Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis faces a potentially career-defining offseason

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Giannis (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NBA Milwaukee Bucks Giannis (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks avoided criticism in falling short of the NBA Finals this season, but the honeymoon stage will soon be over for Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo still technically has two years remaining on his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks entering the summer, and can’t be a free agent until the summer of 2021, but there’s no question that he’s facing a potentially career-defining offseason.

Giannis put up gaudy numbers during the postseason and could very well end up being named NBA MVP, but there’s no question that he – and the Bucks – are heading into the offseason with a bad taste in their mouth.

The Bucks were up 2-0 on the Toronto Raptors but ended up dropping the next four as they spiraled out of postseason play and into the offseason. Giannis specifically had his own issues too, as he was thrown out of his groove numerous times against Toronto’s impressive defense.

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While it won’t reflect much in his counting statistics – with the exception of a really poor Game 3 performance – Giannis struggled against the Raptors. So much so that the Bucks often looked downright lost on the offensive end many times towards the latter portion of the series.

Despite that, and somewhat coming up small when the Bucks needed him most, Giannis will likely get away without getting much criticism. However, Giannis and the Bucks better enjoy it because that won’t last.

Giannis, nor the Bucks, weren’t supposed to make the type of jump that they experienced both individually and as a team this season. Many expected them to be a playoff team, but I don’t think anyone expected them to be a real contender in the Eastern Conference.

They will no longer be flying under the radar next season. In fact, you can make a case – assuming Kevin Durant doesn’t make a move East – that the Bucks will be the favorites to come out of the East next year. That likely changes if we see KD and Kyrie Irving teaming up in New York, but short of that happening the expectations for the Bucks will be sky high.

The same could be said for Giannis, who heads into the offseason with one very big hole in his game – the lack of a consistent outside jumper. Which, if he fails to adjust, could end up being the only thing that keeps him from being the best player in the NBA next season.

If Giannis adds a consistent jump shot to his game, it changes everything – from the way teams will approach defending him to potentially the Bucks’ overall offensive philosophy.

Giannis shot just 25 percent from 3-point range this past season on three attempts per game. If he can get that to 32-33 percent, it would make a huge difference. Teams would no longer be able to play off him and create a wall in the paint. And a defender taking one more step to the perimeter to check Giannis at the 3-point line could give him the room he needs to drive to the basket with more ease.

Toronto did an excellent job on Giannis in the Eastern Conference Finals and often times begged him to take jump shots. While he made a few, he didn’t make – or take – them at a pace in which the Raptors felt they needed to adjust.

Again, the offseason could go one of two ways for Giannis and the Bucks. Giannis could add a more consistent jumper to his game and emerge next season as the best player in the game. It’s there for his taking.

Doing so would make the Bucks unanimous favorites to come out of the East, barring any other superteam emerging in the East. Or, Giannis could try to continue to bulk up and perhaps live with the fact that his game is predicated in the paint and not on the perimeter.

I’d like to think Giannis as a smart player. He knows what’s missing in his game. It’s not that hard to learn that when you watch the Bucks play. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at it, Giannis and the Bucks will no longer get a pass.

They were the lovable contenders that everyone seemed to rally around. No more, though. We know who they are and how good they can be. Should they not reach that potential, the criticism will follow.

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When you look at it that way, especially with the rumors that are already beginning to rise with his free agency a good two years down the road, there’s no question that this could be a potentially career-defining offseason Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.