Milwaukee Bucks: Examining Giannis Antetokounmpo’s postgame proficiency

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 01: (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 01: (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has gradually looked to open up his evolving game and his success in the post has shined as a result.

Throughout his 2019-20 season, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo had been looking to evolve his game with the eyes of basketball fans on him.

Antetokounmpo’s relentlessness in attacking the paint and the basket itself has made him the most potent and dominant paint scorer since prime Shaquille O’Neal. But given his shooting deficiencies and limitations, opposing teams have spent plenty of time designing sturdy walls and crowds of defenders to rebuff his attempts to barrel through the paint.

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Developing a counter to such a tactic has long been on Antetokounmpo’s mind when he can’t get to his shot, but it was this season where things were starting to come together for him and the Bucks overall in that regard.

While many point to his slow development as a long range shooter, his work playing out of the post has become an equally important asset in his skill package.

In another era, Antetokounmpo’s postgame prowess would have been the defining feature in his arsenal, given his size, strength and ability to handle the ball. While it may not be the 1990s anymore, Antetokounmpo’s presence and growing potency on the block has been a viable weapon for the Bucks’ offense this season.

Milwaukee’s offense has designed more opportunities to post up for Antetokounmpo and others in head coach Mike Budenholzer’s second year, where they’ve averaged the sixth-most post up possessions per game this season, per NBA com/stats.

As a result, Antetokounmpo’s comfort and confidence in being able to back down mismatches or fade away and shoot over the top of opposing defenders has made him the most efficient post scorer this season of players that have attempted a minimum of 75 attempts. As a sidenote, right below Antetokounmpo is his All-Star teammate, Khris Middleton.’s John Schuhmann recently broke down the variety of ways in which the Bucks and Budenholzer have been able to deploy Antetokounmpo in the post and his improvements with his shot and ever-growing mastery of footwork with his back to the basket.

Bringing in more deliberate set plays as the Bucks have done through the post was used as a way to prepare for how the game slows down in the postseason, and to provide a little more variety to their read-and-react offense. Whether they’ll get to face that test is another question entirely with the current season stoppage.

Beyond his scoring proficiency, the mere threat of Antetokounmpo in the post and within reach of the basket is just another way for him and the Bucks to generate more open 3-point attempts when kicking it out to open shooters.

Ever since coming off of the Bucks’ Conference Finals collapse, where he was blitzed with all sorts of pressure from similar spots, Antetokounmpo has been very cognizant of growing from that experience as he talked about with The Athletic’s Eric Nehm ($) following a win over the Charlotte Hornets in March:

"“Just working on it, keep working on it,” Antetokounmpo said of his evolving post game. “They’re going to double-team. It happens once. It happens twice. It happens a third time. Then, you learn your lesson.“You gotta be able to make the right pass. You gotta be able to have patience, don’t rush when you’re down in the post or you’re posting up at the elbows. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of film, a lot of tape that I watch to see where they’re coming from and how can I be able to make the right pass and punish the defense.”"

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Antetokounmpo has heard plenty of how his very few, but long-standing weaknesses, have been fodder for the opposition to dream up ways to slow him down. Slowly but surely, Antetokounmpo’s ongoing evolution, as seen with his postgame, will provide ways to overcome those doubts.