Milwaukee Bucks: Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s energy fits within bench mob

ATHENS, GREECE - OCTOBER 11: (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - OCTOBER 11: (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /

While it’s tough to figure out what kind of role he’ll carve out, Thanasis Antetokounmpo‘s fiery personality and intangibles may end up fitting well within the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench configuration.

Throughout an offseason that was primarily focused on retaining their free agents and making shrewd veteran pickups to shore up their collective depth, one free agent addition by the Milwaukee Bucks stood out above the fray for contrasting reasons.

No, it’s not the Bucks’ recent flyer on 21-year-old Croatian big man Dragan Bender, who comes to Milwaukee standing as a reclamation project and will have to impress in training camp and preseason, given the salary structure on his two-year, partially guaranteed deal.

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Rather, it was the signing of Greek forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who’s returning to the NBA level after spending the last three seasons playing overseas, first in Spain and most recently in Greece.

There were the obvious reasons why the team’s addition of the elder Antetokounmpo drew some questions from Bucks fans and elsewhere in regard to the front office’s intent behind the move, all of which revolved around the long-term future of Thanasis’ superstar brother and reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

That cynicism hasn’t dissipated in any way as there will be some that will always view the signing of Thanasis, as well as the fact that he got a two-year, fully guaranteed deal, as a way to appease Giannis ahead of the looming supermax extension offer that will be the big bellwether in regard to his long-term future in Milwaukee.

Needless to say, it’s not exactly the ideal way any player would like to walk into a new situation, much less someone that has put in the time and work to the degree that the 27-year-old Antetokounmpo has over the last three years overseas to earn another shot in the NBA, after previously having a cup of coffee with the New York Knicks back in the 2015-16 season.

Playing directly in the shadow of his superstar brother and erasing the doubts some people have as it relates to his NBA prospects will only fuel the fire that the elder Antetokounmpo plays with every night, or at least when he does get the nod for playing time from Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.

From that standpoint, Antetokounmpo’s hunger to capitalize on his second NBA stint and the clear passion that permeates throughout his game does bode well with how he can acclimate within the Bucks’ bench unit and roster overall.

Antetokounmpo’s skill set clearly carries some defined faults and is very rough around the edges, most specifically in his shot as he’s never been a passable shooter at any level. Even with room to refine his current liabilities under the watchful eye of the Bucks’ developmental staff, those concerns may ultimately prevent Antetokounmpo from seeing substantial NBA minutes over the course of his stay in Milwaukee.

However, Antetokounmpo’s defensive specialist tendencies, athleticism and hard-nosed edge gives the Bucks an added dimension from their bench unit, especially from the forward position on their depth chart. Even with minutes limited and an indiscernible role at this moment, Antetokounmpo could potentially fill in as an energy guy/bringer of chaos, given his fiery and spirited nature on the court.

That equally applies to maintaining the energy and instilling some passion on the sidelines during games as well, which was a regular sight throughout the Bucks’ 60-win season last year. Milwaukee’s total chemistry on and off the court can easily be heightened with willing leaders and role players, just as we saw last season with Pat Connaughton and more.

Bucks general manager Jon Horst touched on all that and more when he talked about the addition of Thanasis in his Q&A with Eric Nehm of The Athletic earlier this month:

"“I’ll tell you, Bud’s excited. I’m excited. He’s a guy that I think has a skill set, athleticism and size that allows him to play in an NBA game today. With our development, the way that our coaches work, if they can continue to develop his offensive game, I think he’s a guy that can have an impact on our team. And beyond that, he’s a great young man. We’ve known him for a long time. He’s a great culture fit, a great chemistry fit. He’s going to help our team day in and day out just with his passion and energy. People will say whatever they want to say, but I think it’s a really good signing for us and something we’re excited about.”"

There will always be some level of skepticism that Antetokounmpo will have to combat as he looks to carve out and make a name for himself with the Bucks next season and after.

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That doesn’t mean that he still can’t make an impact in his new surroundings as the Bucks look to compete for a title next season. And in the event that he makes positive contributions along the way on the court to enhance that pursuit, it only makes bringing in Antetokounmpo that much worth it from the Bucks’ perspective.