Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s case for Defensive Player of the Year

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 16: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 16: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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MILWAUKEE, WI – MARCH 07: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI – MARCH 07: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The ever popular eye test

There will certainly be a subsection of voters who think defensive analytics are slightly overrated, if not outright useless. These types of voters will turn to their own opinions based on what they watch.

Bucks’ fans can only hope they’ve watched Milwaukee’s post All-Star win against the Celtics where Antetokounmpo gave eye-test voters everything they could have wanted and more, as he hurt the entire city of Boston’s feelings by blocking Jayson Tatum late in the game.

The impressive thing about this block is that it is flashier example of what Bucks’ fans witness every game. Those chase-down blocks that hint at shades of prime LeBron, if he were two inches taller and had the stride of a gazelle, are staples of Antetokounmpo’s resume.

Even though they are the most fun to watch, Giannis’ defensive case does not rely solely on highlight reel blocks. He has fully bought in to first year head coach Mike Budenholzer’s defensive system and has given opponents fits this year with his ability to guard multiple positions, and use his length to contest everything, as evidenced by his previously mentioned opponent field goal percentage.

Here Giannis starts off as a weak-side defender. His man is Danilo Gallinari who is positioned in the left corner. The Clippers run a dribble-hand-off action opposite Antetokounmpo and are able to get rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into the paint.

This is where Giannis’ versatility is unparalleled. Giannis is able to stunt at the Clippers rookie to give him something to think about, and then fully help to keep Gilgeous-Alexander from taking a high percentage shot.

While Antetokounmpo has his focus on the ball, Gallinari smartly relocates. Gilgeous-Alexander finds him and against most defenders this would be an open 3-point-attempt for a good shooter. Giannis, though, is not most defenders and is able to use his length to run Gallinari off of the three-point line. The Clippers forward puts the ball on the floor, and after Pat Connaughton stops the dribble penetration, Giannis is immediately back in the picture to block the 6’10” forward’s shot.

Those who’ve tuned into Bucks games on a nightly basis throughout the year have grown accustomed to such defensive heroics from Antetokounmpo.