, and the style Kidd will likely implement.
In Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, Milwaukee has a pair of big, athletic, versatile players that can occupy multiple roles. And given the position-less nature of Kidd’s Brooklyn Nets last season, the team’s young bucks – sorry – represent picture-perfect building blocks for the style preferred by its forward-thinking coach. So yielding The Greek Freak ample playmaking opportunities now won’t only make him a better player in the long-run, but also help foster the identity Milwaukee hopes to establish. It’s a win-win.
And from a purely selfish perspective perspective, it will definitely be fun to watch, too.
What do you think?
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