While all NBA players are incredible athletes, Giannis Antetokounmpo is in a league of his own. As his famous nickname would indicate, the Greek Freak is an incredibly unique star; he has the size and length to play in the post, but the athleticism to run the floor like a guard. In the modern NBA, that’s the perfect skillset for success.
Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks, however, have run into a roadblock in the form of the Miami Heat. That series has inspired one NBA analyst to notice a potentially fatal flaw in Giannis’ game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise to NBA stardom
These days, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the biggest names in basketball. The Greek Freak, however, wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
While Antetokounmpo’s parents moved to Greece to give their boys a better life, things still weren’t perfect. The family struggled to make ends meet, and Giannis and his brothers needed to do their part; the boys would hit the streets to sell sunglasses, watches, and other items. In between that work, though, they still found time to play basketball.
Even in difficult circumstances, Giannis’ talent was plain to see. He joined the Filathlitikos organization and, in a matter of seasons, made quite a name for himself. In 2013, he decided he was ready to take the plunge.
Antetokounmpo entered the 2013 NBA draft and joined the Milwaukee Bucks as the 15th-overall pick. While scouts had some questions about his ability to adjust to the North American game, Giannis put those concerns to rest.
With each passing season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved; while he arrived in Milwaukee as a lanky teenager, he’s now the incredibly athletic Greek Freak. The forward claimed the 2019 NBA MVP award without breaking a swear and, barring an unforeseen upset, will claim the 2020 title, too.
Offensive fouls could be the Greek Freak’s Achilles heel
In a vacuum, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s freakish physique seems to be a strength; more often than not, his blend of size and athleticism allows him to do whatever he wants. That advantage, however, can also be his biggest weakness.
As NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh laid out, Antetokounmpo can run afoul (no pun intended) with offensive fouls. He cites PBPstats.com, which shows that the Greek Freak committed significantly more offensive fouls than other stars during the 2019-20 campaign. While those charges might not seem like a big deal in isolation, they do highlight a flaw in Giannis’ game.
As laid out by Brad Botkin of CBS Sports, the Bucks offensive scheme is simple. By surrounding Giannis with shooters, Milwaukee aims to make opponents pick their poison. If they collapse into the paint, someone will have an open shot; if they don’t, Antetokounmpo can overpower his defender.
Teams like the Miami Heat, however, are able to hedge their bets by defending the lane, then using their length to close out the Bucks’ perimeter threats. That, combined with Giannis’ relative lack of an outside shot, has left the Greek Freak frustrated and, by his usual standards, ineffective. He’s left trying to force things in the paint, setting him up for offensive fouls.
Bucks fans won’t like one potential solution to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s issues
So what’s the solution to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s issues? There are a few options, but none of them are ideal.
Perhaps the simplest answer is for Giannis to become a better shooter; he’s already been working on his touch and has improved since his earliest days in the NBA. With that being said, though, it’s unclear if he’ll ever be effective enough to force defenders to respect his jumper.
If that doesn’t work, Giannis will need more help from his teammates; ideally, you’d want someone to share the playmaking duties, which would hopefully prevent Antetokounmpo from dribbling down a blind alley trying to force something in the paint. Milwaukee Bucks fans, however, probably won’t like that plan.
If Antetokounmpo decides that he needs help, that would seemingly set the stage for his departure from Milwaukee. Whether that comes through free agency or a trade, that conclusion would be bad news for the Bucks.
To some extent, Milwaukee’s second-round series has been a bit of a perfect storm; the Heat are able to defend against the Bucks’ offense, Giannis seems to be battling through some ankle issues, and Mike Budenholzer hasn’t changed been able to make any in-round adjustments.
In isolation, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s offensive fouls might not seem like the biggest deal. In the larger context, however, the could highlight an issue that ends his time in Milwaukee.