Don’t Freak Out About Giannis’ Offense

Trading Brandon Knight has Giannis Antetokounmpo facing new challenges on the offensive end. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been struggling offensively, but there is no reason to worry.

Though doubts remain about the post-trade roster being ideal for player development, dealing Brandon Knight to Phoenix has forced Antetokounmpo out of his comfort zone near the basket. In turn, this has made Antetokounmpo force the issue offensively.

While some focus on the drop in Antetokounmpo’s shooting percentage, it seems more relevant to first focus on the frequency in which he attempts certain shots.

Before the trade, Giannis was taking 70.5 percent of his shots within 10 feet of the basket. Since, 59.5 percent of his shots have come from that distance. He hasn’t been taking fewer shots from that distance (averaging 6.3 attempts pre- and post-trade), but he’s significantly increased the frequency in which he takes pull-ups (frequency up 9.2 percent) and catch and shoot opportunities (up 1.9 percent). Eight games is a very small sample size, but it does look like the Bucks’ new roster has forced Antetokounmpo to diversify his offensive attack.

Unfortunately, this has not been particularly effective. While Antetokounmpo’s increased usage of pull-up and catch-and-shoot jumpers has included an increase in his shooting percentage in these situations, Antetokounmpo has been shooting a much lower percentage (down to 44 percent from 58.5 percent before the break) on shots close to the rim.

Though the numbers hint at Antetokounmpo’s offensive struggles, the film reveals the truth.

Antetokounmpo is clearly trying to make something happen for the Bucks offensively, but this has become a difficult task since the trade deadline. Where, in the past, he was seeing a single help defender, Antetokounmpo is seeing two help defenders. Instead of passing to capable shooters that know the Bucks’ system, Antetokounmpo is throwing passes to poor shooters or finding teammates in the wrong spots. The situation is certainly hurting his statistics, but may ultimately help reveal some flaws to improve on for the future. As a creator, Antetokounmpo needs to work on his pace, strength, and balance.

Antetokounmpo can be a truly special creator when he dictates his pace (see 9:30 and 9:38), but when he can’t control his pace, that’s when he struggles (:25). He can normally beat defenders off the dribble with quickness, but quickness only shines when a player changes tempo.

Part of the reason Antetokounmpo has struggled since the trade is the presence of more help defenders on his drives. Most teams draw up schemes in which help defenders are their biggest and best shot blockers. The presence of these big bodies has really hurt Antetokounmpo. There have been times where he has controlled his pace, but ultimately bumps into a help defender who throws him off course (:41, 1:30, 5:18, 9:00).

One thing that separates the NBA’s truly special scorers from the rest of the league is an ability to stay in control of their body while dictating pace and drawing contact from defenders (think James Harden slithering through the lane). This is something that Antetokounmpo struggles with regularly (:48, 3:00, 6:24).

Antetokounmpo is nowhere near ready to be a primary scorer, but the only way he can get better at these things is repetitions. So, though, it may be ugly to watch during these final 20 games, a floor nearly devoid of shooting and full of help defenders may serve as the perfect training ground for Antetokounmpo as he works on his offensive repertoire.

What to Read

John Henson’s Future with the Bucks: It’s Complicated – The Bucks’ trade of Brandon Knight at the trade deadline set them up for the future, but they’re still trying to see what that future holds for some players. Bucksketball’s Nick Whalen looked at the possible future of the Bucks and John Henson.

Brandon Knight’s departure, slumping offense puts Bucks, fans in awkward position – Brew Hoop’s Dan Sinclair attempts to put the Bucks fan experience in perspective this season as he tries to work through the vast range of emotions that could have been felt this season.

‘Key legislator calls on Bucks ownership to boost arena contribution’ – With the news of two Bucks owners landing in the Forbes 400 list, the co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee suggested that the owners contribute more money to the construction of a downtown arena. The arena discussion may never end.

Clip of the Week

Much of the attention will go to the incredible sequence and Antetokounmpo’s superman save 38 seconds into the video, but the Bucks’ 11-0 run to close out the second quarter was an excellent example of the possible defensive prowess of a lineup led by Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Reminder: They were sharing the floor with the generally lead-footed Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova during that run.)

Week in Review

Friday – The Bucks struggled with the Los Angeles Lakers in Milwaukee, but still pulled out a win a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do the same this time around and fell 101-93.

Saturday – Khris Middleton led the way for the Bucks with 18 points against the Utah Jazz, but the Bucks offense struggled as a whole, scoring just 75 points and eventually losing 82-75.

Tuesday – The Bucks lost their third straight game in Denver 106-95 in the Nuggets’ first game without head coach Brian Shaw.  Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 19 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks in the losing effort.

Wednesday – Despite a valiant effort, the Bucks couldn’t stick with the Golden State Warriors down the stretch, falling 102-93. With the loss, the Bucks went winless on their four game Western Conference road trip.

Next Week’s Preview

Saturday – The Washington Wizards are still ahead of the Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings, but they’re 1-6 since the All-Star Break, which means it’s a great time for the Wizards to come to Milwaukee. Also on Saturday: the Bucks will retire Bob Dandridge’s No. 10 jersey at halftime.

Monday – Injuries have struck the Pelicans’ lineup in the past month, but they have stuck in the Western Conference playoff race trailing Oklahoma City by just one game and they’ll look to pick up a few games against the Bucks in the coming weeks.

Wednesday – After facing two winning teams, the Bucks will get one of the Eastern Conference’s bottom feeders when they welcome the Orlando Magic to Milwaukee.

Stats of the Week

95.8 – The Bucks have remained stingy on defense since the trade deadline, posting the league’s fourth best defensive rating.  They are currently giving up 95.8 points per 100 possessions. (via NBA Stats)

– 5.5 – With nearly three fewer points per 100 possessions than the next lowest team, the Bucks offense has plummeted into the league’s worst offense. An OffRtg of 90.3 has dropped the Bucks NetRtg to – 5.5. (via NBA Stats)

6.7 – Michael Carter-Williams is averaging roughly half as many drives per game (6.7) as he did in Philadelphia (12.1), but has still managed to score 4.7 points per game on drives due to a robust shooting percentage of 71.4 percent on his drives in Milwaukee. (via NBA Stats)

Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine‘s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can yell at Eric or calmly explain to him whether Glenn Robinson or Ray Allen should have their jersey retired by the Milwaukee Bucks on Twitter @eric_nehm.