How Do You Stop Giannis Antetokounmpo? Just Ask Him | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

How Do You Stop Giannis Antetokounmpo? Just Ask Him

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Updated: December 28, 2016

Washington had a front row seat to The Giannis Antetokounmpo Show this holiday season with back-to-back games against Milwaukee sandwiched around Christmas. The reviews are in: Giannis is real, and he’s spectacular.

It’s not just the stats – although those are astronomical – it’s how he accumulates them, how he effortlessly glides across the floor, traversing 23 feet in two gigantic steps. After playing the Bucks three times in 17 days (with a fourth meeting coming on Jan. 8), Scott Brooks has seen enough to render a verdict:

“The guy is an All-Star, he’s aggressive, he gets to the free throw line, he has this great Euro step. He seems to take three or four steps every time but he doesn’t, he’s just long and he’s agile.”

In short, Antetokounmpo appears unstoppable. Which got me thinking … how exactly do you defend Giannis?

Since opposing players don’t seem to have an answer, I decided to ask those who know him best: his teammates.

I started with John Henson, a defensive big man known for his length and shot-blocking.

What’s the best way to defend Giannis?

“I don’t know man. It’s impossible, man.”

Can you be more specific?

“I mean, his shot is getting better. He’s starting to learn how to play with people off of him. So, it’s tough.”

There must be something you can do.

“The best thing to do is try to send him to the help [laughs].”

What about in practice? Does anyone have success against Giannis?

“Hmmm, we have a team defense so it’s not really a man-to-man matchup. We help each other so I wouldn’t say anyone has individual success, but obviously we play with him so we do a little better than most.”

Jason Terry was in the corner of the locker room enjoying the player’s buffet and watching the Cowboys-Lions game. He’s played 18 years in the league and has seen every superstar of the past generation up close and personal. He must have some idea of how to defend Giannis.

What type of player could defend Antetokounmpo?

“I don’t see anyone. Not one man.”

Ok.

“It takes a team effort, you have to bring two and three guys to him and make him play within a crowd.”

What makes him such a tough cover?

“Toughest challenge matching up with a guy like Giannis is he can back you down, he’s getting more confidence in his jump shot, he can post you up, his mid-range jumper’s pretty decent and he can get to the basket with one dribble. So he’s a very tough cover.”

giannispass1-copy

[Antetokounmpo backs Beal into the paint and all five Wizards defenders are focused on him.
Giannis then makes the easy pass to Tony Snell for a wide open 3-pointer.]

As bad as things are for NBA opponents now, Terry made it sound like things are only going to get worse.

“He’s very unique, one-of-a kind player, multi-faceted and still learning and getting better so his ceiling is very high.”

Next on the list was the one guy in the Milwaukee locker room who never backs down from a defensive challenge: Matthew Dellavedova.

Surely he would have some insight on how to defend Giannis.

“It’s tough because he’s really worked on his game a lot and he’s such a unique player. It’s going to be tough. I’m not going to give any tips away. It’s going to be tough any way you try to guard him. Right now he’s playing at a really high level.”

Fair enough. But what do you do in practice when Antetokounmpo has you in the post?

“It’s a mismatch. You wait on the help to come and the bigs are coming over to help early for sure.”

So, the takeaway from Giannis’ teammates is if you ever find yourself matched up with the Greek Freak, get help. Quickly.

This all sounded too fatalistic. I refused to believe there was no way to guard Giannis. Even Superman had kryptonite. Even the Death Star had a structural flaw. So, I decided to go straight to the source and ask Giannis how he would defend himself.

First, the basics. Do you prefer playing against guards or big men?

“I love both. If I have a smaller guy I just take him to the post, post up in the elbows. I can get my shot up whenever I want. But even if I have bigger guys I can just go dribble through them when I want to.”

That didn’t help. What about players who have been successful against Giannis in the past? In their first meeting this season, Kelly Oubre frustrated Antetokounmpo into three fourth quarter turnovers with close, aggressive defense.

Was anything Oubre did successful?

“No.”

So you are not worried about going against him.

“[Laughs] No.”

Just when I thought Giannis really might be invincible, he let slip the one thing a defender can do to stop him.

“Just play harder than I play. Most of the time that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t even matter if a guy has similar body like mine, or maybe shorter or maybe stronger than me, the thing that really matters more is if he plays harder than me.”

There you have it. It’s almost beautiful in its simplicity. It’s not about size. It’s not about positioning. It’s not about strength. If you want to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, you better start by outworking him.

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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.