The Experiment: Point-Center Giannis

In the past weeks, Coach Kidd has experimented going small with Giannis playing point-center.  It gives us our version of the ‘death lineup’ Golden State terrorized the league with last season, very similarly to how every team in the NFL adopted the wildcat formation.  Good news though, our version of the death lineup has the potential to be as deadly someday.  At one point, it appeared playing Giannis in this role was just a fantasy, but Coach Kidd isn’t afraid to try something if it gives the team a unique look.

Giannis has all the tools to be a generational talent, he’s become the favorite little brother of the league: constantly annoying and challenging his opponents. Coaching staffs become forced to scheme against a player who protects the rim, pulls down a capable number of rebounds, pushes the ball up the floor in three steps, and oh yeah, he has four scorers around him, meaning driving lanes a plenty.  When you have a player with such a wide arrange of skills, I mean the dude is leading the team in all the basic statistics, you need to experiment with both your schemes and roster until you find the best combination to get that skill set leadings us to wins.  Playing him at point center is undoubtedly an interesting experiment.

Now, I wouldn’t expect the team to play Giannis in that role most the time.  It’d be asking a lot out of his body to take on the strength of the average center throughout the game.  We get all the speed and agility of playing small, while maintaining a competent presence inside.  It also gives Giannis complete freedom on the court, which is basically impossible to recreate with one of our centers on the floor.  Giannis gets to use his skill set to its most ambitious level and gets the necessary floor space to cross easily cross the lane to protect the rim.

When he makes a big play on defense, or gets a rebound, the offense transitions immediately down the floor.  The team flows right into focus, hitting their assigned lanes on the fast break. If the defense shuts the fast break down, the team just sets up with Giannis with the ball at the top of the key, with his four teammates spotting up around the three-point arc, maybe they put Jabari at the short corner to give Giannis a drop off option.  Teams are going to find that in this position they’re either giving up a drive to Giannis or an open look from the help defender’s man.  He’s just too skilled to keep him out of his inside shot radius, which is wider than most, when the opponents center is stuck on the perimeter guarding Teletovic.

We also have options regarding what kind of personnel we surround point-center Giannis.  Since he’s got the playmaking down, the lineup doesn’t need another point guard on the floor, so if we are playing a team with an elite point guard, a shooting guard may be our best shot at shutting him down, and nothing is lost offensively as they’re accustomed to playing as the secondary ballhandler.  The Bucks could also choose to go with another agile big who stretches the floor.  This may take away from the complete freedom Giannis holds under its current use, but it’d probably make the team better on the defensive end, and once again doesn’t really affect the team offensively.  The only one thing this line up needs to be affective is four shooters around Giannis, beyond that personnel can be decided based on match ups.

Playing Giannis at point center gives us the opportunity to make up a deficit in hurry.  If the team is going to out produce the media’s expectations, they’re going to need some sort of gimmick.  As it stands, the team needs Giannis, Jabari, and Dellavedova to play their best basketball to compete for the win.  Using Giannis as a small ball center can help make up for Jabari or Dellavedova playing just average basketball.  It won’t necessarily lead to wins, but it could really help us stick around in some games we shouldn’t have a real shot in.  In its few minutes of use this year, the team has swung the game back into a competitive one possession game.  Considering Giannis really needs some added weight to consistently play this role, this is the most probable use for it, in the short term at least.


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