Is Giannis Antetokounmpo just a bulldozer for the Milwaukee Bucks?

May 11, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 11, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Budenholzer, Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 24 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s style of play may be nothing new for Milwaukee Bucks fans who have been watching him since he was drafted back in 2013. However, during the playoffs when fans of other teams get to see him every few nights and don’t know how far Giannis has come to see him play using his size and strength to get to the basket and score, leading fans of other teams to say “Giannis is just a bulldozer”.

Is that true though? The short answer is no. Giannis Antetokounmpo has consistently added skills to his game that are impressive for a player his size. The longer answer is that it is frankly disrespectful to the amount of work that Giannis has put into his game and into improving himself not only as a scorer but as a ball-handler and passer as well. I want to highlight three areas to point out that Giannis Antetokounmpo is not just a bulldozer.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is not just a bulldozer: Reason one: Frame

Giannis Antetokounmpo as a rookie, long, lanky, full of potential with a great head on his shoulders weighed 190 pounds when he was drafted and was 6’9″.

Today Giannis Antetokounmpo stands 6’11” and weights 242 pounds. From his rookie season until now Giannis Antetokounmpo has gained not only two inches in height but over 50 pounds in weight! By the looks of him, it looks like all the weight Giannis has added was pure muscle. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the strongest players in the NBA, to which you can attribute some of his paint dominance, that does not however just mean that he is a bulldozer for using his superior strength to score, was Shaquille O’Neal just a bulldozer? No, he was just simply stronger than whoever was guarding him.

The difference in matchup problems that Giannis presents compared to Shaq is that Giannis possesses a combination of size, speed, and strength that is nearly unprecedented in the NBA. Giannis regularly beats bigger, stronger defenders off the dribble and sometimes still uses his strength to will his way to the basket, but again being stronger than your opponent doesn’t reduce your game down to being just a bulldozer.

The other thing that opposing teams have tried to do with Giannis is put a smaller defender on him to contend with his speed. The Boston Celtics did this by using Grant Williams on Giannis often despite Williams being five inches shorter than Giannis. Derrick White was switched onto Giannis a few times during the Bucks/Celtics series as well. If you were Giannis Antetokounmpo, would you not use your size and strength to your advantage with a smaller defender guarding you? What do you think Shaquille O’Neal would do with a small forward who is five inches shorter and not as strong? The answer is easy, back down, drop step and dunk the ball hard.

You can’t deny that this move by Giannis on Jayson Tatum doesn’t look like a signature Shaq drop step dunk. So why should Giannis Antetokounmpo not seek to exploit those mismatches in size and strength? Do opposing fans think there should be some unwritten rule that if a team matches up a player who is not as strong or as big that the offensive player is reduced to playing softer? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. What happens in those situations of smaller defenders is that they often try to draw offensive fouls, even if it means trying to sell extra contact that was not there. Here’s an example from the Milwaukee Bucks versus Boston Celtics series.

Grant Williams absorbs the contact from Giannis Antetokounmpo, but notice that Giannis’ body stays straight from his front leg up to his shoulder, there is no bulldozing here despite Giannis being the stronger player.

The other aspect of Giannis Antetokounmpo being stronger and faster than those guarding him is that it allows him to get in position to exploit those weaknesses of the defense, whether it be in transition or on the offensive glass, Giannis put both on full display just during the 2022 playoffs.