Giannis Antetokounmpo: Why this season could be his greatest act yet

Mar 15, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Mar 15, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /

There hasn’t been much to stop Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo lately.

Fresh off of his third straight triple-double performance in the Bucks’ 133-122 win over the Washington Wizards Monday night, the reigning MVP is in the midst of hitting another gear just as the Bucks have nine of their last 10 games. And over the last 10 games, Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.9 points on .579/.364/.786 shooting, 12.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals in 34.7 minutes per game.

More from Bucks News

Gone are the questions about a heavy offseason weighing on Antetokounmpo’s shoulders as he started slow out of the gate.

And whether it’s the significant strides he’s made in shooting from 3-point range and from the free throw line, even over a small sample size, Antetokounmpo is making progress in the very areas that have been his downfall, to say the least.

All of this begs the obvious question: Could this truly be the best version of Antetokounmpo we’ve seen thus far? Asking such a question certainly sounds ridiculous on its face, especially given Antetokounmpo’s illustrious body of work.

After all, we’re talking about the reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player who was the centralizing force behind the Bucks having the best record over the last two seasons. The talent and longevity that Antetokounmpo has brought to the table doesn’t grace a franchise all that often, even in what is his eighth NBA season.

The Greek superstar has set truly historical marks in each of the last two seasons that stand up with some of the greatest players to play in the NBA. Even so, it hasn’t catapulted him and the Bucks to an NBA title as opposing teams have found the right strategies to bottle up Antetokounmpo when it has mattered most.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is thriving while being utilized in different ways.

Like the Bucks as a whole this season, Antetokounmpo has had to learn ways to operate within the framework of the Bucks’ system. His league-leading 37.5 usage percentage set in 2019-20 has trickled down to a 33.1 usage percentage this season, per That has come as the Bucks have integrated star guard Jrue Holiday and entrust Antetokounmpo’s long-time teammate, Khris Middleton, more on the ball.

That’s especially so when the Bucks have looked to Middleton in crunch-time and put Antetokounmpo more off the ball and using him as a screener. Per, Antetokounmpo’s 42.3 usage percentage in clutch time situations from last season has shrunk to 26.1 percent this year.

Yet that severe drop-off has opened the door for the Bucks to leverage Antetokounmpo’s gravity as a rim runner and lob threat. Plays like the following have been happening on the regular this season and it’s helped buoy the Bucks during crunch time as a result.

As a whole, Antetokounmpo’s terrorization on the basket has never been more lethal than it is this season as he’s converting an otherworldly 79 percent of his 367 attempts within the restricted area. While averaging 17.4 points in the paint per game.

That, in turn, has boosted his efficiency marks that are starting to rival his first MVP-winning campaign as he has a 59.3 effective field goal percentage and 62.7 true shooting percentage, all while averaging 29 points per game. While Antetokounmpo’s rebounding numbers are down year over year, his playmaking is up to a career-high 6.2 assists, which has certainly been helped by his surge of triple-double showings.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been incredibly active and impactful on that side of the ball. As the Bucks have grown more comfortable in switching and putting Antetokounmpo in one-on-one situations, so too has the Bucks forward where he has been even more disruptive when playing outside of his free safety-like role.

Above all else, Antetokounmpo has talked at length about the joy he has played with all season long and it’s certainly showed, even as the Bucks have gone into uncharacteristic slides. Unsurpisingly, Antetokounmpo’s importance to the Bucks has been critical all throughout as he has the highest net rating of all Bucks players at +12.6 points per 100 possessions.

Antetokounmpo’s dominance is nothing new nor is the Bucks clicking into the gear that many envisioned from the jump, especially after acquiring Holiday in the offseason. Yet the ways in which he is producing and being utilized in various ways, more than he had previously in the Budenholzer era, has served as a remix to what we’ve come to expect from Antetokounmpo at this point.

As MVP discussions are being had and Antetokounmpo’s name has largely remained absent from serious consideration due to his and the Bucks’ recent playoff failures, the foundation that’s being set for the 26-year-old is being reworked right before our eyes.

Next. Comparing Bucks' assets for P.J. Tucker to other suitors. dark

The motivation of playoff disappointments has forced Antetokounmpo and the Bucks into adapting towards new approaches in order to reach their ultimate goal. With everything to prove when it matters most, Antetokounmpo is showing all of us the next phase in his own evolution.