Giannis Antetokounmpo: Free throws a bigger issue than 3-pointers

MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 23: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 23: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images). /

Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-low percentage from the free throw line. The Milwaukee Bucks are winning now, but will it hamper them come playoff time?

Giannis Antetokounmpo is an all-world talent and the reigning NBA MVP. However, his free-throw shooting is a major issue that must improve.

Giannis has shown a willingness to shoot perimeter shots, and has done so increasingly well at times, but he is plainly unreliable at the line. As someone who’s going to have the ball in his hands constantly come playoff time, it’s imperative those free-throws start falling.

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Antetokounmpo is having another MVP-caliber season averaging 30.8 points, 13.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He’s led the Milwaukee Bucks to the number one spot in the Eastern Conference, and they’re currently on a 14-game winning run, which is the longest streak in the NBA this season.

Giannis was also without All-Star Khris Middleton for much of that streak due to injury, but the Greek’s excellence combined with the impressive depth of the Bucks kept them winning through a run of games that they really should be winning.

Milwaukee faced the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, and in the Bucks’ last four games with Middleton back in the fold, they’ve won by a combined 137 points against the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and, most impressively, the LA Clippers.

Despite all this, their franchise star still has places to improve, and desperately at that. After his MVP season last year, many people in the sports realm asked just one thing of the Greek Freak; that was, to develop an outside shot. Giannis averaged just 25.8 percent from three last year on 2.8 attempts per game.

Nobody believed he was going to become Stephen Curry this year, but his willingness to shoot threes has been a welcome addition for the Bucks and viewers around NBA.

Here, we have a player who was just voted the league’s Most Valuable Player, yet he remains fully committed and dedicated to continuously improving himself to fulfill his potential and to help his team.

That’s an attribute some players could certainly do with learning from — Ben Simmons is one of those players. So far this season, Giannis is averaging 31.6 percent from three on an increased 5.0 attempts a game. While his average is still below the league average, that he’s taking the perimeter shot in the first place is a win.

Another aspect of Giannis’ game that was subject to criticism in the off-season was his free-throw shooting. Giannis shot 72.9 percent from the line last year in the regular season, a few points below the league average of 76.6 percent. While it didn’t need as much work as his perimeter shooting, it became unreliable in the Bucks’ playoff run last year.

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Giannis averaged 63.7 percent from the line in the 2018-19 NBA Playoffs and as someone who is the primary ball-handler for his team; he has to improve that percentage.

This season, the 25-year-old’s free-throw shooting has become his biggest weakness. He’s averaging a career-low 59.3 percent from the free-throw line so far this season. He’s going to the line 10.8 times per game, the most in his career, and yet making fewer free throws than last year (6.9 to 6.4).

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The Greek Freak still has time to fix his issues but with his free agency coming up in 2021, Bucks fans will hope he gets his free-throw and three-point shooting down pat to lead them to a first NBA Championship since 1971.