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,
and because he poses for pictures like this one:
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.
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.