Milwaukee Bucks: Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s wildcard versatility

Thanasis Antetokounmpo‘s role with the Milwaukee Bucks has been minimal, but there have still been some interesting flashes with his play so far.

Through 65 games of the Milwaukee Bucks’ season so far, Thanasis Antetokounmpo has largely lived up to expectations.

That statement is complicated in its own right given that Thanasis’ signing with the team was surrounded by so much conversation focused on whether he really had anything to offer the team, beyond the obvious off the court benefits of Giannis Antetokounmpo having his brother around.

Thanasis has generally had to settle for garbage time minutes with the Bucks, outside of occasional spells on assignment with the Wisconsin Herd, but when he has been given occasional opportunities to flex his muscles in an NBA setting, there have been some interesting wrinkles to emerge.

The idea of the Bucks turning to Thanasis when the stakes are really dialed up does seem a little unlikely, but there could be situational moments and matchups where he has a chance to offer something very different.

Specifically, Thanasis might give the Bucks the option to lean in to some particularly funky smaller lineups.

In a strange quirk of fate, or maybe not given how some of his minutes played out in those games, Thanasis’ two starts this season have come against the Denver Nuggets. In the first of those games, Thanasis started at center and was therefore tasked with guarding Nikola Jokic.

That was a matchup that Antetokounmpo again found himself briefly taking up in a short burst in the second meeting against the Nuggets, in what could prove to be the Bucks’ final game of the season.

In part, that may be down to the relative success Thanasis enjoyed in spite of being just 6’6″.

The sample is small, but meaningful given what the expected results would be in theoretically matching Thanasis up with an All-NBA caliber center such as Jokic.

Per, the only player that Thanasis has spent more time guarding than he did with Jokic this season is Damyean Dotson. In 10.6 partial possessions with Antetokounmpo guarding Jokic, the Nuggets scored just 10 total points. Overall, Jokic managed to put up just two field goal attempts when guarded by Thanasis, missing both.

Thanasis’ strength and frantic energy gives him a real disruptor quality that could allow him to really offer up a jarring matchup for more traditional centers, and may well give him a chance to hold his own more than anyone would generally expect.

Given his overall position in the Bucks’ pecking order, there’s every chance that unless injury opened up additional opportunities, Antetokounmpo may not even be active in the kind of high stakes scenarios where Milwaukee may need to play that kind of wildcard.

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The truth, though, is that element isn’t under Thanasis’ control. The most he can do is make the most of every chance he gets to play, and he’s certainly displayed some impressive versatility that may yet make him a more meaningful contributor at some point down the line.

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