It’s that time of year again for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
This is the time where questions arise about Giannis’ game and the way head coach Mike Budenholzer utilizes the 7-foot superstar. While the two-time MVP had undoubtedly become a much better shooter over the years, it’s still not a strong enough staple of his game to make him a threat from the outside.
And even though he had 34 points and 11 rebounds in Game 1 against the Nets, the Giannis pick-and-roll action is still a problematic go-to set for the Bucks. It’s not something that only I’m seeing — it’s something a three-time NBA Champion is noticing from his couch.
Warriors forward Draymond Green, who is known for his defensive prowess and basketball IQ, was critiquing the Bucks’ offensive strategy and how they’ve utilized Giannis throughout his career. Many people, including myself, have said that Giannis carries too much of the team’s primary ball-handling responsibility, especially in the postseason. When a player who can’t shoot well dominates the ball as much as the Greek Freak does, it makes all other aspects of the offense harder. Giannis isn’t able to drive as freely because of defenders pinching down in the driving lanes, and if Giannis can’t get two feet in the paint, it’s going to make it harder for shooters to get open. Help-side defenders aren’t inclined to help as much on a guy who has to take tough two-point shots instead of layups.
As Green and many other basketball heads continuously repeat, playoff basketball is different from regular season ball in the NBA. You can get away with the Giannis pick-and-roll during the regular season when the attention to detail isn’t as high. But when teams are going to force the ball to your worst guys in the postseason, you can’t make it that easy to take the ball out of your best player’s hands. The Bucks may need to try moving Giannis more off the ball and try moving him off screens and let him cut to the basket. If he’s able to catch it in the paint off a cut or curl, the defense has no choice but to help hard on Giannis or he’s going to score 60 on them every night. And when they do sink down the shooters will be wide open for set shots with less pressure.
That said, there is no need for the Bucks to panic right now. They likely won’t shoot as poorly (20 percent) from three-point range again as they did in Game 1. And the Nets’ loss of James Harden will likely make an impact later in this series.
However, allowing Giannis to cut, dive, and work in random motion could be a beneficial adjustment.
Let’s see how Budenholzer and the Bucks respond in Game 2.