Milwaukee Bucks: Will teams aim to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo or teammates in 2019-20?

BOSTON - MAY 6: (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - MAY 6: (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks look to chase next season’s NBA title, how will opposing teams look to gameplan against reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and a very formidable supporting cast?

All throughout the 2018-19 season, the Milwaukee Bucks were eager to let opposing teams ask themselves how they would try to limit their offense.

On one side, it’s impossible for teams around the league not to focus on trying to slow down superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in some fashion, considering he’s the source through which the Bucks’ offense is designed.

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Antetokounmpo’s extensive skill set was supercharged with the arrival of head coach Mike Budenholzer and by remaking the team’s offense by spacing the floor to great lengths, it played a small part in the 24-year-old taking him his first MVP award last season.

But for all of the gifts and talents at his disposal, the long-standing kryptonite for Antetokounmpo has been shooting the ball and opposing teams know that building a wall and packing the paint is the key to slowing Antetokounmpo in some fashion.

On the other side, though, is a strong supporting cast that certainly isn’t recognized for its collective starpower. With that said, key personnel decisions made by Bucks general manager Jon Horst and previous front office regimes have given the Bucks a very strong, complementary core around Antetokounmpo, with Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton headlining that part of their roster.

While none of Antetokounmpo’s teammates can match him in being able to create and make plays, the tenets of the Bucks’ offensive system and the collective shooting the team has amassed has given them the necessary support system to damage opposing defenses when Antetokounmpo is occupied/out of the play.

When all of that works in concert with each other, the Bucks offense has shown to be tough to stop as evidenced by the fact that they finished with the fourth-highest offensive efficiency last season, per Now as we inch forward to the Bucks’ highly anticipated 2019-20 season, they’ll be forcing opposing teams to answer the very same question.

Some of the roster additions the Bucks made this offseason, such as three-point threats like Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews, will make the team an even more dangerous cover, especially in the vein of how the Bucks have built their identity offensively. Others like Robin Lopez and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ brother, will need some time in order to fit within the Bucks’ let it fly philosophy.

But what makes the Bucks being able to force opposing teams to pick their poison is the unselfish nature that exists with Antetokounmpo. Although having the ability to create his own look when any runway or space appears may come to him the best, the Greek phenom’s understanding of the game and deferential tendencies show just as much, especially within Budenholzer’s offensive blueprint.

The palpable trust Antetokounmpo has in his teammates when making the right plays for him or others is one of the key reasons why such a thing is possible. It’s explicitly why Antetokounmpo was adamant about the Bucks maintaining their continuity ahead of free agency as he talked about during his exit interview following the Bucks’ collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals that put a sour bow on their season last year:

"“I want everyone back,” Antetokounmpo said. “Great fricking team — unselfish players that play basketball the right way. They’re winners. We had a great atmosphere. We didn’t have no — I want to be polite. I want to say the A-word — we didn’t have no buttheads. Obviously, I want everyone back. I am going to let my teammates know that.”"

Of course, we know the way of how things currently work with the Bucks have their limits, as seen when they last took the floor when facing off against the eventual NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. And by all accounts, it’s a series that Antetokounmpo has already learned plenty from, even well before the Bucks look to follow up what they did last season.

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It’s very likely we won’t know how teams will react or fully gameplan for the Bucks in Budenholzer’s second year in charge until the playoffs roll around. But the entire basis of it won’t change, and how the Bucks or Antetokounmpo respond to it will certainly be interesting to watch.