Giannis Antetokounmpo is ineffable.
Seriously, he cannot be described. He’s listed at 6’11”, but at only 20 years old, he’s probably still growing, which in turns mean he’s probably over 7’0″. And yet, most of his career minutes have been doled out between the shooting guard and small forward slots, per Basketball-Reference, in part because Antetokounmpo has the handles of a guard. But he’s the height of power forwards and centers, and if he continues to put on muscle, a lot more muscle, he could end up playing mostly the 4 and 5.
For now, the Milwaukee Bucks, specifically head coach Jason Kidd, won’t attempt to define him. They’ll milk his versatility until it becomes clear—if it even becomes clear—that he must be pigeonholed to one slot or two. And that means Antetokounmpo is Milwaukee’s own swiss army knife, someone who the Bucks plan on playing at all five positions.
Per Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:
Play him at point guard or shooting guard. Play him at power forward or small forward.
So it won’t be surprising to see the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo playing at power forward early in the season until Jabari Parker returns to the court. Parker is expected to start at power forward when he is cleared to play, and Antetokounmpo will slide to small forward.
Antetokounmpo creates matchup nightmares when he goes against bulkier, slower power forwards or smaller guards. He showed plenty of flair on Tuesday night in Madison with a spectacular block on Minnesota’s Shabazz Muhammad and several dunks.
No wonder the annual league general managers survey had the third-year pro rated highly in the breakout player category, finishing second only to Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins.
“He’s 20 years old and he’s going to play every position for us,” Kidd said. “…He never complains. He just goes out there and plays.
This isn’t news, really. Though Basketball-Reference doesn’t acknowledge that Antetokounmpo played point guard last season, he did. The Bucks experimented with it. He played all five positions. He’s still a little slim to be bodying up at the center position, but he’s long enough to make it work. Playing power forward presents similar concerns, but today’s 4s have taken to the perimeter more often than not and are commonly built like Antetokounmpo.
Really, the only thing stopping him from being elite at every single position is his shooting. He is a good enough passer, can get to the rim at will, has shown he can score with his back to the basket and even flashed some mid-range promise last season. He only needs a three-point shot, which the Bucks had him actively eschew last season, to bring it altogether. And assuming he develops one—he’s 3-of-6 in the preseason—man, oh man, is he going to be freaking scary.