Tag Archives: Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Buck Stops Here: How Two Players Have Turned The Milwaukee Bucks Into The Model NBA Franchise

Milwaukee Bucks’ Forward Jabari Parker has been a basketball prodigy since he first could walk, always compared to another NBA MVP, Chicago native and Simeon Career Academy High School Graduate, Derrick Rose. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a relatively unknown star in the making at the time, took Greece by storm and is now one of the most “intriguing point guards in NBA history”(Jenkins, 2017) Both suit up for the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the most exciting and up and coming franchises to watch. Parker and the Antetokounmpo are here to stay, and have turned the NBA upside down.

Former All-Star, NBA Champion and Bucks’ Head Coach Jason Kidd, who was an electric 6’4 point guard, always wished he could be taller. “… I wanted so badly to be 6’7 or 6’8… guys like Magic are looking through a window that is so high, they can make passes I could only dream about.”(Jenkins, 2017). While his dream never came true, he can now coach it. Antetokounmpo stands at 6’11, has a wingspan of 7’3, and by the way, starts at point guard. The Bucks have shown that the traditional smaller point guard is an idea of the past, and at 6’11, you’re not just the “big guy” under the basket. The “Greek Freak” as he is known, is one of the most dynamic and exciting players to watch in the NBA. How can an opposing team defend a 6’11 point guard when their 6’11 center can’t keep up with the speed and grace Antetokounmpo possesses every time he hits the floor?

The new-age point guard is averaging 23.4 ppg, 8.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and just around 2 steals and 2 blocks per game.  The last time a stat-line was filled with numbers like these was when the Lakers drafted their non-traditional point guard, the 6’9 NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Over his career Johnson averaged 19.5 ppg, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, .4 blocks and 1.9 steals per game. At 22 years old, I am not yet putting Antetokounmpo in the same category as Magic Johnson, but showing the shared dominance the two have shown in the NBA, why haven’t more teams employed the 6’5 and taller point guard?

The athleticism shown by Antetokounmpo for his height and build is incredible, and with the Bucks needing desperately to land an impact player in 2013, GM John Hammond took a risk, flew to Greece, and with the 15th overall pick, found a gem.

Jabari Parker’s story is just the opposite. Fans lined the streets to see Parker play, as he took home 4 State-Championships as a Simeon Wolverine. As the next best player out of Chicago since #1 overall pick Derrick Rose, Parker was bound for greatness. But a foot injury his senior year in high school, and an underwhelming freshman year both personally and as a team at Duke, Parker “fell” to the #2 overall pick in the 2014 draft behind Kansas star Andrew Wiggins. To make matters worse, Parker suffered a similar fate as Rose, tearing his ACL during his rookie season. Fighting his way back in what is now technically his 3rd season, Parker has found his stride again.

Parker is averaging 20.5 ppg to go along with 5.8 rebounds. With his knee back to full strength, Parker slashes hard to the basket again, has his explosive first step again, and has even made his mark from behind the arc. Shooting just 15% from 3-point last season, his percentage has skyrocketed to 41.2 % this season. While the 6’8 Parker can play both the small forward and power forward position, his tandem and rapport with point guard and occasional forward partner Giannis Antetokounmpo, leaves many match ups to worry about for opposing teams.

Size and athleticism has always been what the NBA is about, but this Milwaukee combination is something the NBA has not seen before. The Bucks cashed in on back-to-back drafts and have created a formula that many NBA teams will begin to follow. The Bucks have proven that you can no longer look at potential players solely based on their stereotypical role in the NBA. If another scout saw Antetokounmpo at 6’11, he would be deemed a center, and therefore be drastically underutilized by whatever team acquired his services. However, his youth coaches and now the Bucks realize what they have in a 6’11, playmaking “point guard” taking the NBA by storm. With both players under the age of 25, Parker (21 years old) and Antetokounmpo (22 years old) have a bright and exciting future. This season has proven that proper scouting, development and unwavering commitment to a plan can build a team that can become a perennial contender. The Bucks are using two players that may have been type-cast 20 years ago, that are now taking the NBA and the city of Milwaukee to new heights and their athleticism and basketball smarts have changed the way we analyze the game.

