Misconceptions when guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo:
The common misconception on how to guard Giannis is to play way off him and to dare him to shoot. That is not a good idea. It is never wise for defenses to let the offensive player with the ball dictate the terms of engagement in any sport.
What comes to mind is Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, a mobile quarterback who can also throw the ball down the field. Should defenses let Lamar sit back and make him throw the ball down the field?
Heavens no! Good defenses would pressure Jackson like anybody else – but designate a defender to shadow him as he moves outside the pocket. The Buffalo Bills did this in their playoff win last week. The Lakers and Anthony Davis can take a page out of Buffalo’s playbook.
If it were equated in basketball terms, Giannis is very similar to Jackson. Both are game-changing talents with freakish skillsets. Like when facing Jackson in football, giving Giannis all the time in the world to make a play is bad for the Lakers.
Smart teams will leverage the overhelp into open looks for their best shooters. For instance, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr often uses his center (James Wiseman or Kevon Looney) to screen for Stephen Curry, because the man defending either of them are further away from the screen than usual, which gives Curry more time to get open.
As for Giannis, playing way off him gives him a head start to attack the basket. It would be as if clearing a plane for takeoff and then trying to stop it as it reaches maximum speed.
That’s a bad idea.