Five interesting on/off splits for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks

The Bucks have lost nine consecutive games and that is not a fun experience for the team’s fans — even the ones who want the team to have the greatest number of ping-pong balls in the NBA lottery. They could be losing by 4 points instead of 24, or they could play to a record of 10-30 instead of 7-33 and the team would still be primed to win the perverse prize of NBA lottery probability.

But having Giannis Antetokounmpo on the team is fun. It’s fun because he is new to the United States, it’s fun because he is 19 years old, and it’s fun because he smiles a lot.

It’s fun because he tweets things like this,

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and because he poses for pictures like this one:

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Let’s add one more to the list. Giannis Antetokounmpo is fun because he’s the best player on the Bucks. 40 games into the season, today, January 21, 2014, Giannis is the best player on the (mostly impotent) roster of Bucks.

To that end, here are five interesting on/off splits for Giannis and the Bucks this season.

1) On/off net points per 100 possessions: -3.5

A negative 3.5 differential is still exactly what it seems: the Bucks’ opponents are outscoring the Bucks when Giannis is on the floor. ¬†But the damage is typically minimized with Antetokounmpo playing.

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It’s mildly tragic that the big three veteran, offseason acquisitions — Caron Butler, Gary Neal, and O.J. Mayo — are also the ones yielding the biggest differentials.

2) Team free throws per 36 minutes: 17.3/12.3

When Giannis plays, the Bucks average 17.3 free throws per 36 minutes. When he sits, that number falls to 12.3. By driving the ball to the hoop, and by pushing the ball in transition, Giannis and his teammates are much more likely to get to the line when he is out there playing. Speaking of which:

3) Opponent fast break points per 100 possessions: 10.7/13.7

The Bucks have something of a propensity for allowing the other team a bunch of easy baskets. It’s a common feature of nearly every bad team. But with Giannis in the game, the easy fast break points take a 22% dip, from 13.7 per 100 possessions down to 10.7.

It’s probably a two-fold effect: By taking more shots close to the rim with Antetokounmpo in the game, there are fewer long rebounds that trigger breaks. Also, Giannis is better at getting back than some of his older peers, and when he scoots back to get in front of the rim, he’s just as likely to block a shot as a center.

In addition, the Bucks are much better themselves at scoring in transition with Giannis playing. They score 14.7 points per 100 possessions on the break when he plays, and 10.4 per 100 possessions when he doesn’t. That’s a 41% bump.

4) Team blocks per 100 possessions: 6.6/5.1

Without Giannis on the court, the Bucks only swat 5.1 shots per 100 possessions, so having their prized rookie on the court helps them protect the rim. And he really is protecting the rim: according to the SportVU data, opponents only convert 42.1% of their field goals when Antetokounmpo is within five feet of the rim. ¬†Among NBA “regulars” (20 more games played, 20 or more minutes per game), that ranks him fourth in the NBA.

5) Team field goal percentage: 43.2%/41.2%

There are a lot of players on the roster who shoot better than Giannis does. Neal, Butler, Mayo, Luke Ridnour, and Brandon Knight all have much more refined jump shots. And the Bucks as a whole shoot much better on mid-to-long three-point shots when Giannis is OUT of the game.

But on the whole, the Bucks shoot better with Giannis in the game. They are much better at shooting at the rim with him on the court (59.8%) than off (50.8%) and they are much, much better at creating those shots with him playing too.

As a result, the team’s field overall field goal percentage takes a hit when Giannis leaves the floor.

And since we’re dealing with advanced stats, if you prefer the more advanced true shooting percentage (TS%), that’s higher with Giannis playing as well 51.7%/49.0%.

In any case, you can say that the Bucks’ youth movement is being done with an eye toward the future, but please, please, please don’t tell anyone that the youth movement is hurting the product that’s being put on the floor today.

It’s not. Giannis is their best, even if he’s only operating with a newcomer’s grip on the team’s offensive and defensive schemes, whatever they may be.

To see more of the Greek rookie’s on/off splits (and to see which part of the NBA/Stats site these numbers came from), click here.

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  1. Messed up that the 18/19-year-old rookie is our best player.

    Would a Wolters, Knight, Giannis, Henson, Sanders starting lineup with a Ridnour, Mayo, Middleton, Ersan, Radz second unit really be that aversive? Just give it a try at least.

    • But would that second unit ever be repulsive defensively, if they could score enough to balance it out though. Think Mayo should likely start over Wolters only to give extra 3 point shooting. If Ersan isn’t starting(and he shouldn’t be at this point)you need another shooter.

  2. Excellent article. Giannis impacts the game in so many ways. On the unusual nights when he scores a bit more like 14-16 points he seems to be almost All Star in his impact on the game. Stats seem to back it up.

  3. is anyone else concerned that the bucks might try and do something really stupid and attempt a trade for carmelo? With our history of grabbing prolific/incompetent shooting guards past their prime wouldn’t melo be the holy grail of such players. personally i think he is a cancer and a shitty leader. I don’t think he’ll win a ring as the focal point of a team. Nor do i think he’ll play in milwaukee or sign an extension, but i wouldnt be surprised if the bucks did something stupid like this. (didn’t really know where to post this)

  4. This is Chad Ford level jerking, Giannis is good, but far from being a complete NBA player, let alone the best player on this team. Some day he’ll have to do more than make cuts and run a fast break or two throughout the course of a game. I love Giannis, but he’s been bad, terrible at times, this year. It’s hard not to look at him through rose tinted glasses, but there’s probably 4-5 guys who contribute, or consistently contribute more towards actually winning games than Giannis.

  5. I agree that it’s a stretch to say Giannis is already the Bucks’ MVP. But the whole point of the article is to suggest that Giannis’ value now might have more to do with his ‘ripple effect’ than with his boxscore stats or his ability to take over a game. In other words, it seems that his being on the court helps create favorable situations for the Bucks without him directly creating them. For example, in defensive fast break situations, he might not get a highlight reel block but maybe he gets back quicker than other SFs, or maybe he deters people from taking it hard against him.

    Either way, for me the useful argument of this article is that Giannis’ game and his diversity have non-obvious consequences. It’ll be interesting to look more closely at why these things happen in future games.

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  7. Giannis is Oscar minus the eye-blinding confidence that he is the best player on the court.

    Three years in college playing against substandard competition would have built that, but instead we get a kid coming from 2div in Greece going head-to-head against the best of the best and being a kinda useful average player with some good highlight reel plays. At nineteen. From 2div. In Greece.

    Sooner or later, he is going to crack, eyeball Knight or Mayo or someone and say ‘Give me the damn ball’. And then, if you’re a Bucks fan, the fun will begin.

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