Milwaukee never caved into pressures, continued to build and create a two-headed monster in Parker and Antetokounmpo that has many teams re-assessing the way they have tried to build their organizations over the past few seasons. The NBA has always been a league of athletic playmakers and the Bucks have struck gold in finding two players, from completely different backgrounds, that will continue to change the game for the better.

Works Cited:

Jenkins, Lee. “Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Most Intriguing Point Guard in NBA History.” Sports Illustrated 2017: Si.com. 3 Jan. 2017. Web. 17 Jan. 2017. <http://www.si.com/nba/2017/01/03/giannis-antetokounmpo-milwaukee-bucks-greek-freak-jason-kidd&gt;.

Note-A-Bulls: Bucks curb stomp Bulls for second straight night in 95-69 route

The weather outside was indeed frightful outside the United Center on Friday night. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Bulls looked to rebound after a bad loss to their rivals up north, the Milwaukee Bucks. As the white snow continued to increase on the streets of Chicago, twenty-thousand strong packed into the United Center.  One of the bigger headlines heading into the game was whether or not Stacey King would finally pronounce Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name correctly.

As the entire world celebrated the opening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Bulls celebrated in their own way, with Star Wars night. Benny the Bull disguised as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the team at CSN creating their own twist on The Empire Strikes Back. Robin Lopez and Greg Monroe squared at center court, with Lopez winning the tip and with that, Bulls basketball was on the air. The Bucks supported their all green road jerseys while the Bulls wore their usual white home jerseys. Not to anyone’s surprise, the UC did not have its usual attendance at the game, given the poor conditions in the Chicago area. The Bucks got off to a strong start, leading 9-4 at the nine-minute mark.  Nearing the halfway mark of the first, Giannis was already getting into his groove. The “Greek Freak” had eight points, two assists, and two rebounds at the 6:24 mark as the Bulls took a timeout with Milwaukee leading 18-11. The Bulls did a nice job of keeping the Bucks’ lead in striking distance, as Rajon Rondo created separation on Malcolm Brogdon and scooped home a layup to cut the lead to five. However, Milwaukee just continued to push on the gas. After excellent ball movement and unselfish offense, Mirza Teletovic hit a three to put the Bucks’ lead to eleven, and once again it looked like the Bulls were going to be in for a long night against a bad team. The Bucks were shooting nearly 70% from the field while the Bulls were shooting just under 40%. While the field goal percentage for Chicago was by no means atrocious, you just simply can’t allow your opponent to shoot so well from the floor. The defensive struggles continued for the Bulls, along with the domination by Giannis. In addition to the struggles on defense, the Bulls finished the quarter missing their last eight shots. The team was shooting twenty-three percent after one. Milwaukee led 34-15, and Giannis led all scorers with ten points.

The second quarter began similar to how the first went. The Bucks moved the ball perfectly, and as a result, Teletovic hit another three off an unselfish pass by Malcolm Brogdon. As the clock continued to run, the Bucks continued to make their shots, and with ease. As Jimmy Butler picked up his third foul, Milwaukee led by twenty with just under nine minutes to play in the half. The minutes in the half continued to drop, and so did the Bulls play. Poor movement on offense, not hustling on defense, and just a general lack of effort and sloppy play by the Bulls. At the halfway mark of the second, Milwaukee continued to enforce its will with a twenty-one-point lead, and showing no signs of slowing down. The Bulls hoped that they could just find some sort of spark to close out the half. However, that spark was just never ignited. The same issues continued to hinder any offense with the Bulls, with poor ball movement and wasting possessions. The Bucks’ main point of emphasis was to protect the Bulls from getting to the rim, and it certainly worked.  They were giving all kinds of space to the Bulls guards, and players like Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo (not to my surprise) just could not answer. Simply put, this may have been the worst half of basketball the Bulls have played this season. It was just a hot mess, and the poor play translated into a massive deficit at the half. While the Bulls made a little surge in the final minute, Milwaukee still led nineteen after the first half.

