Giannis Antetokounmpo “learned a lot of things watching” Kawhi Leonard operate in the Eastern Conference Finals, and vows to develop a dominant mid-range game to counteract defenses who build a wall around him.
Antetokounmpo says he’s thankful for the butt-whooping Toronto gave his Bucks in the playoffs, painful as it was.
Per The Athletic:
“I learned a lot of things watching Kawhi while the game was going on,” Antetokounmpo said. “Like his patience. From the way he operates. He operates in the mid-range area. You saw that? He took the ball a step inside the three and faced up. And now he’s got everybody. He sees everybody coming, right? So, why was he doing that? You know why? Because he felt really comfortable in his mid-range game.
“He got a lot of threes out of the pick-and-roll when Brook [Lopez] was back, a lot of catch-and-shoot, a lot of transition threes, but when it was a set game, ain’t nobody shooting threes. It’s the toughest shot in the game. He was going to the easiest shot in the game, that people think is tough, the midrange, like the 15 foot, contested two – something that all the greats do: Kawhi, Kobe [Bryant], [Michael] Jordan, KD, LeBron. When he won the series against Toronto, he was shooting mid-range shots.”
Under [Mike] Budenholzer, Antetokounmpo’s mid-range game was de-emphasized. Last season, 37 percent of his shots came from the mid-range. This year, just 21 percent came from that same area. It was a change Antetokounmpo understood as he destroyed opponents like never before, but one that ultimately took away reps from some of the shots he felt he needed to beat the Raptors’ tough defense.
“I feel like this year, it was just, ‘Boom. power through … guys,’ ” Antetokounmpo said. “And then my back was hurting. I could still play more. If we were playing today, I could play. I could have an even longer season, but at the end of the day, I want to be more skilled. I want to make my game easier.
“And it’s something from Year 5 to Year 6, I was like, ‘Yeah. OK, I put on seven pounds of muscle. Bro, I’m the most dominant guy in the fucking league. I’m just going to go and fucking dunk it.’ You can get away with it to a point. It’s good if you’re able to do it, but I gotta be more skilled. I gotta get back to my old self. Think like a guard, not as a big.”