When it comes to league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, he is everything you could want in an NBA superstar. His work ethic, desire to win and leadership qualities are the best among his peers. He is tall, athletic, and plays with a physicality that reminds people of Shaquille O’Neal’s dominant days. He earned the nickname Greek Freak because of his Greek heritage and the freakish plays he makes on court.
Despite his success and skill set, there is still one part of Antetokounmpo’s game holding him back. He has continued to work on it, but it must be better for him and the Bucks to capture that elusive title. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s shooting is the glaring flaw, and it could prevent Milwaukee from achieving its NBA championship dreams.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s shooting cost him on opening night
The Bucks started their 2020 regular season against the Boston Celtics. The game was close at the end, with the Celtics needing a bucket to take the lead. Jayson Tatum shot a sidestep 3-pointer over Antetokounmpo to take the lead with .4 seconds left. Luckily, on Milwaukee’s inbound play, Tristan Thompson fouled Antetokounmpo. The Bucks were in the bonus, so the back to back MVP could tie the game to send it into overtime. All he had to do was sink two free throws.
He sunk the first one, trimming Boston’s lead to one. Unfortunately, he missed the second shot, losing the first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion. Antetokounmpo finished the game with 35 points and 13 rebounds. Shooting wise, he was 6-8 from the free-throw line and 3-8 from 3-point land.
Despite the constant work he puts into his shot, Antetokounmpo’s form still didn’t look right. The Celtics allowed him to take 3-pointers because they had no faith he’d bury them consistently. That has been the recipe for defending the Greek Freak since he entered the league.
Milwaukee seemed like the same team with the same scheme also, which isn’t helpful. Antetokounmpo turned the ball over seven times; four of them stemmed from charge calls on him. He ducked his head and bullied his way to the rim, which provided mixed results.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career-long shooting struggle
Shooting is the name of the game in the NBA now, thanks to Stephen Curry and his 3-point marksmanship. Unfortunately for the Greek Freak, he hasn’t had the same success shooting the ball from deep, midrange, or even the foul line. It has been his Achillies heel throughout his seven-year career.
According to ESPN, Antetokounmpo has a career 3-point percentage of 28.5%. The good news is that he has been attempting more threes each year. However, he has only shot over 35 percent from deep once. From the charity stripe, he shoots 72.2%. There have been many instances where his free throw attempts have been air balls or clanged off the front of the rim. Some of his threes in the past garnered the same results.
The murmurs of his ineffective shot have caused Antetokounmpo to work even harder at perfecting it. The results are slowly coming along, as he posted his best three-point percentage of his career last season (37.5%). Nevertheless, his shooting flaws are still evident. Just take opening night as an example. There’s still room for improvement.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo does find his shot, it will be a nightmare for the rest of the league. Even former president Barrack Obama realizes how dominant the Greek Freak will be with a jump shot, saying, “Giannis getting a 3-point shot. Giannis needs a 12-footer or a 15-footer. That’s what matters, right? If he does, then I think he’s unstoppable.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s shooting can hurt the Bucks in the long run
The Milwaukee Bucks will only go as far as Giannis Antetokounmpo takes them. That has been proven time and time again since he burst onto the NBA scene. With the Greek Freak still struggling to shoot the ball effectively, it can be detrimental to Milwaukee’s championship aspirations.
When it’s the playoffs or even a close game in crunch time, the tempo slows down. Teams must be able to run their half-court sets, getting their playmakers the ball and letting them do what they do best. In the Bucks’ case, they rely heavily on a fast-paced, run and gun style of play. When it’s time to operate in the half-court, they become stagnant or rely on Antetokounmpo to bully his way into the paint. Teams are expecting that, so they form a wall, forcing him or others to shoot.
That is the same formula the Celtics used during crunch time on opening night. It was the same formula both the Raptors and Heat used in their playoff series against Milwaukee. The secret is out, and now it’s time for the Greek Freak and the Bucks to adjust. If Giannis Antetokounmpo can find his jump shot, it opens up so much for him and the Bucks moving forward. If the shooting struggles continue, it could be another early playoff exit and no championship parade.
All stats courtesy of ESPN