The Bucks began the third with possession of the basketball, as they hoped to continue to put their offense in cruise control. The quarter started rather slow, as Milwaukee only scored eight points in the first five and a half minutes of the quarter. However, the Bulls did not take advantage of the Bucks finally slowing down, as they only made one basket within that span of time. Things just simply were not clicking for the Bulls, as they continued to struggle offensively and miss shots that usually fall. Sensing that a run seemed unlikely, Fred Hoiberg seemed to almost be waving the white flag at the halfway point of the third quarter. Milwaukee led by as much as twenty-eight, and just did not break. As the third quarter ended, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade sat on the Bulls bench with grim looks on their face, draped in their warmups, knowing another loss was headed the Bulls way.

Down twenty-two at the start of the fourth, the Bulls opened the scoring of the quarter as Bobby Portis hit a three from the corner. All five players on the court for the Bulls were off the bench, while Milwaukee still had the likes of Greg Monroe, Giannis, and other role players on the court. The Bucks just continued to enforce their will, and rightfully so. They just played so much better than the Bulls in every light of the game. As the few fans that remained at the UC grew restless, so did yours truly. This game was just an absolute eyesore, and while these kinds of games will happen every once in a while, the panic button may have to start coming out for the Bulls. While they have found ways to beat some of the best teams in basketball, they can’t seem to figure it out against the NBA’s “lower class”. However, after watching this mockery, we have to start thinking how and why the Bulls play like they do. One game you’re looking at a team that seriously might fight with the eastern conference’s elite, and another night you seem a team that belongs in the lottery.

I’m not the biggest fan of pointing fingers, but this has to relate back to Fred Hoiberg. Now one and a quarter seasons in, this team continues to struggle finding its identity. The Bulls do not play till Monday, and I think it’s safe to say that this weekend will serve of massive importance for the Bulls’ success in the immediate AND foreseeable future. Drive home extra safe Chicago, not only because of the weather, but for these Bulls. The final score of the game, Milwaukee ninety-five, the Bulls sixty-nine.

Up Next: The Bulls play host to yet another Central division rival as the Pistons come to town on Monday night.

Note-A-Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks December 15, 2016: Bulls Forget Fundamentals, Fall to Bucks 108-97.

After an embarrassing loss against Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves last time out, the Bulls looked to turn the corner against their rivals up north, the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, the Bulls were no match for a team that is comprised of everything they want to be; young, long and athletic. From the opening tip, the size and athleticism was apparent for the Milwaukee Bucks as Chicago native Jabari Parker and the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo showed just how efficient and exciting the Bucks could be. A future invested in the up-tempo style and shot-creating playmakers appears to be a good route to develop Milwaukee into a contender. However, the Bulls continue to fall behind at addressing the need for true basketball players like the Bucks twosome, and continue to draft athletes, that have lately lacked the necessary basketball skill to go along with it.

