Thursday, October 1, 2015

Et Tu, Defense?

NBA TV offered some coverage of Bucks training camp the other day, and boy did it rally online Bucks fans.  The footage, which was mostly mundane, contained one highlight that titillated Bucks fans a great deal:

Giannis splits a PnR & dunks

That's our man Giannis playing the point on a pick-n-roll, splittin' the double like a champ and then SLAMMING it down with authority.

Whew-ee.  Sweet.  We haven't seen that type of activity since Yi Jianlian was dominating chairs.  (I kid, I kid.)

I have a checkered history with Giannis, so perhaps I'm unqualified to comment.  I loved the draft pick from the moment the Bucks made it, completely bought Larry Drew's hype that he could be a Greek Magic Johnson, forgave his inconsistent rookie play for most of his first year and then turned hard against him at the end of the 2014 season.  In fact, I even wrote a big ol' 2014 Draft preview advocating that the Bucks trade Giannis so that they could acquire Marcus Smart or Elfrid Payton (two ideas that would be incredibly dumb by today's standards).  In the past I've even Christened Giannis "Darius Miles, without the personal problems".  (Though I stand by that assessment.  Giannis and Miles have virtually matching skill sets and, believe it or not, matching potential as 20 year-olds. We just want Giannis to realize his potential.)

Today, I wouldn't trade Giannis for anybody (literally: anybody) and I love the fact that he's a Buck.  I also, however, watched the Euro Championships this summer.  Giannis played for a Greek team that pretty much mirrored the performance of Ersan Ilyasova's Turkey team at the 2009 Euros (the summer before Ersan re-joined the Bucks), and he had limitations.  The Greek coaches didn't let the offense run through Giannis a whole lot, but when it did it was ugly.  It basically looked like it did in the full footage from NBA TV: If the defense completely sucks, then Giannis can finish at the hoop like a dynamo.  If professional-grade defense is played, then all you're gonna get from Giannis is a safe skip pass that puts nobody in rhythm and bogs down the offense.

Giannis already had his 20 year-old season, so he's not gonna make another leap this year.  What we have is what we're gonna get from Giannis until right around the time the Bucks move into their new building, at which point Giannis will be 24 years-old.  Hopefully Giannis's 24 year-old leap will be something special, like Kevin Durant's.  In any case, we ain't seein' it this year.

What we might see this year -- and what inspired the title of this blog post -- is the other side of what that gif up above shows: shitty defense.  I know that it's only training camp and I know that one of the guys defending that pick-n-roll is coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, but... sheesh, what a mess.  

Normally, crappy defense during the first couple of practices of the season can be ignored.  Heck, sometimes a whole crappy preseason can be ignored.  (If you recall last preseason you may remember that the team's play throughout was garbage, and the team ended up being great up until the Brandon Knight trade.)  

This crappy defense caught my eye, however, because it featured two reasons why I expect lots of struggles from the Bucks this season: Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker.  That's your starting two and four, folks, and that ain't gonna change.  OJ Mayo may have played his last game with the Bucks and Coach Kidd has made it abundantly clear that he's riding Jabari as his power forward come hell or high water.  Hopefully those two guys find something that I haven't seen yet, because otherwise the Bucks defense will cease to be something that the team hangs its hat on.

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