With the evolution of small-ball in the NBA, the lines between the traditional five positions in basketball are becoming more and more blurred.
Big men are encouraged to shoot, teams play two point guards at the same time, shooting guards shift up a position, and so on.
The Milwaukee Bucks are taking that a step further with 6-foot-11 “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo is only 20 years old, entering his third year. He’s still a raw prospect, despite the moments of brilliance he flashes every so often. His natural position would be a forward, but he can handle the ball better than many forwards, and he has the size of a center.
So the Bucks are going to play him at all five positions, head coach Jason Kidd told reporters.
“He’s 20 years old, and he’s going to play every position for us,” Kidd said. “He’s never complaining. He just goes out there and plays … He’s confident while he’s on the floor and he’s doing a lot of good things for us.”
As Antetokounmpo noted, it gives the Bucks more versatility, given that their roster also has many players who could slide to different positions:
“There are a lot of things being thrown at me right now, but it’s good. What’s a better way to learn that spot than by playing it in the game. It’s hard but I’m learning to play both spots. If something changes in the starting five, I can move to the 4; I can move to the 3. It’s versatility and it’s great to have that.”
With long wing players like Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker and big men who could play power forward or center like Greg Monroe or John Henson, the Bucks can move Antetokounmpo around to best match who’s on the floor and what their primary skills are.
While it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of Antetokounmpo playing point guard one quarter and center the next, Kidd may be exaggerating just how much Giannis will actually slide around. While he’s versatile for a player of his size, he struggles with shooting and would likely have trouble setting up and running an offense for long periods of time.
What the Bucks can do is give him bits of responsibility from each position, even if he still is playing, on paper, as a small forward or power forward. The Bucks could run him off screens like a guard or put him into pick-and-rolls as a ball handler, forcing opposing defenses into uncomfortable situations.
As Giannis grows into a more fully developed player, the Bucks could be the team pushing the envelope in running out a bunch of players with different skill sets, without really designating them to a specific position.