  • The Bulls got off to a slow start in the 1st quarter that was emphasized by a missed alley-oop to Jimmy Butler, followed by the speed and length (a theme of the game) of Milwaukee with a Jabari Parker slam dunk to finish the sequence.
  • The Bulls came out very careless with the basketball and by the 9:19 mark in the 2nd quarter; they already had 9 turnovers, which converted into 14 Milwaukee points.  The lack of a true point guard continues to hurt as Rajon Rondo finished the night with 5 points, and 3 turnovers. In analyzing this team I have yet to figure out the Bulls plan in signing Rondo in the first place, as he continues to be a tough fit into their lineup and cannot jumpstart the offense when they need it most.
  • The Bucks missed a tremendous amount of easy lay-ups in the 1st half thanks to misses by big free agent-signing Greg Monroe but the Bulls could not take advantage and found themselves down 64-45 by halftime.
  • When the Bulls cross half court into the offensive zone this season, I have yet to see an actual offensive plan. While I usually only listen to Bulls’ analyst Stacey King for a great sound byte, he actually made a very valid point this evening. Tonight’s focus shifted to the play of Doug McDermott. King talked about how the Bulls continue to put McDermott in the game, yet they do not run plays to get him open. For a player like McDermott, consistency is key. If the Bulls know that he is more of a shooter vs. a shot-creator, then they need to create a package to emphasize that. The Bulls continue to get in the offensive zone and play four corners with the ball, hoping someone eventually gets open. There are rarely any clear cuts to the basket, set plays to utilize specialized players like McDermott, and they are left with a last second effort pick and roll and a forced shot.
  • The Bulls inability to take advantage of a player like McDermott is not unfamiliar. The similar lack of understanding of how to use Kyle Korver comes to mind. While Korver was always a reliable shooter, in  my opinion, he never truly lived up to the Bulls’ fans expectations. But with an offense that barely had any scorers, and lack of a game plan for a specialized catch and shoot player, he suffered. Since Korver left the Bulls after the 2012 season, his playing time increased and his 3-point percentage increased from .435 during his final year as a Bull to  .457 the next year, and .492 in 2014, one of his better years as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. He only averaged 2 more points per game as a Hawk, but his efficiency is what mattered. He was able to be utilized in a way the Bulls could never figure out. This same issue is plaguing the team now, and McDermott, who they traded up to acquire, is now a shell of the shooter he could be. He is never going to be an all-around two-way basketball player, and if the Bulls admit that and begin to understand how to implement him better into their offense, they will reap the benefits.
  • It seems as though there cannot be a recap I write without mentioning Nikola Mirotic. In a game in which big-bodied skill players were the biggest obstacles for the Bulls, the 6 foot 10 Mirotic never saw the floor. I think the Bulls are unfortunately starting to understand that Mirotic may not be the all-around player they thought they drafted. Just like McDermott, Mirotic is becoming categorized as a specialized player. If this is the reality, the Bulls then need to adapt to take full advantage of what he can offer. If he is supposed to be a lights-out shooter, then design plays for him to get open, like the plays that are needed for McDermott. If the Bulls do not address altering their approach and game plan revolving around these two players, their lack of production will continue. The Bulls have nothing to lose if they actively try to incorporate McDermott and Mirotic into their offense. The question becomes if they in fact know how to do that.
  • Again the 3-point percentage comparison was not a contest tonight as the Bucks shot 55 % from behind the arc, while the Bulls shot 26.3 % going 5-19. Early on in this game, Jabari Parker was 3-3 from 3-point land, the team was 7-8 and the Bulls could not find the basket.
  • The ghost of Tom Thibodeau’s past continued to haunt the Bulls tonight, as defense came at a premium. If the Bulls lose a game, an over-reaction is not needed when dissecting every play. However, when fundamentals are forgotten, as they were tonight, there is cause for concern. Defensive switching continued to be a problem tonight, as more often than not the Bulls were late getting around a screen, late covering their man, or double teamed when it was not necessary, leaving a skilled Bucks team to find the open man left alone for the easy basket. If the Bucks can move the ball successfully through a defense behind 39 year-old NBA lifer Jason Terry, your defense has a problem. The breakdowns were many in tonight’s matchup.
  • Because of the lack of defense, the Bucks were able to get a tremendous amount of shots off. While their biggest lead was 27, at around the 7:42 mark in the 3rd, the Bucks had 18 more shots than the Bulls. 18 more scoring opportunities. The lack of defensive points to how that staggering stat was even possible.
  • A rare bright spot again for the Bulls is the play of Cristiano Felicio. While the stats may not reflect it, his 7 points and 10 rebounds continue to impress as he is beginning to make himself into a player to look out for in the post.
  • An encouraging takeaway for Bucks fans is the two-headed monster of Jabari Parker (28 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (30 points). These players have tremendous skill, size and basketball awareness. Seeing them both healthy together was exciting, and especially after Parker’s injury it was great to see him make the consistent high-level scoring plays, that made him the #1 recruit out of Simeon and Duke. I never thought I would tell the Bulls to take a page out of the Bucks playbook, but they have found a formula in drafting incredible basketball talent in both Parker and Antetokounmpo.
  • Up Next: The Bulls will get a second chance against the Bucks as they finish the home and home tomorrow night at the UC at 7pm.

