Fighting back against the naysayers of Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Why are fans so hard on Thanasis?

Memphis Grizzlies v Milwaukee Bucks
Memphis Grizzlies v Milwaukee Bucks / John Fisher/GettyImages

I have to admit, I have a ton of respect for Milwaukee Bucks forward Thanasis Antetentoumpo, the way he plays, and the spirit he shows when he plays. When he checks in, which is usually at the end of the game, the audience at the Fiserv always gives him a zealously huge ovation. Yet, he has faced more criticism than any other Bucks player over the past three seasons.

Gerry Woelfel, a once-respected Milwaukee Bucks reporter,  asked the question last season, “ Would Thanasis be on any other NBA roster?”

That type of professional disrespect still leaves a bad taste in the #BucksinSix’s collective “mouth.” You'd have to think his brother and family don't care too much for it either.

Drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft, these criticisms picked up a lot of steam on social media, and they have seemed to linger (It really doesn’t take much to find them still today). The idea is simple and doesn’t need to be oversimplified really: Giannis keeps Thanasis on the team because he is his brother. And what Giannis wants, Giannis gets.

Of course, it is not that simple. Thanasis is a very good basketball player. This article aims to defend the 31-year-old, 6-foot-7 Milwaukee Buck. Thanasis is the perfect player for this team right now, and the Milwaukee Bucks are lucky to have him. 

The Stories and the stats of Thanasis Antetokounmpo

I took my son to one of his first Milwaukee Bucks games against the Houston Rockets. In that game, Thanasis came in, and the fans provided raucous applause. He then proceeded to somehow, some way get six fouls. And they were quick, hammer-down-type fouls. 

It was awesome.

In that game, he only played nine minutes. He scored two points and had two rebounds. He didn’t have any assists and blocks or steals. 

It was the kind of game where you almost couldn’t believe what you were watching. If I remember correctly, it felt more like Thanasis had seven fouls because Coach Budenholzer challenged a foul call against Thanasis and won. But the challenge was lucky because it seemed like it could have easily gone against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The stats this season just do not help much here for Thanasis fans. This season, he has averaged under a point a game or about .9 points a game. Thanasis also has averaged .4 rebounds and .5 assists per game. Of course, in his defense, Thanasis has not been called on much to play this year (He has only played 136 minutes total as of this writing).

As a point of compassion, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Damian Lillard has almost matched Thanasis’s minute total in his past three games: 36 against New Orleans, 49 against the Lakers and 33 against OKC. (118) 

This all seems to illustrate that Thanasis does not get to play much. In an NBA game where Thanasis did get to play (March 27, 2021), he scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He also pulled down 10 rebounds for the double-double. In that game, he got 37 minutes.

In a game on April 10, 2022 Thanasis scored 27 points in 41 minutes against the Cavs. 

In a game on April 9, 2023 against Toronto, Thanasis scored 14 points in 28 minutes.

Another example of where the stats do help is when we look at some of the statistics Thanasis has put up in international play. For example, for Greece, in a stretch of three games where he played 62 total minutes, Thanasis scored 30 points and had seven rebounds and five assists. 

When Thanasis gets minutes, he can be productive.

He is arguably one of the top ten players in Greece. The team is always willing and happy to have him. Of course, that is Europe, where fans may be quicker to give pro basketball players a little grace. 

Is that it? 

Are we too hard on professional athletes?

Thanasis Antetokounmpo the pro

Thanasis can play!

Thanasis takes heat and criticism, which is certainly part of the bargain anyone makes in becoming a professional athlete cleaning $1.5 million in salary. Because that is the true defense of Thanasis; he is one of the top 450 basketball players in the world. He made it in the NBA. Drafted by the Knicks, not the Milwaukee Bucks, in 2014, he could justify his basketball chops right there. End stop. 

Yet, the value of Thanasis is the pizzazz he brings to the Bucks as an “end-of-the-bench” player. He is what this team wants with two quiet and impactful superstars in Giannis and Damian Lillard. Why did this team trade for Patrick Beverly? Why was PJ Tucker so valuable? Why wouldn't Milwaukee Bucks GM Jon Horst want a "high-energy" guy like Thanasis? Thanasis is a pro.

For Thanasis to be the professional that he is (his podcast is great, by the way) simply speaks to another important reason the Bucks need him: his professionalism. This is not a 22-year-old project that a team hopes to develop. Thanasis is who he is. He provides energy; he provides quickness and toughness. 

Milwaukee Bucks GM Jon Horst and the ownership group and fan base want to win now. They want to be competitive now. Do you think Horst would keep someone around who couldn't play?

No, when it comes to Athanasios Rotimi "Thanasis" Antetokounmpo, he deserves our applause and kudos. The high energy he brings is important, but it is the fact that he is a professional basketball player that is most important.