Having one in his own group, Warriors coach Steve Kerr understands how difficult an MVP can be to cover twice.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks pose a major challenge for the Warriors in Friday’s Christmas day clash, but coach Steve Kerr has not given much detail about how the Warriors will defend the dynamic striker.
“Everyone is going to protect him, the whole thing with Giannis is that if he gets free in the transition, you’re dead,” Kerr told reporters on Thursday. “We will try to build walls in front of him, in the transition, we cannot be caught sleeping and letting people stand behind us for layups, and when he is falling on us, we will try to put three guys on a wall and recover for the snipers from so. “
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Even after being pressured by local reporters, Kerr did not reveal which player would start Friday’s game by defending Giannis.
“I will not say who will start with him, but during the game several people will be against him, for sure,” continued Kerr. “I need to be aware that I don’t want to give things that I don’t need to give.”
Defending a player of the caliber of Antetokounmpo is almost always a group effort, and it is understandable that Kerr tries to keep his cards close to his vest when it comes to specific defensive assignments.
With former defensive player of the year Draymond Green not playing in Milwaukee, one of Andrew Wiggins’ trio, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Eric Paschall will likely start at Giannis. Paschall is officially the shortest of the three for the Golden State (6ft-6), so he can defend Khris Middleton and leave Wiggins (6’8) or Oubre (6’7) to use his length to defend almost 7 feet Antetokounmpo.
Beginning center James Wiseman, the second overall choice in the November draft, may be the best physical confrontation for Giannis with his 7’1 frame, but it’s hard to imagine that Kerr would start the game with the 20-year-old covering the reign two MVP times.
Wiggins fought on both ends of the court in Tuesday night’s defeat to the Brooklyn Nets, failing well in one-on-one clashes with Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert on the defensive end. Kerr talked about Wiggins’ defensive growth in his time with the Warriors, and the coach reiterated that the 25-year-old was hired to defend stars like Antetokounmpo on the wing.
“Last year, that was one of the real strengths in the 12 games he played, we put him at LeBron, we put him at Kawhi,” said Kerr. “We put him among the players who are the most difficult players to defend in the league and he stood his ground.
“The other night, it was a weak defensive effort by the whole team and I also don’t think Andrew played very well.”
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Although he is nowhere near the sniper level Durant has across the court, Giannis presents a similar defensive challenge with his immense strength and athleticism on the open court.
We will probably see Wiggins, Oubre and Paschall take the majority of their holdings in Antetokounmpo, but Wiseman should also have a chance, especially when Bucks, center, Brook Lopez, is out of the game.
In a clash last season against the Warriors, Giannis went to 30 points and 13 rebounds in a January victory at the Chase Center, but Wiggins and Oubre had not yet arrived and Draymond Green was active in the dispute.
Whoever finishes designing the task will have their work cut out for them, as the Warriors try to win the No. 1 victory of the 2020-21 season on Christmas Day.