Milwaukee Bucks: How has Thanasis Antetokounmpo compared to expectations?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 09: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 09: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo last offseason, they knew they were getting an athletic, tough, high-energy bench player. How has he compared to expectations thus far?

After a few seasons playing in the NBA G League before returning home to Greece to play in the Greek Basket League, Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo looked destined to play out his career overseas.

As it turns out, Bucks GM Jon Horst had been keeping an eye on him the whole time. In a rather surprising move last July, the Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo to a two-year, guaranteed contract at the league’s minimum salary.

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The signing definitely turned some heads in the NBA world. After two seasons outside of the NBA and G League, many questioned whether Thanasis was even an NBA talent. Many believed this move was just a favor to Giannis Antetokounmpo that would surge his interest in signing an extension at season’s end.

That very well may be the case, but Jon Horst would never admit to that. When asked about the signing, Horst had this to say:

"“Thanasis is a young player with great experience at the top level overseas. He brings toughness, athleticism, character and a high IQ. We are thrilled to have him join the Bucks.”"

Despite the high praise from Horst, the expectations for Antetokounmpo had to be low. The Bucks were coming off a 60-win season, an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, and they expected to be competing for a championship again this year.

The roster was already filled with veterans who knew how to play, and there just weren’t going to be many minutes for the 6’6’’ forward. At the time, Thanasis had only played in two NBA games. Antetokounmpo had helped his team in the Greek Basket League to win back-to-back league titles, but he didn’t have real NBA experience.

He also hadn’t shown a defined offensive skillset. Through three seasons in the G League, Thanasis averaged 12.3 points per game, relying mainly on his athleticism and hustle to score.

Instead, he made most of his impact defensively, through athleticism, tenacity, and high-energy play. Turns out, those are pretty common traits for an Antetokounmpo. For his efforts, he was rewarded by being named to the G League All-Defensive Team twice.

With all of that in mind, rational Bucks fans had low expectations for Antetokounmpo. He was expected to hold down one of the final spots on the roster, and to bring energy, toughness, and athleticism any time he touched the court. The Bucks didn’t need him to play normal role player minutes.

On top of that, his spot came with the extra perk of being virtually untouchable; The Bucks wouldn’t dare cut or trade Giannis’ brother.

Aside from a couple of surprise starts thanks to Coach Budenholzer, things have played out almost exactly as expected. Antetokounmpo has appeared in only 18 games, averaging 2.5 points in those appearances.

He’s also been able to hold down a roster spot, as expected, past the deadline. Dragan Bender was the player who was waived to facilitate the signing of Marvin Williams, not Antetokounmpo.

With things going seemingly as planned, one great side effect of Antetokounmpo’s signing has emerged; he has become the perfect human victory cigar.

The human victory cigar is something that every memorable team needs to have. It’s someone that ignites the crowd and puts the metaphorical cherry on top of a great game. It has to be someone who’s not bashful and thrives on the crowd’s energy.

The Bucks have had different versions of this in the past. The most recent ones that come to mind are Thon Maker and Rashad Vaughn. Both weren’t bashful in the fleeting moments of a game.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo has become that person this season. There’s nothing better than seeing him check into a game that the Bucks have already wrapped up, fly around the court with reckless abandon no matter the score, and posterize people while Giannis cheers pridefully from the sidelines.

The best example of this was in a 123-91 win against the Orlando Magic, where Thanasis hammered a dunk on Wes Iwundu, prompting a memorable Giannis reaction, as seen below.

The Bucks were up by 32 points and there were only 35 seconds remaining, but Thanasis detonated on the rim anyways. That’s the epitome of a human victory cigar. It’s incredible entertainment for fans, and it brings loads of joy to Giannis.

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In the grand scheme of things, Thanasis might not provide the biggest boost to Milwaukee’s championship odds, but he has certainly lived up to the expectations, and that’s all you can ask for.