The NBA restart has not treated the Milwaukee Bucks well. They’ve had a number of embarrassing losses in the Orlando Bubble.
It started with a loss in the seeding games to a depleted Brooklyn Nets team. Then they got blasted by the Orlando Magic in their opening game of the first round.
Now, Jimmy Butler dropped 40 points on the NBA’s best defense to start the second round and now people have lots of questions about the Bucks. They all start with newly minted Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo.
During his postgame media availability, Antetokounmpo was asked straight up why he didn’t take on the task of shutting Jimmy Butler down.
Here’s what he had to say.
“Antetokounmpo: To guard him?
Antetokounmpo: No. I didn’t. Why would you ask that?
Reporter: Is that something you want to do going forward?
Antetokounmpo: Nah, I’ll do whatever coach tells me to do.”
Whew. That was quite an interesting exchange. It caused quite an uproar. The best defensive player in the NBA not shutting down a specific matchup? Unheard of, apparently.
NBA players and fans were not having it. Former NBA All-Star Isiah Thomas called Antetokounmpo out for not taking the assignment.
And apparently an unnamed All-Star told ESPN’s Tim McMahon that Antetokounmpo doesn’t deserve the award because he’s not a “lockdown defender who shuts down other stars.”
And then, on top of that, NBA fans everywhere just lost it.
A lot of this criticism is silly, though. If DPOY was based off of what a player does when they line up one on one against someone else, Patrick Beverley would probably have one of these. But it’s not and he doesn’t.
There’s no question that Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s best defender. He’s an elite rim protector and held players he guarded to 36% shooting this season.
Could he guard Jimmy Butler? Sure. But once he does that, there’s no player on the roster that fills in the gaps on the back end like he does. That’s what makes the Bucks defense so good.
So, is it a bad look that Jimmy Butler went off? Yes. Do the Bucks need to alter their gameplan? Yes.
Should it exclusively involve Giannis picking him up 94 feet? Absolutely not. That’s a waste of talent.