Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t know why he received his first DNP-CD since November of his rookie season on Wednesday night, and we don’t totally understand it, either. After refusing to shed any light whatsoever on the star sophomore’s status following his team’s 104-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, though, Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd offered a bit more context for his decision today.
Maybe The Greek Freak just hasn’t been performing well enough to see the court? Kidd suggested as much this morning after shootaround for Milwaukee’s game against the New York Knicks on Friday.
The mention of Middleton was no accident. The Bucks’ ascendant third-year wing was benched for three of his team’s four games in early November, since establishing himself as one of basketball’s best young ‘3-and-D’ archetypes. There’s precedent for Kidd to believe the same strategy would light a fire under Antetokounmpo, basically.
But does The Greek Freak really need that extra motivation? The 20 year-old is averaging 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game on 55.6 percent from the field in his last six outings, numbers that hardly indicate a decline in his play compared to season-long norms.
Raw statistics rarely tell the full story of a player’s impact, though, and that’s certainly not the case here. What might be Kidd’s justification for sitting Antetokounmpo?
Perhaps the fact that Milwaukee has cratered defensively while he’s been on the floor recently. The long-limbed, fleet-footed forward’s defensive rating over the past six games is a horrendous 111.9, his team’s worst mark by several points. Maybe more damning: the Bucks’ have allowed a stingy 95.9 points per 100 possessions when he sits.
That’s a small sample size, obviously, and we won’t pretend to know the intricacies behind it, either. But the point still stands that Milwaukee – which made hay during its stellar first half of the season on that end of the floor – has fared far better defensively with Antetokounmpo riding the pine.
If the impressionable youngster doesn’t know the reasons behind his benching, though, how is he expected to correct them?
Maybe all Giannis needs is to exercise more consistent effort on the defensive end. Let’s see if Kidd gives him the chance to do so tomorrow night versus the Knicks.