Jason Kidd, John Stockton And The Art Of Running The Floor

Nov 7, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd calls a play in the second quarter during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd calls a play in the second quarter during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Jason Kidd has always tried to teach the art of running the floor to his players. Now he’s brought in an assistant professor in John Stockton.

It’s easy to forget that Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards the NBA has ever seen. Milwaukee Bucks fans are so used to seeing him as a head coach they can forget that he was once the best point guard of his generation.

Kidd has not forgotten. He’s always had a pull on Milwaukee’s point guards, since trading Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams back in 2015. Point guard play is important to Kidd–it’s what he knows best.

For a while, I thought that MCW was supposed to be Kidd’s crown jewel. The magnum opus of his player mentoring days. Maybe he was supposed to be, at one point. MCW might still play an important role on the Milwaukee Bucks in future months or even years, but now there’s no question about who Kidd’s prized point guard is.

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Ironically enough, it’s not a true point guard at all. Giannis Antetokounmpo has defied labels since entering the NBA, but Point Giannis might just stick. Kidd is rolling with Giannis as the leader of Milwaukee’s offense after seeing drastic success with that model last season.

Giannis actually isn’t a very different player than Michael Carter-Williams, in some ways. MCW is a point guard who’s long and athletic, with fire in his heart and a lack of reliable outside scoring.

Giannis is a longer and even more athletic point guard, with that same fire and a similar lack of production from beyond the three-point line. The difference between the two is that Giannis actually seems to have a better grasp at running the floor than Carter-Williams, despite being a typical small forward for the majority of his NBA career to this point.

Before the All-Star break, MCW had an assist-turnover ratio of 1.91. He wasn’t the starting point guard for all of that time–the early-season Bucks made a lot of quick adjustments–but that was before Point Giannis emerged.

After the break, when Giannis was leading Milwaukee’s offense, the Greek Freak sported a sterling 2.54 assist-turnover ratio. That would rank among the top 20 point guards in the NBA last season.

MCW hasn’t managed an assist-turnover ratio above two so far in his young NBA career. Neither has Brandon Knight, for what it’s worth.

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Kidd has always seemed to want someone more in his mold running his team. Kidd never finished an NBA season with an assist-turnover ration under two. It must be impossibly tough for Kidd, who clearly saw the floor like so few can, to have worked with point guards who didn’t share that vision.

Can that sort of vision be taught? Kidd must think so, or at least hope so. He’s brought John Stockton–the only man with more career assists in the NBA than Kidd–to Bucks training camp to get another guard with that gift of vision to help teach the young Bucks.

Kidd has dropped several fantastic quotes about running the floor in his time as the coach of the Bucks. In The Player’s Tribune, he spoke on the game slowing down for him:

"Looking back, my mistake was that I only had one gear. The fastest gear.As a young player, you think you can take ‘em all. Three guys in front of me? I can take ‘em all. I thought I knew better. I would get the ball — I’d board it myself if I could — and I’d just take off. Fast break after fast break, I would beat my own guys down the court. My teammates would always be behind me, trying to catch up. They would say “We can’t run with you.” I was off to the races. A lot of times I could take on the whole team. But I wasn’t a shoot-first point guard, so I would end up having to throw the ball backwards to make plays. Or I would force a tough shot. Sometimes I would get fouled or make a great shot, but there were a lot of bad shots in there. When you’re a rookie, it’s hard to realize, “That’s a bad shot.”"

More recently, Kidd told Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the difficulties of managing all of the mouths to feed on offense:

"“Time and score is something big for a young player,” Kidd said. “Understanding who has shot the ball the last couple times. Who is hot; who is cold. Who do you think needs to touch the ball. He’s done a really good job of us talking on the sideline, saying, ‘We need to get someone a touch.'”"

That first quote reads like it could be addressed to Giannis; the second one was literally about him. Jason Kidd’s search for a player to shape in his mold on offense may finally be over.

Next: Staff Roundtable: Middleton, Giannis, Beasley And More!

That player may not be a point guard, but if Giannis Antetokounmpo goes on to resemble Kidd on offense at 6’11” there will be other labels (like MVP, or champion) that’ll become applicable.