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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.