BULLet Points: Bulls handle Bucks, but is it too late?

The Bulls held on for a 102-98 victory over the Bucks on Sunday, but they still sit two games back of a playoff spot with only a handful to go. Their odds are long, but nothing is off the table yet. The Bulls just have to keep pushing and hope things fall their way. Let’s take a look at their win in Milwaukee.

  • Jimmy Butler followed up Saturday night’s massive triple double with another great performance. He notched 25 points, eight assists and five boards on 10/11 shooting, the first time a Bull had shot that well on 10+ shots since Scottie Pippen in 1990-91. Mentally, Jimmy looks to be all the way back from his knee issue after having some confidence issues in prior games.
  • While Butler was masterful against Detroit on Saturday, he dominated the ball; at one point late in the game, several possessions in a row were the same Butler-Pau Gasol two man game. Against Milwaukee, Jimmy still facilitated the offense but kept the ball moving much more. Everyone was able to get involved, and the offense looked much better. Granted, Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons defend a lot better than the Bucks.
  • Pau Gasol played pretty well for an old guy on a back-to-back. He scored 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Pau attempted four three pointers (making one), but his stroke is pretty sound from deep. Makes you wonder how things might’ve been different if the team made a conscious effort to have him out there more often from the start.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo was the player of the game. Now the Bucks point guard (at nearly seven feet tall!), Giannis was absolutely unstoppable unless Jimmy Butler was on him. The Greek Freak tallied a career-high 34 points on 14/22 shooting to go along with nine assists. His only weakness offensively is shooting, so putting the ball in his hands forces teams to play him close or cede a long-legged drive to the bucket. That defensive attention has unleashed Chicago-product Jabari Parker, who many were starting to wonder about. Jabari had 24 and 11.
  • After no-showing against Detroit, Nikola Mirotic played a big role on Sunday with 19 points and six rebounds. It seems pretty clear that Mirotic is most effective when given the freedom to go to work offensively. Sure, he’s gonna have some awful shooting nights, but forcing him to the margins of the offense just doesn’t fit his game. Hopefully Fred Hoiberg is able to find Niko’s sweet spot next season like he has for Doug McDermott this year.
  • Justin Holiday continues to get regular rotation minutes, but still hasn’t broken through in a meaningful way. He’s 27, so it’s hard to imagine him developing much more in the future. Regardless, he’ll be cheap as hell next year, so *shrug*.
  • E’Twaun Moore was solid in 27 minutes, and he’s been a real find this season. To a lesser degree, Cristiano Felicio was also a good spot, as he looks worthy of playing at the end of an NBA rotation. He doesn’t offer much offensively, but he’s a natural defensive center.
  • Derrick Rose missed his second straight game but is set to return on Tuesday against Memphis. Khris Middleton sat out for Milwaukee, a nice break for the Bulls.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to Memphis on Tuesday night.

