Giannis Antetokounmpo: Are his free throw struggles salvageable?

Jan 13, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 13, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports) /

After going 1-for-10 from the foul line in the Milwaukee Bucks’ win against the Dallas Mavericks, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s free throw struggles have never been greater.

Is it possible that the longest 10 seconds in all of sports may be when Giannis Antetokounmpo goes to the free throw line?

It’s certainly possible after watching the Milwaukee Bucks superstar struggle in his and the team’s 112-109 win over the Dallas Mavericks Friday night as Antetokounmpo went 1-for-10 from the foul line. It shouldn’t come as much of surprise that it’s Antetokounmpo’s worst night from the free throw line over his eight-year career and brought his free throw efficiency for the season down to a woeful 57.5 percent.

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All Bucks fans know this hasn’t been a recent trend as we’ve spent the better part of 18 months discussing and analyzing the variations to Antetokounmpo’s free throw routine and and extended inconsistencies on foul shots.

In a recent ‘Last Night in Basketball’ column, Jared Dubin looked to Antetokounmpo’s free throw struggles during the Bucks’ 2019 Conference Finals struggles against the Toronto Raptors as the inflection point in his downward swing from the free throw line.

The evidence that Dubin lays out is pretty indisputable and that’s not factoring in that Antetokounmpo’s free throw shooting has fallen off drastically during his playoff appearances as he’s a career 62.7 percent free throw shooter on 373 attempts. Additionally, Antetokounmpo shot 24-for-34 (70.6 percent) during his most recent run playing for the Greek national team in their rough run at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Ironically, Antetokounmpo free throw shooting slide has coincided with making incremental steps to becoming a more willing jump shooter. Per, Antetokounmpo is posting a 43.0 effective field percentage on his jump shot attempts this season. While the sample size is lopsided, that’s right in range of the 42.1 effective field goal percentage Antetokounmpo shot on jump shots for the 2019-20 season.

As Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to correct his free throw shooting woes, he vows to keep shooting through his ups and downs.

Whether it’s a mental hurdle that Antetokounmpo is struggling to overcome or the growing number of different approaches he’s tried at the free throw line, the process of trying to fix his free throw struggles is the equivalent of a cat chasing its own tail.

After putting in some extra shots up after the win, Antetokounmpo told ESPN’s Eric Woodyard that he’s going to keep shooting to get through this rough patch:

"“It’s simple,” the reigning two-time MVP said Friday night after making just one of his 10 free throws in a 112-109 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. “Just go back. Shoot more. Focus on your technique. Take it step by step. Just shoot more. That’s it. The more you shoot, the more you work on it, the better you get. There’s no secret in that.”"

That, in of itself, is the approach that Antetokounmpo has clung to in recent years, especially after avoiding to shoot and being instructed to do so under former head coach Jason Kidd.

There is also just the physical toll and tread that Antetokounmpo has taken on by playing the most basketball of his professional life over the last two-plus years specifically. Could that also play a factor into the decline he’s had from the foul line?

Whatever the reason it may be, Antetokounmpo is in seeking a cure to his free throw shooting deficiencies on the fly. And you better believe that opposing teams will continue to hold that against him and deploy a “Hack-a-Giannis” strategy even further to find some way to slow him down in big moments over the course of this season and beyond.

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The constant tinkering and shooting alterations that he sports in the wake of a bad night from the free throw line won’t help matters. The uncomfortable reality that he and all Bucks fans have to wonder is whether this is just a part of his game at this stage.