NBA Playoffs 2022: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ever-evolving game on full display in Bucks vs. Celtics series

By | May 8, 2022
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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been outstanding this year, as he was in previous years. But he’s seemed to take his game to an even higher level this season, averaging 27.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

We all know that Giannis is amazing. Some of his areas of improvement haven’t gotten quite the attention they deserve, though. Here are some specifics on how he’s become an even more dominant player, and what he needs to continue to improve on.

Passing

The largest area of ​​improvement in Giannis’ game has been with his passing. His 7.1 playoff assists per game are two full assists more than he had during last year’s Bucks championship run. He’s not thought of as an elite passer, but he should be. He has the fifth-highest assist-per-game average in the playoffs.

More impressive than the sheer number is the quality of passes that he’s throwing. When Giannis first came into the league, he was a one-read passer. Today, he can hit every spot on the floor with a pass, including looks that only a handful of players would even think to try.

In addition to the superb court vision, skip passes and anticipation that Giannis has developed, he’s also vastly improved his accuracy on those passes to teammates. No matter what angle his body is at, he can throw darts to teammates directly into their shooting pockets. He’s essentially creating practice shots for everyone around him.

This quality of pass is reflected in the shooting percentages that his teammates have off passes from him versus passes from anyone else on the team. His most used teammates are shooting an absurd 50.9 percent on 3-pointers that Giannis assists on. They’re at 31.6 percent on passes from everyone else on the roster.

Player

3-point percentage
on Giannis passes

3-point percentage
on other passes

Grayson Allen 76.9% 38.9%
Brook Lopez 50.0% 25.0%
Jrue Holiday 46.2% 29.6%
Wes Matthews 42.9% 35.7%
Bobby Portis 36.4% 30.4%
Combined 50.9% 31.6%

If the passing to teammates weren’t great enough, Giannis also had the best pass in the playoffs. It was to himself.

The book on Giannis was always to build a wall and show him bodies. That is becoming less viable with how good he’s become at finding open teammates for 3 when defenses load up on him. He has become one of the best passers in the game.

Foul drawing

Giannis’ 11.4 free throw attempts per game in the playoffs is a full 1.1 attempts higher than Ja Morant in second place. He’s shooting around five more free throws per game than noted foul-baiters like James Harden, Trae Young and DeMar DeRozan. He’s been on a completely different level drawing contact.

Much of Giannis’ increased foul drawing is due to his determination to get downhill to the rim. He’s become even more unstoppable in that regard, and his drives per game are at a career-high.

Even more versatile

Giannis has already been the league’s ultimate swiss army knife defensively. But he’s been playing even more at different positions this season, with starting big man Brook Lopez missing much of the regular season due to injury.

Giannis played a career-high 39 percent of his minutes at center during the regular season, per Basketball-Reference. That number has gone down in the playoffs with the return of Lopez, but Giannis is still playing plenty of center.

Giannis has also become a more versatile scorer, particularly from the post. He hovered around league average for most of his career as a post scorer. This season, he was in the 70th percentile of scorers per NBA Stats.

He hasn’t quite had that same level of success against the best defense in the league in the Celtics. That’s a credit to their excellent individual defenders.

Shooting

The one area of ​​weakness for Giannis is still his outside shot. He’s just 3-of-19 from 3 in the playoffs, and his 29 percent shooting from 3 in the regular season was right in line with his career averages.

He kept defenses honest during the regular season by vastly improving his midrange shooting. He shot a career-high 41 percent on those looks before the playoffs started.

In the playoffs, it’s been a different story. Giannis is hitting just 29 percent of his midrange looks. That will be the next area that he needs to improve on to become even more unstoppable. He keeps on adding to his game every year, so it’s reasonable to expect that he will continue to grow in that area.

Category: NBA

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