BULLet Points: Bulls run out of gas in Milwaukee, drop third straight

After six consecutive wins leading up to the weekend, the Bulls were starting to look like they were going to put together a very nice roll. Of course, two straight losses on Saturday and Monday night put a damper on those positive vibes that were starting to surround this team. That’s why Tuesday’s road game was especially important. Unfortunately, the Bulls lost 106-101 in a game that ultimately ended with a score that belies how overmatched the Bulls looked through much of the second half especially. These three losses in a row have left that six game winning streak feeling like a distant memory, and the Bulls move to 22-15 after this loss, a half game behind Atlanta in the Eastern Conference.

  • The Bulls came out hot in the first quarter, looking almost like they were going to put their two game mini-losing streak to an end, going up by nine as the quarter ended. The starting five of Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, and Derrick Rose shot well and often, and at least started the night off on a good note.
  • Tony Snell provided some much needed spark in the second quarter, at the point in the game when it felt very much like the Bulls were actively working to give it away. His seven points in that quarter helped to propel them from squandering a nine point lead that they had built in the first quarter. Snell had a string of solid games at the end of December, but he had not been having much of an impact since the new year. Though he is not likely to serve as the catalyst much of the time and can be maddeningly inconsistent, he was the man for the job tonight.
  • Shooting from inside. Most notably, the Bulls were 4/17 from the paint in the second quarter, and if you compare that to their 5/9 in the first, you can see a big part of what caused them to go from leading by nine to getting outscored by five a quarter later. They were 3/9 in the third quarter and just 1/5 in the fourth.
  • In the third quarter, the Bucks came out with considerably more energy, moving past the Bulls with relative ease. In fact, the Bulls looked flat, especially on defense, often just standing completely still. Some of this lack of energy could come of course from the fact that the Bulls were on their third game in four days, including these back to back nights, but Milwaukee really ran the floor with them as the second half started. Really, the third quarter was looking like just bad upon bad, at least until about the 4:00 mark, when they had finally whittled what had been an eight point Bucks lead back down to a tie.
  • The turning point during the third quarter run came from the work of Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, and a timely three pointer from Aaron Brooks that forced a Milwaukee time out. This 8-0 run came on the heels of two missed free throws from Jabari Parker that could have put Milwaukee up by double digits.
  • Derrick Rose went to the bench almost as immediately as the third quarter started to have his knee checked. He continued to get worked on as the quarter progressed. As the fourth quarter started, Rose was on a stationary bike and he eventually returned about halfway through the quarter, but it was short lived. He returned to the bench after just a couple of minutes of play, and then went into the locker room with left patella tendinitis. In hindsight, having him work so hard to return in the second half doesn’t seem worth it. Rose has been on a nice stretch of games lately, shooting just under 45% in his last 17 games and almost 50% in his last four.
  • I would be remiss to fail to mention the night that Jimmy Butler had, even if the final outcome was not the desired one. He came pretty close to a double-double, with 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. His night was perhaps a bit soured by four turnovers. He ended up shooting 42.8% from the field, and 83% at the free throw line.
  • Given the recent success that he has experienced, it was a bit surprising to see Bobby Portis log such a small number of minutes. He saw just four minutes off of the bench, and he did not see any action in the second half at all, at a time when it seemed the most like the Bulls could have used some fresh legs. This may have been in part beacuse of an especially poor outing against the Wizards on Saturday, but also possibly because Portis was so in over his head when attempting to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even then, with as gassed as the Bulls looked, I expected to see more of him in the second half. Definitely something to monitor now that all the Bulls’ bigs are healthy again.
  • This game seemed to come down largely to energy, and it was very apparent in the second half. The Bulls managed to bring the game within two points on a pair of Jimmy Butler free throws, but that was followed by six straight points from Milwaukee for the final dagger. Like I mentioned earlier, the Bulls were playing on their second night in a row, and although the travel from the United Center on Monday night to Milwaukee tonight isn’t exactly strenuous, this kind of scheduling rarely favors the road team.
  • Coming up: the Bulls will thankfully get two nights off in a row, as they’ll play the hapless 76ers on Thursday night in Philadelphia.