Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing more confidently in all aspects of the game but one

It is not difficult to spot that Giannis Antetokounmpo has vastly improved his basketball skills compared to a year ago. He asserts his will on the game far more often, especially with the ball in his hands. He defends better, and he doesn’t get leveled chasing shooters around off ball screens. Taller and more muscular, his rebounding numbers have shot up to the point where he leads the Bucks in preseason rebounds (31, tied with John Henson) even though his occasional stints at guard take him further from the hoop.

In fact, his per-game preseason numbers (9.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 40% FG, 94% FT) compare quite favorably with him last year’s regular-season numbers (6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 41% FG, 68% FT) while playing approximately the same number of minutes (26.0 minutes this preseason compared to 24.6 minutes last season).

The biggest difference is that Antetokounmpo’s jump shot has backpedaled. Last season, Giannis made 34% of his three-pointers. In this preseason, Antetokounmpo hasn’t made one yet in seven attempts. Five games and seven shots is a marvelously small sample size, and no reason to jump to any conclusions. But the bigger concern is his inability to make any type of jump shot. Here is a list of Antetokounmpo’s shots on the season sorted by distance, from shortest to longest.

Giannis' preseason shots, sorted by distance (in feet)
Giannis’ preseason shots, sorted by distance (in feet)

Antetokounmpo has made only 1 of 18 shots beyond 8 feet.

His finishing skills have gotten better, as he has shot 13-for-16 on layups and dunks while taking a nice percentage of his shots from the restricted area. On the other hand, Giannis has only converted 2 of 23 jump shots. (Layups, dunks and jumpers account for all his shots except for one terrific hook shot, a weapon worth developing for the sake of taking advantage of size mismatches.)

When looking to the experiment at point guard, it is worth noting that part of the reason Giannis stagnated with the ball in his start at point guard is that he couldn’t hit the jump shot that the Cavaliers were conceding. Furthermore, he hesitated to take it. There were numerous instances in that game where Giannis flinched his arms forward, not so much as a pump fake to fool a defender but more as a means of reining in a shot he couldn’t fully commit to. Part of the reason Matthew Dellavedova was able to guard the much taller Antetokounmpo was that he simply backed up toward the paint as a means of limiting Giannis’ ability to create off the dribble.

And again, it’s a REALLY small sample size. That’s just the nature of the preseason. The only fact that makes it slightly more concerning is that it continues a trend that started this summer when Antetokounmpo played for Greece in FIBA play. The Greek plan kept Giannis largely off the ball (except for in transition) and kept him in the corners. There, he hesitated to shoot jump shots and when he did, he wasn’t terribly effective. Most of his points came of cuts to the hoop and passes that put his in position to score at the rim. In six FIBA games, Antetokounmpo made 11 of 24 shots, but he only made 1 of 9 three-point shots. Nearly all the points he scored came from the restricted area.

So the concern here isn’t so much that Giannis struggled for a handful of games, but instead that teams may start to scout the trend and play defense against him accordingly. For Giannis to truly succeed at the level at which the Bucks want him to succeed, he is going to need to knock down a jumper or two.

Based on his results from last season and his shooting form, Antetokounmpo has shown that he has the ability to do it.

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  1. Good call. From what I’ve seen (and that’s an even smaller sample size) his shots not only miss, but look bad as well. Bad misses, not in-and-outs or rim-outs or things of that nature, but bricks and all out misses.

  2. I’d imagine that shooting % is one of the easier things to work on in basketball. If a player is bad at defense or finishing at the rim, he’d need a lot of in game time to get better.

    If Giannis is just a bad shooter, even when there’s no one in his face, then isn’t it just a matter of practice?

    • I disagree. (Just about) everyone who’s in the NBA is genetically gifted enough to play good defense with some effort. Fixing poor scoring ability, and especially shooting % is rare after the first few years. Brandon Jennings never did and probably never will. Kobe Bryant with all his offensive gifts has never even come close to shooting 50% from the field in a season. Giannis may never be a great percentage shooter if he doesn’t fix his wonky-looking jumper.

  3. His form is garbage! It’s worse than Derrick Roses’ hitch, and Giannis needs fundamental fixes if he’s ever going to be consistent with it. As it is now, he can get better, but he’ll never be a major threat if he doesn’t rework his mechanics. The Bucks’ shooting coach, get on it.

  4. I am encouraged by the fact he’s shooting better at the rim. He took 47.5% of his shots there last year so that will help a lot. Frankly I don’t think he needs to be out beyond the arc much at all.

  5. KL.

    Giannis is 6’11”.

    Why oh why are you suggesting he hit more jumpers?

    He’s 6’11”. With enormous wing span, a developing first step and an increased tenacityfor getting to the rim.

    I don’t care if he attempts another shot outside 18 feet. Because he is creating space, drawing fouls and showing an ability to finish. And as a result he’s playing more efficiently and confidently than ever.

    We don’t criticize Nate Wolters inability to dunk….so let’s not criticize Giannis’s 23 foot j’s.

  6. He just grew two inches in a year. His coordination has to be off with a spurt like that. Just make him practice. His free throw shooting has been all right. We know he can shoot threes.

    He’ll be fine.

  7. Giannis may not be able to shoot like Kevin Durant, but how many players can? I think a lot of people look at Giannis and think “he needs to model his game after KD, so if he can’t shoot like KD, he needs to work on it.” Giannis is not KD, and he probably never will be. Giannis needs to be Giannis. He will improve his jumpshot with practice, we just need to be patient.

    On a side note (not sure theres a good place to put a comment like this right now), the new layout looks GREAT. Whoever was put in charge of that, well done!

  8. I think expecting the polish of a college graduate is a lil too much from us fans…….. lets not forget how young he is and for that matter how little basketball the kid has actually played (what is he on, his 3rd? 4th year of playin ball? whereas most players are solidly in year 7 or 8, having played junior and senior high school ball as well as some college). He’s probably pretty close to done growing now, so now is the time that he can even begin to work on a jump shot. The really awesome part is he is so far more developed than he should be, having great passing skills, cutting skills, basketball knowledge, and footwork down low. Lets not heap too much on him just yet, if , this year, he masters most things except the jump shot, Im completely comfortable with him taking the next offseason to shoot , shoot , and shoot some more and really develop his shot.

    You know who else didnt have a great “shot” coming out of high school? Jordan! He was another guy who had to work on his shot at about the same age giannis is now, only he was still in college. In direct comparison, Jordan was way better defensively, and on par offensively with giannis at the same point in their careers. This just goes to show, with time , he’ll be fine, this isnt brandon jennings, he’s not complacent with his game.

  9. Seems like he’s been yanked around a lot of systems (and positions) for a young guy still learning the game. I’m sure some of that hesitation comes from having six different coaches in his head. Perhaps what challenges him now will help him to grow. My concern is that he could get overwhelmed, but at least the Bucks are giving him time to grow.