Despite Greece bowing out of the World Cup earlier than many expected, Thanasis Antetokounmpo put in a solid individual showing throughout their run in China and it may have shown us how he can impact the Milwaukee Bucks next season and beyond.
The stakes at the World Cup are only rising higher and higher, but it’s no longer one that will feature one of the game’s greatest players in Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The fallout from Greece’s rather short-lived run in China, at least compared to expectations, is still developing and with all of the attention on him after a whirlwind summer, the reigning MVP’s stumbles on the international stage have certainly clouded his return to the national team after being away from the team the last two summers.
Of course, Giannis wasn’t the only Antetokounmpo, nor Bucks player, in action throughout Greece’s run as his older brother Thanasis will be joining his superstar brother in the NBA after signing a two-year, veteran minimum deal with the Bucks earlier this offseason.
Having been a fixture for the Greek national team since making his debut back in the summer of 2016, the elder Antetokounmpo played a far more limited role off the bench compared to Giannis throughout Greece’s run in China.
Even under sporadic minutes, the 27-year-old Antetokounmpo managed to put in impressive outings in hopes of sparking his squad as they hoped to advance to the knockout stage under difficult circumstances, with his efforts in Greece’s 84-77 win over the Czech Republic earlier in the week being the prime example.
While his overall skill package may be limited as all Bucks fans are aware of at this point, Antetokounmpo’s brand of hustle and heart shone through defensively, and in the open floor, as he displayed multiple high-effort plays to put down transition scoring opportunities, and/or displayed stout defense in space, as well as protecting the rim.
That may have spilled over in what may be the most memorable moment of Thanasis’ own World Cup run, that being the unsuccessful chasedown block he attempted on Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes late in Team USA’s win over Greece that created quite the stir during and especially after the game.
With that said, Antetokounmpo’s improved three-point stroke has looked much more smooth throughout his summer with Greece, and the results have been equally promising, like when he went 5-for-9 from downtown in their Acropolis Tournament finale against Serbia in the run up to the World Cup.
All in all, Antetokounmpo averaged 6 points on a .545/.375/.500 slash line, 1.4 rebounds and 1 assist across his 12.3 minutes per game over the course of Greece’s World Cup run.
After experiencing such a solid summer playing for Greece, what this means in how Antetokounmpo could make a dent in Milwaukee now that he’s joined the Bucks stands as an interesting question, even as he faces an uphill climb to get regular rotation minutes.
There’s no reason to think that Antetokounmpo’s relentless energy won’t be of use to Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer next season and it could lead to him taking on key defensive assignments off the bench from time to time as well. And it will certainly give the Bucks a little more speed and athleticism to run off their opponents in transition as well, which remains a point of emphasis for the team going into Bud’s second year.
The key for Antetokounmpo, as it has always been for his NBA prospects, has been brandishing a more consistent three-point shot and in spite of the encouraging signs he has shown over the offseason, there is simply more evidence that says the high-flying forward will have trouble spacing the floor at an effective rate.
At any rate, Antetokounmpo’s intriguing play throughout the summer with Greece has raised some optimism about how he’ll fare with the Bucks, even as some key concerns remain about how viable of an impact he could make in his return to the NBA.