Milwaukee Bucks: Thanasis Antetokounmpo progressing in energy role

Apr 6, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 6, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports) /

There is very little than what meets the eye when it comes to what Thanasis Antetokounmpo brings to the floor for the Milwaukee Bucks.

In his second season with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo’s role has blossomed into a steady, albeit limited part of the team’s rotation. Antetokounmpo has had not had any trouble assuming the role of acting as the team’s sparkplug and energy booster to give them the emotional lift they have needed to navigate through a campaign such as this one.

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As Antetokounmpo’s role has grown over the course of the season, so too has his the impact and his overall contributions. Of course, all Bucks fans got to see the full breadth of Antetokounmpo’s game throughout his career performance against the New York Knicks last month that doubled as a rest night for the majority of Bucks starters.

While that starring role suited him, it’s outings like the one that the 28-year-old had in the Bucks’ loss to the Golden State Warriors that shows how he grown into his role. Antetokounmpo finished with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, five rebounds and an assist in over 19-and-a-half minutes of action.

The dunks and the timely cuts that Antetokounmpo made and put down gave the Bucks a perfect outlet to take advantage of the Warriors’ sloppy defending all night long like when he put down this reverse finish that led to an old-fashioned 3-point play.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo has given the Milwaukee Bucks a defensive lift.

While Antetokounmpo continues to make well on the few offensive opportunities that come his way, it’s on the other end of the floor where he has made his bones under head coach Mike Budenholzer.

Antetokounmpo’s physical assets, athleticism and embracing of his workman-like role has given the Bucks a different dimension that they have needed to stay grounded defensively. And as they have embraced tactical defensive schemes and have incorporated more switching, Antetokounmpo has proved very useful in the Bucks’ defensive evolution, even in his spot minutes.

For example, take this defensive sequence where Antetokounmpo helps over to tag the rolling Kevon Looney, switch back on to Draymond Green and step up to pressure Steph Curry into passing out the ball to set up a missed three from Andrew Wiggins.

While Antetokounmpo is more known for his unbridled play, the sound defending that he shows in the clip above showcases the very best of the disruption he brings to that side of the ball.

That edge has led to the Bucks allowing 100.6 points per 100 possessions in the 152 minutes Antetokounmpo has played since the All-Star break, per And the Bucks are outscoring their opponents by +6.1 points per 100 possessions in those minutes as well.

Between the improving defense he’s bringing to the floor and the high efficiency he has as seen by his 60.8 true shooting percentage, Antetokounmpo has the production to back up the continued minutes he’s seeing as the season goes on.

With that said, Antetokounmpo has some glaring issues to sort out, whether it’s his high foul rate or turnover proneness. Antetokounmpo is averaging 4.7 fouls per 36 minutes and has a 21.1 turnover percentage.

Despite the clear skill limitations that Antetokounmpo has, he consistently punches above his weight, thanks to his glowing work ethic and drive to stick in the NBA. And playing up to what his role asks of him has been incredibly important to Antetokounmpo as he talked about after his career best performance against the Knicks last month:

"“The biggest thing for me was to try and play the right way as much as I could. Try to play the right way, try to win the game doing that and showcase my talent. It’s not about the shots going in or not going in. It’s more or less playing the right way, attacking the basket, sharing the ball. Crunch time, getting Brook a dunk or crunch time, leading the team on defense, getting a steal. Those things can translate when you play the rotational minutes. Those things are going to translate.”"

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As he has steadily shown as the season has gone on, Antetokounmpo has certainly played the right way and he’s blossomed into a positive contributor in the role he’s carved out in the Bucks’ rotation.