Milwaukee Bucks: Assessing Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s run in the rotation

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 8: (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 8: (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks have tightened their rotation under head coach Mike Budenholzer, it looks as though the Thanasis Antetokounmpo experience has been put on pause.

Until getting some rare shine late in the fourth quarter of the Bucks’ 134-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, the elder Antetokounmpo had gotten 4 DNP-CD’s. In Antetokounmpo’s stead, Budenholzer has been turning to versatile wing Torrey Craig to earn minutes behind two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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The fact that Thanasis had even cracked the Bucks’ rotation to start this season and for how long he did was notable in of itself. After all, the 28-year-old has already eclipsed his 129 total minutes from the 2019-20 season as he has 136 minutes in his 14 appearances this year.

No matter when Thanasis has hit the floor, especially during his brief stint in the rotation, his minutes certainly elicited plenty of reactions from the Bucks fanbase.

Being the ball of energy that he is, Antetokounmpo has always brought the fierce competitiveness that he sharpened overseas while both in Spain and Greece before signing his two-year, veteran minimum deal with the Bucks two summers ago.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo is more than an energy booster for the Milwaukee Bucks.

There were some real highlights that Antetokounmpo achieved over his brief run in the Bucks’ rotation. Whether it was hitting his first NBA triple as the Bucks hit an NBA-record 29 threes against the Miami Heat or capitalizing on the rare opportunities that he has converted at the basket as he’s finishing 13 of his 15 shots in the restricted area (86.7 percent) this season, per

With the energy he has brought to the floor, both in terms of digging in defensively or hustling for loose balls and offensive rebounds, Thanasis has embraced his niche role as someone who does all of the dirty work to earn minutes under Budenholzer.

As he jokingly saw parallels to the role he had as a player with the Bucks two decades ago to Antetokounmpo, Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham remarked on Antetokounmpo’s role when appearing on the WTMJ Bucks Flagship Podcast:

"“(Thanasis) is doing all of the exact things for why I was in the mix under George Karl with guys like Ray (Allen), Sam (Cassell) and Glenn (Robinson) from our great teams in the early 2000’s. Just to impact the game in a way that they’re not. That’s what it’s a team because you have your scorers, you have you’re playmakers, but you also need a guy that’s a swiss-army knife. A guy that can do a little bit of everything.He brings such great energy to the table. His care factor is really being revealed during this year and he’s trying to help the younger guys. Trying to push some of our mainstays in the rotation. He’s doing a phenomenal job.”"

Of course, Antetokounmpo’s unbridled energy and athleticism has its particular pitfalls. Antetokounmpo is averaging 8.3 personal fouls per 100 possessions and has a ghastly 35.6 turnover rate. That latter mark is certainly highlighted by his loose handle when he puts his head down towards the basket.

Even for all of those clear deficiencies and his limited skill set, the Bucks were 8-3 in the games that Antetokounmpo got early minutes in the rotation and 5-2 when playing 10 or more minutes this season. As Craig has gotten the favor of Budenholzer over Antetokounmpo, both have occupied a similar role as Budenholzer has shown more experimentation than we’ve seen in some time.

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Clearly, Antetokounmpo has his limitations and there were on full display during his run in the Bucks’ rotation. There is always room for improvement, but he contributed in ways that largely led to winning for the Bucks and on nights when energy is lacking, Budenholzer knows who to call on when in need of a spark.