Warriors

Why only Giannis Antetokounmpo can fill Warriors' Kevin Durant void

Why only Giannis Antetokounmpo can fill Warriors' Kevin Durant void

Kevin Durant’s departure from the Warriors last summer left a massive void at small forward, and it’s unfair to ask Andrew Wiggins to fill it. The front office was aware of that before acquiring Wiggins.

Long before Wiggins came aboard, even long before they traded for D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors were casting covetous eyes toward power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Giannis-to-the-Warriors speculation hit a new mark Thursday afternoon, when the Bucks star's Twitter account was hacked. The hacker, among other things, posted a tweet from Antetokounmpo's account saying "I want to come to the Warriors."

But this speculation didn't just start in recent months. He was identified as a future target at least a year before KD left town.

Don't believe the Warriors didn’t evaluate both Giannis and Durant. Though not nearly as accomplished, Giannis lives in KD’s neighborhood as one of the five best players in the league.

Here we examine five areas in an effort to determine if the Greek Freak can fill that void.

Scoring

Durant is a four-time scoring champ who, upon joining the Warriors, sacrificed points for wins -- and still averaged 25.8 per game. He was great at the rim (77.0 percent) and from midrange (51.1 percent), solid from deep (38.4 percent). His jump shot is among the most reliable in league history.

Antetokounmpo’s jumper has improved dramatically, from 34.4 percent to a career-high 42.1 in 2019-20, but it is a work in progress. A career 28.5-percent shooter from deep, he topped 30 percent (30.6) for the second time. He is a top-five scorer three seasons running because no one finishes better in transition.

Can Giannis fill this void? Some, but not all.

Defense

When focused, KD is good on the ball and better beyond, a rim protector and passing-lane hawk. He rebounded well (7.1 per game) and had career-high block averages in his first two seasons before falling off in Year 3. He was by turns ordinary and spectacular.

Giannis posted double-figure averages each of the last three seasons, as expected of a power forward. His block totals are similar, but his defensive impact generally is more significant, which might explain why he was voted All-Defensive team in two of the past three seasons.

Can Giannis fill this void? Yes. No doubt.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Playmaking

Durant, with a tight handle for someone who is 6-foot-11, is a very good passer, averaging 5.4 assists per game as a Warrior. He’s such a dangerous scorer that it opens up teammates, and he’s good at finding them. He had 11 games with at least 10 assists.

Giannis also is a very good passer, most dangerous driving a kicking out. His assist averages ticked up in each of his first four seasons, and he averaged 5.5 over the last over the last three. He had 12 games over the past three seasons with at least 10 assists.

Can Giannis fill this void? Yes.

Closing ability

KD strolled into Cleveland and in back-to-back Finals drained two of the biggest 3-point daggers in Warriors franchise history. He can close from midrange and also pile up points getting to the line in late stages of games.

Defenses that hounded Durant will sag on Giannis until he proves he can punish them beyond the arc. Giannis didn’t play a lot of close games over the past couple seasons and produced mixed results when he did.

Can Giannis fill this void? Not yet.

Cultural fit

Durant was low maintenance in Year 1 with the Warriors, enjoying his new home and his new teammates. It took a turn for the worse late in Year 2. In Year 3, as he grew restless and isolated, it fell apart.

Giannis has said on numerous occasions that he loves Milwaukee and there is no sign of disharmony with teammates or coaches. It’s an encouraging sign for the Warriors that he and fellow Octagon client Stephen Curry have a bond.

Can Giannis fill this void? At least, and probably more.

[RELATED: Why Warriors are Giannis' best chance to "chase greatness"]

Antetokounmpo is eligible for the Supermax extension and the Bucks are expected to send that offer to his agent, Alex Saratsis, as soon as the NBA calendar allows. It is uncertain whether the Greek Freak will sign it.

If he re-signs, the Warriors will have to modify their plan. They’d study their financials and consider a future trade, or they can simply abandon the quest.

If he doesn’t sign and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021, the Warriors will be there. And they’d have a good chance of finding the only player capable of filling the KD void.

And Giannis would be more than a year younger than KD was when he came to California.

Steph Curry jokes about why ex-Warrior Andre Iguodala finished big dunk

Steph Curry jokes about why ex-Warrior Andre Iguodala finished big dunk

Andre Iguodala had a very ...

... Andre-Iguodala-like performance in the Miami Heat's 112-106 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

The former Warriors forward registered six points (2-for-6 FG), eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal in 31 minutes.

With less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, he turned back the clock a little bit.

Steph Curry shared the highlight in an Instagram story, and included the perfect caption.

Curry -- the only unanimous MVP in NBA history -- and Iguodala -- the 2015 NBA Finals MVP -- are avid golfers, and even played a round together at Augusta National Golf Club (the site of the Masters) in February 2016.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Iguodala became a golf fanatic shortly after he joined the Warriors in July 2013.

"I gotta give all the credit to (former Golden State assistant coach) Pete Myers," Iguodala said in March 2018. "Once I got here, I really wanted to learn how to play ... Pete Myers taught me how to hit a draw.

"And we would just go to the range and hit balls ... he kinda got me hooked and that was all she wrote."

[RELATED: Iguodala jokes he bet big on Steph to win golf tournament]

And one year later, he made one thing crystal clear:

Those were good times.

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Steve Kerr defends Warriors' Andrew Wiggins: 'He's a damn good player'

Steve Kerr defends Warriors' Andrew Wiggins: 'He's a damn good player'

When the Warriors acquired Andrew Wiggins at the NBA trade deadline in February, it was not a decision that universally was applauded. 

There still are people who disagree with Golden State's decision to acquire the No. 1 overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft. But even those who are skeptical about Wiggins' future would admit that he played well in a Dubs uniform this season.

"I wasn't surprised at all about what we saw because I've coached against him," Steve Kerr said Wednesday on "The Bill Simmons Podcast." "The biggest thing for us was all about what you need today to win games. The game has changed so much and it's so hard to guard ... you gotta have size and versatility on the wings.

"Multiple-positional defenders who can guard their position, but also guard two or three other positions. Andrew has the size and athleticism to do exactly that. He was an excellent defender for us, and played really well offensively.

"He may not be an MVP candidate, but he's a damn good player. He fits right in with what we're trying to do."

Wiggins averaged 19.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 12 games with Golden State, while shooting nearly 46 percent overall and 34 percent from deep.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Additionally, his 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game both would be career highs over a full season.

With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as teammates, Wiggins won't feel consistent heat to deliver big scoring outputs. Will there be times when the Warriors need him to step up and take over offensively? Yes.

[RELATED: Warriors owner Lacob cites Barnes when praising Wiggins]

But overall, he's going to have the luxury of being able to take on a more comfortable role that suits his game.

"He just wants to play basketball and have fun, and have no pressure on him," former Warriors point guard Tim Hardaway said in June. "This is the team to be on to do that, and he's going to excel.

"He's going to be all right."

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