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Will snubs motivate Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Miami Heat?

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Antetokounmpo wasn’t as dominant as previous years. Can winning the NBA Finals give Milwaukee fans what they want?

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Unfortunately Bam Adebayo didn’t get the recognition he earned this season for the Miami Heat. But then also Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t get much love as a candidate for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) or Defensive Player Of the Year (DPOY) awards either. As a two-time MVP winner and last season’s DPOY winner, Antetokounmpo didn’t even make the cut as a finalist this time around. Could the reason be the Jrue Holiday effect?

Antetokounmpo’s stats fell across the board this season compared to last season. 2020-21 versus 2019-20: USG% 32.5 vs 37.5, PER 29.2 vs 31.9, TRB% 17.5 vs 22.1, AST% 28.7 vs 34.2, WS 10.2 vs 11.1, BPM 8.8 vs 11.5, VORP 5.5 vs 6.6. Matter of fact his VORP of 5.5 was the lowest since his 2016-17 season: 6.7, 5.7, 7.4. 6.6, 5.5. Same trend applies for Win Shares, 12.4, 11.9, 14.4, 11.1, 10.2. Over last five seasons his Box Plus/Minus peaked last season at 11.5: 7.3, 6.2, 10.4, 11.5, 8.8.

A curious stat for this season is how the Bucks did with Antetokounmpo on and off the court. He topped the Bucks in VORP (5.5), BPM (8.8), WS (10.2), PER (29.2), USG% (32.5), but in the plus/minus per 100 possessions (On-Off) number Holiday had a higher differential of 7.1 to 6.7. Surprisingly Khris Middleton (-0.5) had a negative value, while Donte DiVincenzo (3.7), Brook Lopez (2.8), and Pat Connaughton (2.6) were all positive in that regard.

While these figures suggest Antetokounmpo no longer wishes to be the end-all for the Bucks, should the Heat still build a wall against him like last year?

Last season’s Bucks most-used 5-man lineup over the last 15 games didn’t pose much of a threat away from the basket as this shot chart illustrates.

Bucks 2020 shotchart NBA stats

This season though Milwaukee’s shot chart tells a different story using the same parameters.

Bucks shotchart 2021 NBA stats

A wall might not be as effective this time around. A more detailed breakdown reveals the Bucks have much more success scoring from the left side of the court than the right.

Bucks 2021 shotchart detailed NBA stats

The figures above apply only for the most often used 5-man lineup. Discretion needs to be applied since the second most used quintet spaced the floor differently for the Bucks.

Bucks shotchart less used NBA stats

All these numbers and charts seem confusing because they are. A lot more is going on than the ball-handlers whom the announcers primarily focus on during a game. While Antetokounmpo remains the face of the franchise, many other facets of Bucks’ game have changed since last year. This makes using the same formula twice in a row problematic.

The Heat’s roster remained largely in place from last season. Here is Miami’s shot distribution chart this season with the most often used 5-man lineup in the last 15 games.

Heat shorchart 2021 NBA stats

The Heat’s offense of the primary 5-man lineup seems equal opportunity with a variety of ways to score. Will this be enough to capture the ultimate prize this season? The answer may lie on the other side of ball on defense. Whichever path leads to a championship trophy, the journey begins Saturday in Milwaukee.

Stats courtesy of NBA stats.