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Giannis is Evolving
It is crazy to think about, but the reigning Finals MVP is only getting better.
Anyone who has watched the Milwaukee Bucks over the years is used to seeing Giannis Antetokounmpo dominate games with ferocious finishes at the rim by coupling elite ball skills with superhuman athleticism. However, what we saw in the 2021 NBA Finals felt different.
The question is, what was he doing differently? According to Basketball Reference, 45.1% of his 2020-21 Regular Season FGA were at the rim compared to 44.9% for these last playoffs, so it isn’t that. The same data set tells us that 29.1% of his shots last regular season were threes compared to 15.9% in the playoffs, so he didn’t suddenly start dominating with his outside shooting. The answer is he started to change the way he scores inside.
Take a look at these plays via NBA Advanced Stats:
These are the types of shots that Giannis was using to take over the Finals for Milwaukee. Hitting jump hooks and push shots allowed Antetokounmpo to nullify the ways Phoenix and other teams were defending him. In the second clip, DeAndre Ayton is sitting back as Giannis has the ball at the top of the key. To eat up that space, Giannis fakes a DHO with Middleton and gets to his spot. Now, Ayton proved to be a good-to-great defender in the playoffs. If Giannis just tries to contort his body around him or try to go through Ayton, it would likely prove to be incredibly difficult in this situation. Now, the two-time MVP has proven himself enough that going around or through Ayton could result in a good attempt, but much less effective. Look at how someone like Blake Griffin managed to effectively defend Giannis in that scenario:
Blake just sits back, knowing Giannis is going to try and get as close to the rim as possible, which allows Blake to get in position and lets KD provide effective help. Contrast this with the Ayton clip from earlier. Ayton is sitting back, but Giannis simply attempts a hook that no one in the league (sans maybe Tacko Fall) can contest, and gets an easy two points.
The next question is, was this simply an anomaly or will this be a part of his game going forward?
Initially, I thought that this last postseason had Giannis attempting the most hook shots that he had before, but turns out that isn’t the case! Looking at Basketball Reference shooting data (which isn’t perfect), I compiled data from the last few seasons to display the amount of hook shots Giannis takes as a percentage of his total attempts and his field goal percentage on those shots.
This data is interesting is many ways. First off, I find it hilarious that Giannis attempted and made exactly *1* hook shot in the bubble playoffs. Second, last postseason wasn’t even his best hook shot postseason! The 17-18 playoffs appears to be his most efficient, but that doesn’t tell the whole story as that sample was only seven games in the TBB (Time Before Bud).
Realistically, it is difficult to glean any information from this chart as everything is all over the place. We can only wonder, will we see increases in hook shot frequency this regular season, and more importantly, this postseason? Let’s find out together.