Games against New Orleans could prepare Utah Jazz for bout against Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Jazz are hoping that their recent mini-series against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will serve as a good precursor to taking on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
After two intense games against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Utah Jazz are heading out on the road for a three-game trip, and the first stop is one of the toughest stops in the NBA. On Saturday, the Jazz will be in Milwaukee taking on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
The Jazz are hoping that their recent mini-series against Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will serve as a good precursor to taking on Antetokounmpo.
“Both of those players put you in a tough spot because if you’re not perfect with your angles, defensively, whether you’re on the ball or you’re helping your teammate, they expose you because of their athleticism, their power,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said between games against the Pelicans. “There were plenty of possessions in our last game where I think our team was giving good effort, but our technique wasn’t as good as it needed to be, and Zion makes you pay for that. That makes guarding those players particularly hard because the margin for error is very, very small due to their athletic prowess.”
Certainly there are similarities between Williamson and Antetokounmpo. For example, both are incredible at finding seams and spaces to get to the rim. They both have great footwork, can change directions mid-air, and if you give them any amount of room, they’re going to take advantage of it.
Take a look at the clip above. Jarred Vanderbilt doesn’t offer any real resistance to Williamson until he’s practically in the paint, just a few feet from the basket. That’s a bad place to be when you are guarding a player of that magnitude, and Williamson, as Hardy said he would, made Vanderbilt pay with his athletic prowess.
Both players are also great at using the threat of them scoring as a means to draw the defense inward to get other guys open, and if you help too much or you aren’t quick enough on a close out, 3-point shooters will be waiting to make you pay for that as well.
The Bucks have no shortage of guys who can knock down shots. The biggest threats are Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. There are other guys on the team who will take 3s (Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, Jordan Nwora), but by percentage the above mentioned are the ones you really have to worry about.
Some might look at Middleton’s numbers and see that he’s only shooting 26.8% on 3s this season, but he’s a career 39% shooter who is still getting back into a rhythm after being out for an extended amount of time.
In short, Antetokounmpo has a lot of weapons on the perimeter and he utilizes them early and often. In the Bucks first possession on Tuesday against the Warriors, he kicked out to Middleton, looking to get him going right from the tip, as seen in the last clip of the compilation video above.
So how do you create tough situations for Antetokounmpo? Well, much like with Williamson, strength is not a problem for Antetokounmpo. He’s as strong as they come and his footwork and athleticism are so good that it’s nearly impossible to stop him.
An added difficulty in guarding Antetokounmpo is his ability to run the floor. It takes a whole team effort to stop the Bucks in transition and if Antetokounmpo gets going downhill, watch out.
Length though, is going to be the Jazz’s advantage if they use it correctly.
It seems like when a longer defender is facing Antetokounmpo, he can tend to settle, especially if the help defenders are denying an easy pass. Antetokounmpo is not shy about taking mid-range jumpers and that’s exactly what the Jazz would want from him. While he has about an 80% efficiency rate at the rim, Antetokounmpo is shooting just 26.9% on shots between 3 and 16 feet from the basket.